The other day, when I came back from work, I caught Nora munching on my used cotton swab, and she seemed to enjoy it. I took it away from her, of course, but one question bothered me. Why do cats like earwax, for God’s sake?!
Don’t blame me, that day I was super late for work and I forgot to dispose of it properly. Since Nora came into my life, I had to change some things, including my “trash care”. Cat parents, you know what I’m talking about, right?
I started separately packing things that may smell appealing to her, so she wouldn’t dig into my trashcan and leave the traces everywhere around the house. It turns out that I can’t leave cotton swabs unattended either. Do you want to know why cats like earwax?
Honestly, as gross as it sounds, it didn’t surprise me much. Let me explain it to you.
Why do cats like earwax?
There are a bunch of weird (and gross) things cats do, but eating earwax (or cerumen) has to be in the top five. However, they have pretty good reasons for being attracted to that sticky matter.
Cats are obligate carnivores, and therefore they need a lot of fatty acids and proteins to stay in shape and have energy. (Un)fortunately, earwax has both. It also has some dead skin cells and a small amount of cholesterol.
The main reason why cerumen is produced is to protect your eardrum. Basically, hair follicles and glands inside your ear canal produce waxy oil that cleans and defends your ear from possible harm.
Even though their taste buds are not as strong as ours, they have a super nose. Yes, cats can’t taste anything sweet, but their noses can do magic and that explains some things. But why do cats actually like earwax? Time to find out, don’t you think?
1. It smells appealing
I guess you saw this one coming since I mentioned taste buds and their magical noses previously. Yes, cats like earwax because it smells appealing to them. Maybe for you, it doesn’t have any specific smell, but our little felines can sense it from miles away.
They think of it as some sort of delicacy, since earwax contains protein and fatty acids, the main nutrients for your feline’s healthy diet. Therefore, your fluff will regularly clean her ears and munch on whatever she finds inside.
Your cat may also lick your ear and eat the earwax directly from there, or from your used cotton swab (as Nora did). Also, if you have more felines, they’ll definitely help each other with grooming and cleaning each other’s ears.
2. Time for bonding!
Another reason that explains why cats like earwax is that they’re actually strengthening the bond – with you or other animals in the house. You’re well aware that cats are extremely clean animals and that they also have a hard time adapting to change.
When your fluff starts licking you, that means that you’re a part of the family now and someone she has to take care of. Cute, isn’t it?!
So, when your cat starts licking you all over your face and ears, she’s actually trying to show you her affection. She’s not trying to subtly tell you that you have to change your hygiene habits.
Perhaps she even imprinted on you, or she thinks you’re just another cat she feels bonded with. If you ask me, whatever out of these two is the reason for her behavior, it’s wholesome.
Is it safe for cats to eat earwax?
I know that you’re probably reading this with a funny facial expression, but yes, it’s completely safe for cats to eat earwax in small amounts. I mean, they do it daily while they’re cleaning themselves. There’s no way that you can forbid her to stay spotless, can you?
She’s going to lick her paw and clean her face, and she may even use her rear paws to clean the inside better. If you have more fluffs in your household, one could annoy the other with ear cleaning until it gets a paw in the face. Oops, siblings’ fight on the way?
Anyway, long story short – if your cat likes to eat earwax, you can allow it, as long as she’s not digging the trash. Small amounts of this waxy oil won’t harm her, but if she consumes something like paper or plastic from your trash bin, she may experience some digestive problems.
Should you let your cat lick your ear?
Honestly, it would be a great idea if you’d stop her from licking you, your ears included. Not because something dangerous may happen to your feline, but rather for your own safety and for the sake of those people in your surrounding who are allergic to cats.
I know that most people believe that cat hair is what causes allergies, but that’s not completely true. Cat’s saliva also contains protein Fel d1, which is the main culprit for sneezing and skin rash. Also, a lot of felines have unpleasant breaths from the cleaning throughout the day, and I don’t think you’d like to smell like that.
Another important thing that you have to keep in mind is that her saliva is full of bacteria that may be harmful to you if they get into your bloodstream somehow. You may have small cuts or wounds inside your ear that you’re not aware of, and boom – you’re in a pickle.
How can you stop cats from eating earwax?
One of the first and the easiest things that you can do is to get a trash can that has a lid (it can be flip-lid, or regular, it doesn’t matter). That way, you’ll stop her from sticking her nose into your business, and you’ll keep your fluff away from possible danger.
Another thing that’s also pretty helpful is to keep things out of her reach, preferably with a kid’s protection (it works, I promise). That way she won’t be able to reach anything that could be harmful – your ear swabs, essential oils, and different care products that you use.
The best solution that I have is to redirect her attention. Yes, you’ve heard me right. Give her toys, a water fountain, or those interesting food dispensers. She’s going to be entertained so much that she’ll forget about earwax completely.
This was one of the yucky topics, but we had to find out why do cats like earwax, right? Now, you have all the necessary details and some tips on how to prevent her from doing this gross thing again.
So, I guess it was a good exchange, right? Maybe you’ve gagged on some parts, but at least you won’t need to suffer anymore.