Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

How Many Muscles Does a Cat Have in Each Ear? Anatomy Explained

When it comes to dogs, we all know how good their senses are, especially for smelling and hearing. But in this regard, cats are similar to their canine counterparts and even have a few epic secrets of their own.

A cat’s ears hold one of the biggest secrets there is. Despite their thin, leathery appearance, a feline’s ear contains 32 muscles. These give them the ability to move their ears around, whether to tilt them forward, flatten them against their heads, or listen to you creeping up behind them.

cat + line divider

Why Do Cats Have So Many Ear Muscles?

A cat uses their ears to direct sound into their ear canal and toward the eardrum, as well as for balance and communication purposes. The number of muscles that they have in their unassuming ears is what makes all these things possible.

Gray cat looking at something nearby
Image Credit: manfredrichter, Pixabay

Balance Aids

Cats have an uncanny ability to always land on their feet, and part of the reason for this is the fluid in their ears. It’s the same way that our ears work but on a much more sophisticated scale.

As cats move, the fluid in their ears shifts too. When it does, the fluid interacts with tiny hairs inside their ear canal. This movement tells their brain what they’re doing and whether they need to correct their balance. These signals include information from how they’re sitting to if they’ve just toppled off the couch.

thematic break


Many cats meow when they want attention. But believe it or not, cats aren’t as vocal with other felines as they are with us. They’ll hiss if a strange cat gets too close or chirp to say hello, but they mostly rely on more subtle methods of communication.

Sometimes, they’ll fall back on their preference for body language with us, a habit that can lead to a few scratched arms and nipped fingers if we read them wrong.

If you know what to look for, reading your cat’s body language can be relatively easy. Their ears, in particular, are among the most expressive parts of your feline’s body.

When your cat is at ease, their ears will be relaxed too. They might twitch occasionally, but otherwise, they’ll just be still. On the other end of the spectrum, an irritated or frightened cat will flatten their ears against their skull.

Paying attention to your cat’s ears is a good indication of whether your kitty is amenable to a fuss or would rather be left alone. The next time that you play a game with your cat, notice the position of their ears. They should be upright and tilted forward as they focus on you and their favorite stuffed mouse.

thematic break

Sound Direction

An ear’s most basic purpose is to funnel sound waves to the eardrum. While we humans have to turn our heads to better hear in certain directions, the muscles in a cat’s ears do all the work for them. With a 180-degree rotation, your cat can focus on noises all around them.

cat paw divider

More Interesting Facts About Your Cat’s Ears

The number of muscles in your cat’s ears is impressive, but there are many other quirks about your kitten’s ears.

cyprus kitten
Image Credit: gka photo, Shutterstock

Born Deaf

Many people know that kittens are born blind, but few know that they’re born deaf too. Their ear canals stay closed until they’re between 10 and 14 days old. Even then, their hearing isn’t fully developed until they’re at least 6 weeks old.

More Ear Muscles Than Dogs

It goes without saying that cats have more ear muscles than humans do — we have only six muscles in our ears, after all. Surprisingly, they also outshine dogs. Cats have an epic 32 ear muscles, and dogs only have 18 ear muscles.

Super Hearing

Dogs are revered for their hearing ability, and cats are often overlooked. Cats can actually hear better than most canines can. Along with hearing many of the low-pitched sounds that dogs can, cats can also hear high pitches.

Not only can they distinguish between individual sounds, but they can also use their hearing to determine the size of their prey.

Temperature Changes

As odd as it sounds, the temperature of your cat’s right ear can show how stressed they are. If you notice that the temperature of their ear changes, especially during high-stress situations, it’s a result of your cat’s hormones reacting to their stress levels. It’s only the right ear that does this, though; their left ear doesn’t have this ability.

cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

Cats might be forgotten about when it comes to epic pet facts, especially compared to dogs, but their senses deserve an awed whistle too. Not only can they hear better than dogs can, but they also have 32 muscles in their ears — 14 more than dogs — which gives them a much broader range of movement.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina34, Shutterstock