Do Cats’ Ears Pop? Yes – Here’s Why

Do Cats Ears Pop

If you are planning to take your cat traveling with you, then you may be concerned about whether cats’ ears pop during a flight. 

Just like humans, cats do experience ear pops at high altitudes, and they may react differently to this temporary sensation, depending on their individual temperament. Some might remain calm and quiet, while others might totally freak out and bother other passengers.

The good news is that, even though the sensation can be uncomfortable for both you and your feline, it is not a serious cause for concern. As with humans, these ear pops normally go away on their own, especially after the plane has landed. 

However, your cat will not be able to complain about this feeling, or know how to alleviate the discomfort. The only thing you can do to help is make the trip as pleasant as possible for him, and you can do this with enough preparation.

Read on to learn how flying can affect your cat’s ears and whether air travel is a safe option for your cat.

Why ears pop at high altitudes

You might have experienced your ears popping at some point in your life. It could have been during one of your air flights, a once-in-a-lifetime mountaineering adventure, or an awesome diving escape in the ocean. This unpleasant sensation is a way for your ears to balance out the altered air pressure around you.

The Eustachian tube is a part of your ear that allows the flow of air towards your ear drum, equalizing the pressure inside your middle ear. Changes in air pressure occur when you go to high-altitude areas or dive in the deep ocean, but the pressure in your middle ear remains unchanged, thus creating a difference between the pressure in your ear and that in your surroundings. To balance the pressure, your ear has to pop; otherwise it would be very difficult for you to hear sounds.

Our feline friends may have a superior sense of hearing to their human counterparts, but this does not mean they will not experience these popping sensations in their ears. Both human ears and animal ears respond the same to changes in air pressure. The only difference is that our furry friends are not able to tell us when they feel this unpleasant sensation.  

Does flying affect cats’ ears?

Flying on an airplane entails a rapid change in altitude from take-off to cruising, creating a sudden change in air pressure. So, if you are traveling with your furry companion, it is quite likely that he will suffer some form of discomfort. And, when his ears start to pop, he will not be able to tell you and you are unlikely to notice it. You will also not be able to tell your cat to swallow or yawn to alleviate that clogged-up feeling in his ears.

The good news is that flying will not cause serious damage to your cat’s ears. To make sure, though, you can always have him checked by the vet to confirm that he is fit enough to fly with you.

If you are planning to take your cat along on your next flight, be sure to prepare everything you need ahead of time. Cats are unpredictable and might react differently inside the plane. Some well-trained cats might be calm and able to tolerate the drastic changes, while others might freak out, feel confused and complain loudly. With enough preparation, however, you should be able to make the trip less stressful for both you and your kitty.

Is it safe for cats to fly on airplanes?

Although the change in altitude can cause your cat to experience discomfort and ear popping, he should be safe inside the plane. That is because the cabin and cargo space in an aircraft is pressurized, making the environment safe for both humans and animals.

However, it might not be possible to fly with certain breeds, such as those with “pushed-in” faces and snub noses like Persian cats. These cats have short nasal passages and are likely to suffer respiratory problems and oxygen deprivation while traveling by air.

If you really have to travel with your cat, you could consider other safe and comfortable options, like driving. If traveling by car is also not possible, your feline might be happier if you left him at home with a trusted sitter. Remember that air travel can be frightening for your furry friend, so be sure to consider all the options before making a decision.

Can high altitude affect cats?

Unlike an aircraft, taking your pet to high-altitude areas like mountains and valleys will be more risky. Cats do not adapt well to pressure changes in the mountains where the air is thinner. It would be very difficult for them to breathe; even more so for cats with respiratory problems. And anyway, no cat-loving mountaineer would be crazy enough to take their kitty to the top of Mount Everest.

If you do plan a trip to slightly elevated areas, consider how high you plan to go before taking your cat with you. Talk to your vet before tagging your whiskered companion along; if the risk is too great, you are better off leaving him in the care of a trusted neighbor or friend.

Other tips before flying with your cat

Aside from the annoying ear pops, the drastic change in environment and the crowded airport can all be stressful for your feline. For most fur parents, the experience is daunting. Sometimes, however, traveling with our fur babies is a necessity. They are part of the family, and leaving them behind, especially if you are moving to a new place, can be too hurtful.

If you need to take your cat with you, consider these additional tips to prevent his anxiety levels from skyrocketing:

  • Consider whether the benefits of traveling outweigh all the risks. Never underestimate the importance of having your cat checked by the vet before booking a flight.
  • Know the rules and regulations of your chosen airline – not all airlines allow pets in the plane.
  • Choose cabin over cargo. That way, it is easier to monitor your cat and reassure him when needed.
  • Avoid traveling with your pet during peak times. Crowds can spook your cat and cause more stress.
  • Use a carrier approved by your airline. Again, check the pet policies of your chosen airline to know what carriers are allowed inside the plane.
  • Bring all the necessities for your cat, including medications, calming products, towels, wipes, treats, toys, harness, leash, and certifications. 

Final thoughts

Cats may have hearing far superior to that of their humans, but the structure of their ears is still similar to ours. A cat’s Eustachian tube and ear drums process sound and balance air pressure in the same way a human ear does. So, when our furry friends are taken on a plane ride where high altitudes cause drastic changes in air pressure, they too can experience ear popping.

This unpleasant sensation has no serious effect on cats. It might temporarily cause hearing problems and discomfort, but it should go away on its own the moment you deplane. 

However, the feeling might trigger anxiety in some cats and lead to undesirable behavior like excessive yowling. Making enough preparations weeks before your flight will make it easier for you to mitigate such behavior and keep your cat calm during the flight.

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