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A Detailed Guide To The Cat Ear Positions Chart

A Detailed Guide To The Cat Ear Positions Chart

Our beloved feline friends can’t use words to communicate with us. However, there are some other ways for us to still understand their emotions and desires.

A cat’s body language can help us figure out their moods. For instance, if its tail is standing high, this probably indicates that the cat is happy and comfortable.

An arched back is perceived as a sign of aggression in most cases. A cat exposing its belly to humans means it trusts them entirely.

But, did you know that a cat’s ears can also be an important indicator of their mood and emotions?

These small features on your cat’s head can provide valuable insights into your cat’s well-being.

So, let’s explore the cat ear positions chart to understand the various ways in which a cat’s ear positioning can convey their emotions.

Cat Ear Positions Chart

Cat Ear Positions and Meaning

Ears Facing Forward

This ear position is something you’ll usually see in your cat. And, this is also the most desirable ear position for your pet!

Hill’s Pet also describes this ear position as a neutral one. A cat with its ears facing forward is relaxed, happy, and satisfied.

This means it feels safe and protected, and there is nothing that it senses like a threat in its surroundings.

When you see your cat’s ears in this position, this is the ideal moment to pick it up and snuggle with it. Of course, if your cat is up for this type of affection!

If petting isn’t its thing, you shouldn’t force it. But, there is also some useful advice in our cat petting chart that can make you become a pro at petting a cat!

One Ear Folded Or Down

You could notice your cat holding one ear folded or down, while the other one is in the neutral position.

This indicates that your cat is confused about something. Maybe something caught its attention, and it’s unsure what it was. It doesn’t have to be anything dangerous. It could be some unfamiliar sound. 

This can happen when a cat finds itself in a new environment. It’s just its way of encountering new things and reacting to them. 

However, a cat having one ear down for a prolonged period could indicate a health problem in it. This can be an ear infection, so, you should take your cat to a vet for a detailed examination.

Ears Turned Back Or Sideways

black and white cat with ears turned sideways

A cat that has ears turned back or sideways is most likely anxious or fearful about something.

There are plenty of things that can cause a cat to be anxious. Some of them are any kind of change in their environment, separation from their owners, vet visits, and conflict with other cats.

It’s not uncommon for cats to be scared and anxious even about loud sounds, such as construction works or fireworks. Strangers in their homes can also be a source of anxiety for some felines.

You could think your cat is afraid of something you can’t even see, and the reason for fear could be any of the previously mentioned ones.

Banfield Pet Hospital explains that a cat can display some additional signs of anxiety and fear, such as:

• Hiding behavior

• Aggression

• Defecating outside the litter box

• Loud vocalization

• Overgrooming

• Vomiting or diarrhea

You should do your best to discover the source of anxiety for your furry friend. Try to keep its routine as predictable as possible, as cats aren’t fans of change.

If you have guests over, ask them not to cuddle your cat and let it have all the space it needs.

The best would be to eliminate the anxiety trigger from your cat’s surroundings. In case nothing works, you should reach out to a veterinarian.

Ears Pointed Straight Up   

cat with ears pointed straight up

A cat with ears pointed straight up is usually alert or curious about something.

This ear position means that your cat is paying close attention to something. Maybe you’re doing something that caught its interest.

Or, your cat could see something moving on the porch and is now waiting for the outcome of the situation. This is just normal feline behavior.

Back in the wild, cats were always alert and ready to defend themselves from predators.

Although their lives have evolved significantly over time, they still retain some of their natural instincts, including curiosity and vigilance.

Ears Low And Facing Out  

cat lying with ears low and facing out

Since cats are so good at hiding their pain, it can be challenging to recognize they’re feeling unwell.

This is also a part of their instincts, since they always struggled not to show vulnerability to predators.

Since your cat won’t show you their distress easily, you need to become good at recognizing its body language.

A cat that holds its ears low and facing out shows that it doesn’t feel well. Isabella Merola and Daniel Mills [1] also name other behavioral signs of pain in felines. They are the following:

• Difficulty to jump

• Abnormal gait

• Reluctant to move

• Hiding

• Playing less

• Appetite decrease

• Less rubbing towards people

• Hunched up posture

• Licking a particular body region

There are plenty of reasons for swifts in your cat’s behavior. It could have suffered an injury, got into a fight with another cat, or it could even have an underlying medical problem.

To be safe, you should take it to a veterinarian for an observation. Attempting to examine your cat on your own may prove challenging, as it may not cooperate.

Ears Flattened Backward On The Head   

aggressive cat with flattened ears

Finally, you could notice your cat holding its ears flattened backward on the head. 

In most cases, this is a sign of aggressiveness and an indicator that your cat is ready to attack. This means that your cat is angry about something and is showing defensive behavior.

Flattening ears are also a warning sign when introducing two cats. Felines are territorial creatures and will usually disapprove of the presence of another pet in their household.

Of course, aggressive behavior should be prevented immediately. If a new pet is the reason for your resident cat to show aggression, you should figure out the best way to stop it.

Make sure there are enough resources for both cats. Also, ensure you give both of them equal amounts of your time and attention.

It’s crucial to give them some time to adapt to each other. A hostile behavior at the beginning doesn’t mean two cats will never get along. There’s a good chance they will become tolerant of each other as the time passes. 

A tried-and-true trick is to reward them with tasty treats for exhibiting friendly behavior towards each other, which is always a good idea!

Final Thoughts

Understanding a cat’s body language isn’t the easiest task, especially for inexperienced cat parents.

Hopefully, this cat ear positions chart has provided you with valuable insights into interpreting your cat’s emotions based on the way it holds its ears.

Sometimes you’ll be able to determine your cat’s mood by its body position or the way its tail stands. In other cases, its ears can be a very helpful tool.

We’ve also covered some other interesting topics related to a cat’s ears. Reasons why a cat’s ears are hot is one of them. Hope to see you there!


[1] Merola I, Mills DS. Behavioural Signs of Pain in Cats: An Expert Consensus. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 24;11(2):e0150040. DOI, Retrieved October 5, 2023.

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