What Is In Earwax That Cats Like?

Have you ever caught your cat sniffing around your earwax? It may seem strange to us humans, but for cats, it’s a common occurrence. But what exactly is in earwax that makes it so irresistible to our feline friends?

Well, first off, cat earwax isn’t quite the same as ours. It’s thicker and stickier and contains a variety of compounds that cats find fascinating. One of these compounds is cerumen – a fatty acid that gives earwax its unique scent. Along with cerumen, there are dead skin cells, bacteria, dust, proteins, and lipids all packed into this gooey substance.

But why do cats like it so much? The answer lies in their grooming habits. As fastidious groomers, they spend hours licking and cleaning themselves – picking up all sorts of scents and flavors along the way. When they catch wind of our earwax removal routine, their curiosity gets piqued and they can’t resist investigating.

So next time you catch your cat indulging in some earwax sniffing or licking action, don’t be too grossed out – it’s just another quirk that makes our feline companions so fascinating.

What is Earwax?

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance that is secreted by glands in the ear canal. This often maligned substance is actually a natural bodily secretion that serves to protect the ear from foreign particles and moisture. In fact, earwax plays a crucial role in maintaining ear health by helping to clean and lubricate the ear canal, preventing dryness and irritation.

The composition of earwax is complex and fascinating. It is made up of a mixture of secretions from sebaceous and ceruminous glands, along with dead skin cells, hair, and other debris. The consistency and color of the wax can vary depending on factors such as age, genetics, and environment. Some people produce more earwax than others, while some individuals may have dry or flaky earwax. Earwax can range in color from light yellow to dark brown.

Despite its importance in protecting the ear, earwax is often viewed as a nuisance. However, the sticky nature of earwax helps to trap dirt, dust, and other small particles before they can reach the delicate structures of the inner ear. This prevents potentially harmful particles from causing damage to the eardrum or other structures.

Interestingly, earwax also contains a variety of chemicals that may be attractive to cats. One of these chemicals is sebum, which is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. Sebum helps to moisturize the skin and hair and is found in high concentrations in earwax. Cats are known to be attracted to sebum because it contains pheromones, which can communicate information about an individual’s identity, status, and reproductive state.

Another chemical found in earwax that may be appealing to cats is fatty acids. Fatty acids provide an energy source for the body and are essential for maintaining healthy skin and coat. Some studies suggest that cats are attracted to fatty acids because they can detect the odor of unsaturated fatty acids in particular.

It’s important to note that excessive ear licking by cats should be monitored to avoid any potential complications. Excessive ear licking can lead to irritation and inflammation of the ear canal, which can cause discomfort and even infection.

Composition of Earwax

Now, we’re going to explore the intriguing world of earwax and its composition in cats. Earwax, or cerumen, is a natural defense mechanism found in the ear canal of both humans and animals that protects against foreign particles and moisture. But what exactly makes up this waxy substance in our furry friends?

In cats, earwax consists of a unique blend of sebum, sweat, and dead skin cells. Sebum is an oily substance produced by sebaceous glands in the skin that waterproofs and lubricates the skin and hair. In cats, sebum also serves to protect against infections by keeping the ear canal moist.

Sweat is another component of earwax in cats, but unlike humans who have sweat glands all over their bodies, cats’ sweat glands are located in their paw pads and ears. This sweat helps regulate body temperature and includes pheromones that communicate information to other cats.

Additionally, dead skin cells are present in cat earwax, which accumulate in the ear canal and mix with sebum and sweat to form this peculiar substance. But why would cats be attracted to such a thing?

Well, it turns out that the scent of earwax contains pheromones that can convey valuable information about a cat’s health and wellbeing. Cats use their sense of smell to gather information about their surroundings, including other felines they come into contact with.

So there you have it – the composition of earwax in cats. While this topic may not be glamorous or appetizing for us humans, understanding its science can help us appreciate our furry companions even more. Next time you catch your cat grooming their ears or sniffing another’s, know that they’re simply checking on their own health status and communicating with the world around them.

Attraction to Sebum

Sebum is an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin, serving as a natural lubricant for the skin and fur, protecting it from environmental factors such as dryness and moisture. Interestingly, sebum is found in various parts of the body, including the ears, chin, tail base, and anus.

So why do cats find sebum so appealing? Well, it turns out that the scent of sebum is similar to the pheromones that cats produce to communicate with one another. This scent triggers a pleasurable response in cats, making them want to lick or chew on objects that contain it – including earwax. In fact, earwax has a high concentration of sebum, which is why cats are often seen obsessively grooming their own ears or even attempting to groom their human’s ears.

But there’s more to this story. Some experts suggest that ingesting small amounts of sebum can have digestive benefits for cats. However, it’s crucial to monitor your cat’s behavior closely and seek veterinary care if necessary, as excessive licking or chewing on ears can lead to health issues such as ear infections or skin irritation. Regular ear cleaning can also help prevent excessive buildup of earwax and reduce the risk of infection.

Attraction to Fatty Acids

One such behavior that has puzzled many is the attraction of cats to fatty acids found in earwax. While it may sound bizarre, there is a scientific explanation behind this phenomenon.

Fatty acids are essential nutrients that are necessary for various physiological functions in cats, including maintaining healthy skin and fur. Since cats cannot produce these fatty acids on their own, they have to obtain them from their diet or other sources such as earwax. Earwax is a sticky substance produced by glands in the ear canal of cats, which not only protects the ears from dust, debris, and bacteria but also contains a variety of substances, including ceramides – specific fatty acids that cats crave.

Ceramides are crucial in maintaining healthy skin and fur by retaining moisture and preventing dehydration. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe irritated skin. While certain types of fish and poultry can also provide these essential nutrients, earwax is a readily available source that many cats find irresistible.

However, excessive licking or ingestion of earwax can lead to health issues such as gastrointestinal upset or even intestinal blockages. Therefore, as responsible cat owners, we must discourage this behavior and provide our feline companions with a well-balanced diet that includes all the necessary nutrients.

Not All Cats are Attracted to Earwax

Cats are complex creatures with their own distinct personalities and preferences. Some cats are obsessed with grooming themselves, while others prefer lounging around all day. Similarly, some cats have a strange fascination with earwax, while others couldn’t care less.

So, why do some cats show no interest in earwax? Well, there are several reasons that could explain this phenomenon. Firstly, it’s possible that some cats have a weaker sense of smell than others. Since earwax doesn’t always emit the most pleasant odor, cats that can’t detect the scent may simply be unaware of its presence.

Another factor to consider is grooming behavior. Cats that don’t spend as much time grooming themselves may be less likely to show an interest in earwax. After all, earwax is just one small part of a cat’s overall hygiene routine.

However, the most critical factor to consider is underlying health issues. Cats with respiratory or sinus infections may experience a loss of smell, making it difficult for them to detect the odor of earwax. Additionally, cats with dental problems or other health issues that affect their sense of taste and smell may also be less inclined to explore earwax.

It’s interesting to note that some cat breeds are known for their love of grooming and may be more likely to show an interest in earwax. Siamese and Persian cats, for example, are famous for their meticulous hygiene routines and may find earwax particularly intriguing.

Excessive Licking of Ears Can Cause Irritation and Infection

However, excessive ear licking can lead to serious health problems, including irritation and infection. As an expert in this area, let me help you understand the dangers of excessive ear licking in cats.

Cats typically lick their ears to remove dirt, debris, or earwax. While this is a normal grooming behavior, when done excessively, it can lead to the accumulation of moisture and bacteria in their ears. This can cause inflammation and result in a painful and potentially dangerous infection.

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for cats to visit the vet. If you notice your cat scratching at their ears or shaking their head, it could indicate an infection. Other symptoms include discharge or odor from the ears and sensitivity around the ear area. If left untreated, an ear infection can even cause hearing loss and facial paralysis.

To prevent ear infections in cats, it’s crucial to keep their ears clean and dry. However, using cotton swabs or other objects to clean your cat’s ears could be harmful as they may push debris further into the ear canal, causing damage. Instead, use a soft cloth or cotton ball dampened with a veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solution to gently wipe the inside of your cat’s ear flap.

It’s also essential to monitor your cat’s behavior and take them to the vet if you notice excessive ear licking or any symptoms of an ear infection. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the infection and prevent further complications.

Tips for Cat Owners on Monitoring their Cat’s Ear Licking Habits

Excessive ear licking could be a sign of allergies, infections, or even ear mites. To keep your cat healthy and happy, here are some helpful tips on monitoring their ear licking habits:

Observing Your Cat’s Behavior:

One way to monitor your cat’s ear licking habits is by watching their behavior when they’re grooming themselves. Pay attention to how often they lick their ears. If you notice them doing this excessively or aggressively, it may be an indication of an underlying issue.

Checking Their Ears Regularly:

To detect any potential problems early on, make it a habit to check your cat’s ears once a week for any signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. This can help you take preventive measures before things get worse.

Taking Your Cat to the Vet:

If you notice any changes in your cat’s ear licking habits or if they show other symptoms like shaking their head or scratching at their ears, make sure to take them to the vet for a thorough examination. Your vet can examine your cat’s ears and determine if there is an underlying issue that requires treatment.

Keeping Your Cat’s Ears Clean:

Regular cleaning of your cat’s ears can help prevent ear infections and keep them healthy. You can use a gentle ear cleaning solution recommended by your vet and follow the instructions carefully. Be careful not to insert anything into your cat’s ear canal as this can cause damage.

Preventing Ear Infections:

To prevent ear infections in your cat, it’s crucial to keep their ears clean and dry. Moisture in the ears can lead to bacterial growth, which can lead to infection. Make sure to wipe away any excess moisture after bathing or swimming and avoid getting water into their ears.


In conclusion, earwax is a complex substance that serves a vital purpose in the ears of both humans and animals. For cats, earwax contains compounds like cerumen, sebum, and fatty acids that provide them with valuable information about their environment. These compounds are also essential for maintaining healthy skin and fur.

However, excessive ear licking can lead to health issues like irritation and infection. As responsible pet owners, we must monitor our feline companions’ behavior closely and seek veterinary care if necessary. Regular ear cleaning can also help prevent excessive buildup of earwax and reduce the risk of infection.

Understanding our cats’ grooming habits and preferences is crucial to their overall well-being. Not all cats are attracted to earwax, but those that are may find it irresistible due to the scent of pheromones or the presence of essential nutrients.

By observing our cats’ behavior, checking their ears regularly, taking them to the vet when necessary, keeping their ears clean and dry, and preventing ear infections, we can ensure that our furry friends stay healthy and happy. So next time you catch your cat indulging in some earwax sniffing or licking action – don’t be too grossed out.