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Why Do Cats Like Earwax? 3 Reasons

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

One of cats’ more peculiar habits is a predilection for unearthing used Q-tips, ideally the ones coated in earwax.

Other cats might express their interest in earwax by licking your ears. However, your cat going after earwax is odd. And if you’re asking why my cat likes earwax, you’re not alone.

But while it’s strange, the behavior isn’t unusual. We’ve observed this behaviour in many of our cats over the years. What surprised us was how many cats expressed this behaviour, so we started researching it.

It turns out cats have good reasons for liking earwax.

So, why do cats like earwax? One reason is that earwax smells good.

Should I Let My Cat Lick My Ears
Should I Let My Cat Lick My Ears?

Not to us, because humans’ noses aren’t effective at the best of times. But if you’re a cat, earwax smells great.

It’s full of all the things cats use to produce a herd smell:

It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

This unlikely mixture appeals to cats, who get most of their energy from a combination of fatty acids and proteins, the same stuff you find in earwax. 

3 Reasons Why Your Cat Likes Earwax

1. Cats Think Earwax is Tasty

You also need to remember that a cat’s taste buds don’t work the way human taste buds do. The average person has between 2,000 and 5,000 taste buds. A cat, on the other hand, has 500.

That means many things we find culinarily interesting, like sweetness or tartness, don’t factor into a cat’s culinary palate. So, whether earwax tastes nice has nothing to do with why your cat likes earwax.

But to compensate for the lack of taste, cats have incredibly powerful noses. We tend to forget this because, usually, it’s the canine nose that gets all the attention. And while dogs do probably have better-developed noses, cats use theirs with more discretion.

This is why your cat won’t try to eat feces but will happily lick your ears.

2. Herd Behaviour

Another answer to the question, why does my cat lick my ears, is that it’s herd behavior. Mother cats groom kittens, and bonded pairs regularly wash each other.

Observe a cat pair grooming one another, and you’ll soon see their nose deep in one another’s ears. This is less of a commentary on the ear hygiene of their fellow feline as an improbable quest for a protein-rich snack.

The fact that it is comforting the same way purring can be comforting is a bonus. So, if your cat’s licking your ears, chances are this is equal parts because they think there’s something interesting to eat in there and because they want you to feel part of their chosen herd.

3. Shared Smell

But how does my cat licking my ears create a sense of bonding? A reasonable question, and one that, much like the reason cats like earwax, comes back to smell.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Ear?

Why does my cat lick my ear? As discussed, sometimes it’s because they want food, and the protein in earwax specifically.

But it also has to do with scent and getting you to smell like a cat.But not just any cat. My cat licks my ears because they want me to smell of them.

When cats groom, they coat each other in saliva. Saliva is full of pheromones, and pheromones are cat-speak for ownership. It’s why they brush up against everything from your legs to the curtains to their favorite mouse toy.

Cats lick your ears, yes, because they like earwax, but also because they want you to smell like them. It signals to other cats that you belong to them.

Similar Article: Cat Biting Nose: Why It Happens

Should I Let My Cat Lick My Ears?

Irrespective of whether you find cats’ earwax craving cute or horrifying, you don’t want to encourage them to lick your ears.

Cats’ saliva might have scent-markers, but it’s also full of other stuff, like bacteria. That’s not something you want in your ears. It puts you at risk for infection, especially if you have inner ear trauma.

Not only that, but people who are allergic to cats are most reactive to cat saliva. Luckily, this isn’t something you come into regular contact with as a cat owner unless, of course, your cat likes earwax. 

If that’s the case, you need to do more than discourage ear-licking behavior. You need to refocus your cat’s grooming efforts on something else. Toys are ideal for this because they help teach your cat that not only are your ears out of bounds but so are everyone else’s.

How Do I Stop My Cat Eating Earwax?

As discussed, cats like earwax because they see it as a potential meal. So, if you want to discourage your cat from eating earwax, keep something equally smelly and tasty on hand.

1. Use Treats

Since part of the answer to questions like why does my cat lick my ear is that your cat is seeking out protein, treats are perfect for discouraging this behaviour.

Bribery always works with cats, and if you’re concerned about keeping your cat’s weight down, you can make a game of this by showing them the treat and hiding it in a puzzle toy or around the house.

Your cat will be too busy nosing their treat out to bother with licking your ears or munching any earwax.

2. Cover the Garbage

If your cat isn’t licking your ears but instead looking for earwax on Q-tips, one solution is to cover the lid of your bathroom garbage.

Of course, if a cat likes earwax, there’s nothing to stop them from making a game out of that and trying to get the lid up, so you’ll have to be vigilant.

3.Store Out of Reach of Cats

Another thing you can do to stop a cat that likes earwax from getting at it is to start storing any ear accessories where your favorite feline can’t get at them.

It’s worth doing this anyway since earbuds a cat has ceremonially washed aren’t the kind of thing you want in your ears.

Conclusion

Cats like earwax because it smells interesting. Specifically, it smells of all the things cats look for in a good meal.

Consequently, they groom you or their fellow feline not to judge the state of their ears but to mine for an unlikely treat.

Of course, cats aren’t completely mercurial. They might be conniving con artists with elegant tails, but they have favorite people, too.

About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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