While your cat may look cute and funny with his ears twitching, sometimes twitching ears indicate that your cat is having a problem that needs immediate attention.
Why do a cat’s ears twitch
A cats ears may twitch because he is trying to focus his attention on something he heard, infections, polyps, ear mites, injuries, and intrusion of foreign objects. Lets take a closer look at these reasons:
1. Twitching to finetune hearing
Hearing is one of your cat’s best assets as a hunter. Although dogs have earned a stellar reputation for their hearing, cats closely match dogs in this ability.
Canines are good at detecting high-pitched sounds that are inaudible to people. But cats can do a better job of hearing these sounds. Plus, felines can distinguish the smallest variations in sound.
Your cat’s sense of hearing is so keen, he can determine the size of his potential prey by just listening to the sound it produces. In the wild, this is an invaluable tool that can spell success as a predator.
Hearing is also valuable for mothers when they try to locate their kittens who may have ventured away from the den.
A cat’s hearing is so exceptional that he can find the exact location of his prey within three feet distance in just a fraction of a second. Aside from that, he can clearly hear sounds over long distances, roughly four times away from the earshot of humans.
A lot of that has to do with the shape of your pet’s ears. Cat ears are shaped like cones, allowing these to pick sound more efficiently.
Furthermore, cat ears have more muscles compared to human ears. These muscles allow your cat’s ears to rotate, enabling him to pinpoint the source of a sound.
If you see your pet’s ears twitch, he may be looking for a source of sound that that is so faint that you did not hear it.
When your cat’s ears twitch, he may be intent on catching prey, or due to his territorial nature, he might be alerted by the sound of a possible intruder.
2. Ear infection
Ear infections rarely occur in cats, but when they do, it may be one of the possible reasons why your pet’s ears are twitching.
Typically, vets look at ear mites as the possible cause of twitching behavior in cats. Ear mite infestations are fairly common in cats. Worse, the infestation can spread quickly among cats.
If your vet has ruled out ear mites, he will look at possible causes of an ear infection. To do that, he will check the inner ears using an otoscope. He may also collect a sample of ear debris to check for bacteria or yeast. In some instances, the vet may also get an X-ray of your cat’s ears.
Typically, an ear infection is a symptom of another medical condition. These include:
- Autoimmune disease
- Yeast or bacteria
- Hair growth inside the ears
- Intrusion of foreign objects
- Ruptured eardrums
- Accidents while cleaning the ears
A cat with infected ears will exhibit symptoms like ear discharge, redness of ears, wax buildup, bad odor from the ears, hearing loss, and balance loss.
Treatment for an ear infection will depend on the underlying cause. For infections caused by yeast or bacteria, the vet will recommend antifungal or antibiotic creams. If the infection has reached the middle ear, the vet will prescribe antibiotics, either in pill or injectable form. For extreme cases, your vet may need to operate on your cat’s ears.
3. Ear Mites
If you notice your cat scratching and twitching his ears he may have ear mites. Ear mites are fairly common in cats and if left unchecked, can cause long-term damage to your pet.
Ear mites are insects that are so tiny that they are hardly visible to the human eye. If you look closely at an affected cat, these creatures appear to be like white dots.
Although all cats are vulnerable to getting infected by ear mites, outdoor cats are at a higher risk of contracting these tiny insects. Usually, a cat gets ear mites upon close contact with another feline that has these insects.
These insects burrow into a cat’s ears, feeding on skin debris and ear wax. Inside an ear, ear mites can cause inflammation and swelling. Once this happens, your cat will feel itchy.
Apart from twitching ears, your cat will display other symptoms like frequent scratching of his ears, head shaking, redness of ears, lesions, and dry discharge from the ears.
Because the symptoms are similar to ear infections, your vet will need to use an otoscope to confirm the presence of these insects.
Treatment usually involves cleaning the ears and using spot-on insecticides. To relieve itchiness, your vet may also prescribe medication specifically for this. In some cases, a vet will prescribe anti-parasitic ear drops.
4. Ear polyps
Apart from causing discomfort, ear polyps can damage a cat’s eardrums when left unchecked.
These benign growths are fairly common in young cats. Initially, polyps appear in the middle ear. Over time, these can grow into the eardrum where it can cause damage. In some cases, polyps grow past the cat’s auditory tube and can be visible from the throat.
Experts are still unsure about the possible cause of these benign growths. Some suggest that polyps are caused by ear inflammation due to bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Others theorize that polyps are remnants from fetal structures that should have shrunk as the cat ages but have not.
A cat with ear polyps will display loss of balance, constant scratching and rubbing of ears, ear discharge, and the ears may smell bad. As the infection caused by the polyps progresses, the cat may tilt his head or even walk around in circles. If the polyps grow out to the throat, the affected cat may show signs of difficult breathing.
If the polyps have grown out of the ear canal or throat, the vet can remove these using forceps. But if the polyps cannot be removed using this method, the vet may resort to surgical removal.
5. Injuries and stings
Your cat can be injured during his daily adventures outside where he can figure in a fight with other cats or while he is passing through thorny bushes.
And when these cuts, stings, and injuries happen, your pet’s ears can become irritated and itchy. Stings from thorns and insects can be particularly irritating.
Cuts should be immediately cleaned to prevent infections. Larger cuts that bleed profusely require professional attention.
Insects stings, on the other hand, should never be removed using tweezers as these can cause the release of more venom. Instead, scrape the stinger using a credit card or something similar.
6. Body language
Apart from vocalizations, cats can use their ears and tails to communicate with other felines and humans. When your cat’s ears are twitching, he is probably saying something to you.
For example, a curious cat will point his ears to the direction of something that has caught his interest.
If the ears are turned to the sides, it means that your pet may have been startled by a loud sound. If he is agitated by the sight of a person or another animal, his ears will prick up. If he is angry or scared, the ears are flattened against the head. Cats do this instinctively to prevent injury to their ears.
Twitching cat ears mean a lot of things
When your cat’s ears twitch, it can mean any of the aforementioned reasons. You should not take this behavior lightly. Observe your pet and look for other symptoms that he might show. Through careful observation and fast action, you can prevent a serious condition from causing long-term harm to your pet.
Image: istockphoto.com / AlexStepanov