Why are My Cat’s Ears Twitching?

Ear twitching is a common behavior in which the muscles in a cat’s ear rapidly move or vibrate.

This is usually nothing to worry about – most of the time, your cat is just listening carefully to a sound or audible disturbance of some sort.

But there are occasions when there’s an underlying issue at play.

Therefore, understanding the potential causes of this behaviour can be pretty important.

So why do cats ears twitch? Let’s take a closer look.

Common Reasons for Cats’ Ear Twitching

Here are the most common reasons why your feline friend’s ears may be twitching.

Listening to Sounds

Cats are known for their excellent sense of hearing. Indeed, they possess a remarkable ability to pick up even the slightest sounds.

Able to hear in the frequency range of 48 Hz to 85 kHz, cats can detect sounds that are imperceptible to humans.

These include high-pitched sounds made by small rodents and birds or distant noises from other cats or human beings.

When they hear an intriguing sound, they’ll often tilt their head and twitch their ears in an effort to locate and identify the source.

Satisfying an Itch

Cats will often twitch their ears to satisfy an itch. This makes perfect sense given the large number of nerve endings in their ears.

When they get the itch, they’ll instinctively twitch their ears to help relieve the sensation.

Repelling Insects

Cats sometimes twitch their ears to repel insects in order to prevent associated discomfort or irritation caused by these pests.

Insects such as flies or mosquitoes can be a nuisance for cats. So ear-twitching is one way to keep these midges at bay.

The twitching movement helps to dislodge the insect and prevent it from landing on the skin or worse, entering the ear canal.

The sudden movement of the ears also creates a disturbance in the air which can discourage the insect.

A cat’s ability to detect insects is aided by the sensitive hairs located around the ears

When these hairs detect the presence of an insect, the cat will automatically twitch its ears in response.

Expressing Agitation or Annoyance

Ear-twitching is often a sign that a cat is annoyed or stressed.

As with other forms of feline body-language such as tail movement, cats sometimes use their ears to communicate.

A strong indicator that your cat is frustrated or experiencing anxiety is when his ears twitch whilst flat against his head.

This could be a sign that your cat is preparing to defend himself.

To determine whether or not your cat is distressed familiarise yourself with the interplay between ear twitching and your cat’s wider body language, looking out for specific negative cues.

Negative Body Language/Vocalization

Some of the more typical examples of negative feline body language are as follows.

Body Position

A tense or rigid body posture can indicate that your cat is feeling stressed, anxious or aggressive. Negative body postures in cats include arching of the back and flattening of the ears.

Arching the back is a classic sign of fear or aggression. When a cat arches his back he is trying to look larger and more intimidating to any potential threats.

Flattening the ears is another sign that a cat is feeling scared or aggressive. Cats will flatten their ears against their head when they are feeling threatened or defensive.

Tail Movement

The movement of a cat’s tail can also provide useful clues about its emotional state. Negative tail movements in cats include twitching or lashing.

Twitching indicates anger or annoyance while lashing often means that the cat is frustrated or threatened.

Puffing up the tail is usually a sign of fear or aggression. Like back-aching, it’s the cat’s way of appearing threatening to a potential threat.


Cats also use quite an sophisticated vocabulary of vocalizations to communicate emotion, with hissing, yowling and growling the most common negative expressions.

Hissing and growling tend to be signs of aggression, defensiveness or fear.

Yowling is more a distress call to indicate anxiousness, fear and discomfort.

When you cat’s ears are twitching along with any one of these negative cues, try to ascertain the cause of your cat’s distress.

Excessive Ear Twitching

Excessive ear twitching may be a sign that your cat has an underlying medical issue.

Ear mites are among the most common culprits here, although you shouldn’t rule out allergies either.

Ear Mites

Ear mites can cause intense irritation and discomfort in felines.

They live inside the ear canal, feeding on the oil and wax produced by the ear.

These pesky parasites can spread quickly from cat to cat which presents big problems for owners of multiple cats.


  • Itching, twitching and scratching of the ears
  • Dark, waxy build-up in the ears
  • Redness and swelling in the ear flap and canal
  • A strong, musty odor in the ears
  • Head shaking and tilting

So as well as ear twitching, look out for redness around the ears as well as a dark build-up. This build-up often makes the ears look ‘dirty’.

Potential Treatments for Ear Mites

  • Ear Cleaning
  • Ear Drops
  • Spot On Treatments


Allergies are fairly common amongst our feline friends and are typically caused by airborn allergens such as dust or pollen, as well as dust mites and fleas.

Inflammation, redness and itchiness are often tell-tale signs and can affect various parts of the body including the ears.

Sometimes a cat will twitch its ears to relieve the sensation. This is sometimes accompanied by excessive scratching.

It’s important to look out for this behavior – sustained scratching can lead to skin problems.


  • Itching, twitching and scratching of the ears
  • Head shaking
  • Red and inflamed ears

Potential Treatments for Allergies

  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroids
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal irrigation

Ear Canal Infection

As all of us can attest, ear infections can be pretty painful. And its the same with cats.

Ear canal infections in felines are caused by things like yeast or bacteria infections, allergies and ear mites.

The infection often results in pain and irritation in and around the ears.

To deal with this discomfort, a cat will often twitch and scratch his ears, as well as shake his head.


  • Head shaking
  • Twitching ears
  • Scratching at ears
  • Discharge
  • Redness and swelling around ear
  • Odor
  • Behavioral changes

Potential Treatments

  • Ear Cleaning
  • Ear Drops
  • Oral Medication
  • Spot On Treatments


Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect different parts of a cat’s body including the ears.

Itching and redness are typical symptoms, as are bald patches accompanied by oozing and crusting around the infected ara.

The infection can be painful and may cause the cat to shake his head, scratch and twitch the ears.


  • Head Shaking
  • Twitching ears
  • Excessive Scratching at ears
  • Bald patch
  • Oozing/Crusting

Potential Treatments

  • Oral Medication
  • Topical Medication (shampoo, ointment, cream)

What to Do if Your Cat’s Ear Twitching is Excessive

Excessive ear twitching should be investigated by your vet. It’s also possible to get advice from a vet 24/7 via an app or online service.

Whichever option you choose, it’s really important to get professional guidance, if you suspect an ear mite infestation and allergy or should your cat be distressed in any way.

Useful Links

PetMD – Ear Problems in Cats
VetDerm – Common Ear Problems in Cats
Cornewll Feline Health Center – Feline Ear Disorders

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