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Why Do Cats Have Airplane Ears?

24th Jun 2022

Cats are truly incredible animals. Not only are they some of the stealthiest hunters on the planet, but cats communicate emotions with their voices as well as their bodies. Today’s post is for anyone who’s ever seen a cat with “airplane ears”and wondered what it meant.

Identifying “Airplane Ears”

“Airplane ears” are the term for a cat whose ears are positioned low on their head and turned sideways. In this position, their ears can resemble little airplane wings. You might find this to be extremely cute, but for your kitty it is important nonverbal language that can help you better understand your cat.

Why Do Cats Flatten Their Ears?

When a cat’s ears turn sideways in this way, it’s a defensive measure. When the ears are closer to the head and positioned away from the face, they are more difficult for an attacker to reach.

Cats flatten their ears like this when they feel uncomfortable about or threatened by something. Common triggers may be loud noises, another animal, or even a person or smell in the air.

Yet what does it mean if you see your cat’s ears going into “airplane mode,” but there aren’t any threats nearby that you can discern?

What Airplane Ears Mean

Airplane ears can mean that a cat is frightened or nervous or getting ready to run away from something they don’t like. A cat’s hearing, smell, touch, and sight are superior to that of a human’s, so they may be uncomfortable about or afraid of something that you are simply unable to detect with your own senses right away.

If you see this ear position with your kitty, try to soothe them with a reassuring tone. However, they probably won’t agree to being cuddled or picked up, as this ear position is a part of their “fight or flight” response. When they’re in this mode, cats can react to holding with hissing, scratching, and even biting.

It’s common for cats with airplane ears to seek shelter until they feel safe to come out. If your cat seems normal otherwise, leaving them be is best.

Why Airplane Ears Are Important

In addition to outward threats, airplane ears can also indicate that a cat is not feeling well. Cats are notorious for hiding illness; it is an ancient survival mechanism. Unfortunately, it can also mean that a cat may be ill for a long time before their human notices.

Therefore, if you observe airplane ears on your cat but don’t sense any obvious threats, illness may be a possibility. You may be able to confirm this by looking at some other common signs of illness such as loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, or matted fur, which means your cat is not grooming themselves.

Your cat’s tail and eyes can also provide clues; a lowered, puffy, tucked, or swishing tail also indicates fear, aggression, and discomfort. Eyes with white, yellow, or green discharge, or that have constricted or dilated pupils, are additional signs that your kitty isn’t feeling well.

If you notice airplane ears with any of the above changes in your cat’s mood, tail, or eyes, it’s important to see your vet as soon as possible; although they may not seem severe, showing symptoms can mean that your cat has been ill for some time.

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