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Why Do Cats Like Their Ears Rubbed So Much? Facts & FAQ


Apr 25, 2023
young man rubbing cats ears


young man rubbing cats ears

If you have owned more than one cat, you know that they all like to be petted differently, but one area that seems to capture most cats’ attention is their ears. Many owners find that this is one of their cat’s favorite spots, but why do they enjoy it so much? It’s mainly because it feels good, as cats have a complex system of muscles and nerve endings in the ears. Read on as we explore the science behind this sensation.


Understanding a Cat’s Anatomy

Cats have amazing ears that use a complex system of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels to detect the softest sounds and even motion, making them vital tools for survival. They are also part of the way that cats communicate. Cats can move their ears in various directions to express emotions like curiosity, fear, or anger. The ears also contain scent glands that release pheromones that help them communicate with other cats.

Why Do Cats Like Their Ears Rubbed?

Rubbing the ears can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can create a sense of pleasure and well-being. Cats also have many nerve endings in their ears that connect to various parts of the body, including the brain and digestive system. When you rub their ears, it can create a sensation of pleasure felt throughout the body and help alleviate anxiety and stress and promote relaxation.

cat ear massage
Image Credit: Gumpanat, Shutterstock

How to Rub a Cat’s Ears

Start by stroking the cat’s head and face before moving down to the base of the ears. Then, using your fingertips, gently massage the area behind the ears where the muscles are located. You can also gently rub the outer part of the ear, while being careful not to twist it. Pay attention to your cat’s body language while you’re rubbing their ears. They will likely start twitching their tail or move away if they don’t like it. However, if they start to purr and lean into it, they are enjoying the experience, and you can continue as long as they allow it.

Other Ways to Please Your Cat

While rubbing a cat’s ears can be a great way to bond, remember that not all cats will like it. Each cat has a unique personality. Some like being petted along their backs and sides, while others prefer that you stick to their face or tail. So, watch your cat’s body language carefully, and listen to their vocalizations to determine what they enjoy. If petting isn’t your cat’s thing, you can try providing them with toys, scratching posts, and other forms of enrichment to help keep them engaged.

a hand scratching cat's butt
Image Credit: Christin Hume, Unsplash

Why Does My Cat Show Their Belly, Then Scratch Me?

Many cat owners have experienced the frustrating behavior of their cat showing their belly and then scratching and biting them when they try to pet it. While it’s natural to think that the cat is just being contrary, this is a common behavior among felines. The belly is a vulnerable area, and most cats won’t let you touch it, even if it looks like they’re inviting you to do so. Some experts believe that the cat is showing you that they are submissive, and others think that the cat may have noticed that showing their belly is a good way to get your attention. The cat might simply have the urge to stretch as they relax from petting.

Ear-Rubbing Tips and Tricks

  • When rubbing their ears, always be gentle, and never put your finger inside the ear, which could spread bacteria that might lead to an ear infection.
  • Cats are natural hunters that need to engage in physical activity to stay healthy and happy, so set aside several minutes each day to encourage them to play.
  • Providing your cat with a cozy bed, access to hiding spots, and a clean litter box will help them feel more relaxed and open to petting and ear rubbing.
  • Keep up with regular vet visits to learn of any health issues before they become serious, as a healthy cat will be more social.
  • Feed them a high-quality, balanced diet. Low-quality food can contain artificial colors and preservatives that can irritate the cat’s skin, making them less likely to want to be petted.
  • Cats are clean animals that are much happier with a clean litter box. You should have one litter box for each cat, plus one, and at least one litter box on each floor of the house.
  • Cats are social animals that enjoy spending time with their owners, so be sure to give them regular attention.



While no one can be 100% sure why cats like their ears rubbed, it likely has to do with either the complex system of muscles in the ears that feel relaxed from the massage or the endorphins that rubbing their ears releases, which helps the cat feel calm. If they seem to be looking for you to get their ears rubbed, they could be trying to rub their pheromones on you to tell other cats that you are their property. Remember that not all cats like their ears rubbed, so you need to watch your cat’s body language when attempting it so you don’t get scratched or bitten.

Featured Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

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