Cat Ears Flattened Sideways

Cat Ears Flattened Sideways

Just like people, cats have unique personalities. Some are very affectionate, while others tend to be more aloof.  While their temperaments may vary, felines exhibit similar body language to convey their moods. This is evident when you closely observe how they position certain body parts. Their ears, for instance, can reveal a lot about a cat’s current mood. 

Cat ears flattened sideways: What does it mean?

When cats flatten their ears sideways it is also called airplane ears, since it looks as if they are about to take off in flight. If you notice a cat with ears like this, it could mean that she is frightened, nervous, angry, or irritable. It should also be taken as a warning of possible aggression. 

This ear position is telling you that the cat is uncomfortable and that she needs some space. She may hide in her favorite place under the bed or in a dark corner. If your cat is acting this way, let her be and respect her space. 

Cat experts note that cats flatten their ears sideways to protect their head, and they are therefore in a defensive mode. An aggressive feline will show flat ears with the tips at the back visible from the front. 

Other ear positions and what they mean 

1. Ears in a neutral position

When cats are acting normally, the ears are facing forward in a neutral position. This means that a cat is happy and relaxed. If your cat’s ears are in a neutral position, take advantage of the fact that she is in a friendly mood and you can pick her up and pet her. 

2. Ears in a straight-up, forward position 

Cats with ears in this position are paying close attention to what is going on around them. Your cat is curious about what is happening, what a certain noise was all about, or who is knocking on the door. If your cat feels the need to guard your home, she will exhibit this ear position. 

Cats that are hunting or playing may also position their ears like this. The Humane Society of the United States notes that cats are interested, alert or happy when they have this ear position. It could indicate that they are listening carefully to the sounds around them, or they are enjoying playing with their favorite toy. 

3. Ears rotating, swiveling or twitching

If your cat’s ears are making quick and sudden rotating movements, it could mean that your cat is ready to strike or attack. It could also indicate attentiveness or nervousness. This is often an extension of the straight-up and forward position.  

Cats may move their ears back and forth while shaking their backside. If your cat’s ears are in this position, allow her to indulge her hunting skills. However, if she frequently twitches and paws at her ears, take her to the vet as this could be indicative of ear mites or other ear problems. 

Cats’ ears have at least two dozen muscles that enable them to swivel 180 degrees forward, backward or up and down. 

4. Lowered, outward-facing ears

If your cat is in this position it could mean that she is not feeling well. Felines generally try to hide any illness, so this ear position could be the only indication that she is feeling ill. Pay close attention to other signs of sickness like vomiting, lethargy, weakness, or inability to groom herself. Also, observe your cat’s eyes and tail, or better yet take her to the vet for a thorough checkup. 

5. One ear down  

Cats with ears positioned like this are most likely confused or unsure. They may be trying to focus on multiple things at once, or trying to assess a certain situation or object, especially if that situation or object is new to them. Your cat will most likely exhibit this ear position if you introduce a new pet to the home or if you have recently moved to a new area or home. 

However, your cat may also manifest this ear position if she has an ear infection or an injury. Cats tend to fold the affected ear down to protect their ear canal if the ear is hurting. The culprit is most likely bacterial or yeast infections. 


Although cats have unique personalities, they all tend to exhibit similar body language, including ear positions. If your cat’s ears are flattened sideways it could mean that she is nervous, frightened, angry, irritable or aggressive. Other ear positions include neutral, lowered and outward-facing, twitching, or one ear down. 

Image: / Olesya22