Cats like earwax because it is a source of moisture and a place where they can hide. Earwax is also a source of food for some cats.
If you're lucky enough to call a cat your companion, it's probably become second nature to share things like your bed, your couch, your lap, and even some of your food with your purring pal. But what if your cat wants to share your earwax? Is that pushing the boundaries of the relationship (and perhaps your gag reflex) a bit too far?Foraging for earwax might seem like a bizarre pastime for your cat, but there are some surprisingly good reasons why the strange substance holds such appealAnd whether your cat is digging in the trash or directly in your ears, we have some advice for redirection.
2 Reasons Why Cats Eat Earwax
If your cat likes earwax, he's not alone—nor is he irrational. In fact, there are two main reasons why you might have a literal cat burglar on the loose who's after your cotton swabs or earlobes:
1. Earwax is part of your kitty's diet
Earwax (also called cerumen) is a waxy, protective oil produced by glands in the ear canal, which doesn't exactly sound like prime kitty kibble competition. But in 1991, a team from the University of Toronto broke down the organic composition of earwax, which can help shed light on why it may be catching your cat's attentionAccording to the results of their study, earwax contains, among other things, dead skin cells, fatty acids, and cholesterol.
These may not sound like the ingredients to a dish you'd like to order, but to your cat, they smell like survival. That's because felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat a diet of mainly meat to get the nutrients they needThus, the animal proteins in your earwax may have your cat saying "Bon appétit!" to the bits he finds in the bin and in your ears.
2. Earwax is part of your kitty's love language
If your cat's earwax interests are localized to your lobes, the reason may have very little to do with the substance itself. Your cat may just be grooming you—not because you're dirty but because he loves you.
"Allogrooming [i.e. grooming that takes place between members of the same species] is a common behavior among cats," says Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, author and owner of Cat Behavior Associates"In an outdoor colony, grooming each other is a way to create a common communal scent for familiarity, as scent is one of the most important methods cats use for identification and recognition." And when cats allogroom, she continues, they typically stick to the areas around the head.
But for some cats (specifically those who are bonded), the behavior goes beyond creating a communal scent, Johnson-Bennett explains. For bonded cats, allogrooming is a sign of affection"I would guess that the majority of cats who groom their owners around the head and face, including the ears, are doing it as a sign of affection and not as a way to retrieve earwax," Johnson-Bennett says.
So in other words, your cat sees you as not only another cat, but a cat with whom he's bonded. Aww, shucksWhat you thought was cringey is actually kind of cute (though we completely understand if you still prefer sonnets and flowers as signs of affection).
Is Human Earwax Bad for Cats?
The answer here is simple: No, human earwax is not harmful for cats to eat. The only thing this behavior is likely to hurt is your appetite.
How to Discourage Your Cat's Earwax Obsession
Earwax itself may not be harmful to your cat, but if your cat won't stay out of your waste bin, that's a problem. "Getting into the trash is not safe for a cat under any circumstances because of objects such as dental floss, razor blades, and more," Johnson-Bennett explainsAnd while your cat may be after the wax on your discarded cotton swabs, there's a good chance some or all of that tool will end up in your kitty's stomach.
"If your cat is determined to raid the trash in search of soiled ear swabs, make sure the bin has a locked cover or keep it enclosed in a cabinet," Johnson-Bennett advises. And if your cat is crafty enough to master opening the cabinet door, she recommends installing an inexpensive but highly effective childproof latch.
If, instead, your cat is prone to allogrooming and is becoming exasperating rather than endearing, there's something you can do about that, too. "For those cats obsessed with an owner's ears, I recommend diverting attention toward more constructive activities like food-dispensing toys," Johnson-Bennett advises"There are many puzzle feeder toys on the market, and owners can find the right one that matches their cat's ability."
This sort of redirection is a great way to preserve the bond you have with your cat while also keeping your ears dry. Another fun option for diverting your cat's tongue away from your face is the Lickimat"There are several styles available," Johnson-Bennett says, "and all the owner needs to do is spread a little wet cat food on the plastic mat."It’s a bit of a gross topic, but a cursory Google search can find you no lack of people wondering: why does my cat love earwax? Whether you found Socks curled up in the bathroom surrounded by Q-tips or have one of the cats that likes to lick your ears, many people across the globe are asking the same question: why?
As gross as it may sound to humans, earwax is a fantastic dietary nutrient for cats! To understand why we must first put aside our species differences and remember that cats don’t view earwax the way we do! In the same way that cats view a dead bird as a better gift than that lovely $100 cat tree you lugged home for them, they view earwax from a different perspective than humans.
What Are Obligate Carnivores?
There are four recognized classifications of carnivores, determined by the amount of animal protein the creature depends on for survival. The term “obligate carnivore” is a scientific classification of animals who rely solely upon meat for their sustenanceUnlike hyper (diet composition of 70% animal protein), meso (50% animal protein), and hypocarnivores (30% animal protein, also considered omnivorous), obligate carnivores cannot break down plant material in their stomachs. Obligate carnivores must consume an appropriate diet through animal proteins; plant proteins won’t cut it for themAll cats are obligate carnivores, even house cats.
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock
The Scientific Composition of Earwax
Understanding that cats rely solely on animal proteins for sustenance is only the first step in understanding their attraction to earwax. We must answer what earwax is to know why cats are interested in putting it in their mouths.
Earwax is a deposit of dead skin cells, fatty acids, and small amounts of cholesterol that gathers in your ear canal to protect the eardrum from outside substances. In short, it’s entirely made up of animal proteins, the exact thing that cats consume to survive.
Considering what the stuff is made of, it makes sense why our cats are attracted to it. Cats have 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, compared to a human’s measly 5 millionCats have noses that are tuned to detecting the smell of animal proteins; earwax probably smells delectable to them! Cats don’t think of earwax as we do; they only smell the delicious animal proteins that the earwax is made of, and that’s why they’re attracted to it!
There’s another reason that cats may be attracted to earwax, especially if your cat isn’t the “eating it off your Q-tips” type of cat. If your cat seems only to come around and lick your actual ears, it is probably a social cue and a sign that your cat loves you.
For cats, grooming isn’t just pragmatic; they also use grooming to socialize with their peers. Cats will groom each other not only to keep clean but also to show affection and respect, up to and including the inside of another cat’s ears.
While the idea of your cat licking out your earwax may seem nasty to our human sensibilities, it’s important to remember that they also lick out dirt, cat litter, and even poop from their coats. Earwax starts to feel like small potatoes when you compare it to cat litter and poop.
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock
Is Earwax Safe for Cat Consumption?
As gross as it may sound, yes, earwax is perfectly safe for your cat to consume. Cats are made for eating some things that would be harsh on the human stomach, to say the leastAs obligate carnivores, their wild diet consists almost entirely out of raw meat and bones. A human would get pretty sick if they tried to eat like a cat for even one day, so don’t worry too much about them licking some earwax off your fingers now and then.
Don’t want to take our word for it? Dr. Lorette Underwood, a veterinarian, explains that this behavior is both expected and scientifically understandable“In the case of my cats,” She says, “my male cat will lick his sister’s ears until she turns and hits him, walks away, and looks annoyed.”
The idea of your earwax being a tasty treat might sound horrendous to you, as it probably should. But, it’s essential to avoid humanizing your cats’ actions too much; they’re not humans and don’t follow our rules and norms! If your cat is one the earwax-loving type, rest assured, there is no harm in your cat getting earwax as a treat now and thenThis behavior is natural and safe for them, and you don’t need to worry about them getting sick from it!
Featured Image Credit: NivCube, Shutterstock
Why is my cat obsessed with ear wax?
Earwax contains dead skin cells, fatty acids, and small amounts of cholesterol. These are proteins and the scent of earwax draws cats and some dogs to want to eatCats, specifically, are attuned to the scent of animal proteins.
Does earwax taste good to cats?
According to the results of their study, earwax contains, among other things, dead skin cells, fatty acids, and cholesterol. These may not sound like the ingredients to a dish you'd like to order, but to your cat, they smell like survival. they smell like survival.
Why does my cat smell my ear?
Cats often use grooming as a bonding experience. But when they're digging into each other's ears, they're going after more than just bondingSo, when your cat starts licking in your ears, you might think they're trying to bond, but they're actually trying to get something tasty that they can smell inside your ear. they're actually trying to get something tasty that they can smell inside your ear.
Is rubbing cats ears good?
The ears - Some cats like their ears scratched, rubbed, or gently twisted. A few even go for having a knuckle rubbed against their ears' exteriorsIf your cat appears to have very itchy ears, ask the vet to take a look at them. Itchiness could signal mites or allergies. Some cats like their ears scratched, rubbed, or gently twisted. A few even go for having a knuckle rubbed against their ears' exteriors. If your cat appears to have very itchy ears, ask the vet to take a look at them. Itchiness could signal mites or allergies.