cat ears peaking over back of a chair

I have to keep my bathroom door closed at all times. Otherwise, my cats will raid the trashcan, pull out all the cotton swabs that have been used to clean ears, and lick them! What is it about earwax that cats love so much?

Even though it might not smell like anything to you, cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, and they are drawn to the scent of earwax. Earwax is made up of fatty acids, squalene, alcohol, and cholesterol, which combine to create a heady fragrance that cats find hard to resist.

You will often see cats cleaning their own ears and that of other cats they live with, and they will do the same for their human families if we let them. Read on to learn more about exactly what it is that makes earwax so irresistible to cats.

Why Does Ear Wax Smell Good To Cats?

Earwax is made up of secretions from the glands inside the ears. Glands produce these secretions to keep the ears healthy and clean by warding off bacterial and fungal infections, parasites, and other problems.

The secretions produced by the ear are a combination of fatty acids, squalene, alcohol, and cholesterol. These compounds are found throughout an animal’s body. And what have cats evolved to eat? Other animals!

The cat’s sense of smell has evolved to be very sensitive to smells like these, which are found in their prey, and are driven to seek out the source. This is an evolutionary instinct that cats have developed over time to help them hunt and survive.

So when cats smell earwax, they are drawn to it as if it were their natural prey.

Why do cats like earwax - a grey tabby licking the ears of an orange tabbe

Reasons Why Your Cat Tries To Lick Your Ear

As I’ve explained, cats are drawn to the scent of earwax. Along with that often comes the urge to lick your ear as well. So one of the reasons that your cat tries to like your ear is because they are trying to lick the wax in your ear.

Wax aside, ear licking serves another purpose for cats. Cats lick and groom each other as a form of bonding. They do the same to us as a form of affection and love. So when cats lick our ears, they are trying to show us how much they care.

So the next time your cats try to lick your ear, don’t be alarmed. It could just be that they are trying to show you some love!

Should I Let My Cat Lick My Ear?

Although you might think it would do no harm, and possibly make your cat happy and feel like it is bonding with you, I do not recommend letting cats lick your ears.

You’ve seen your cat groom themself, and you’ve probably seen them licking their butt! Cat mouths are full of bacteria and their bites are notorious for causing bad infections. But even a simple licking of broken skin can also cause an infection.

Also, many people are allergic to cats. Most people think it is the fur or dander from their skin that is responsible for their allergies, but in fact, their saliva is to blame too.

Cats produce a protein called Fel d1, which is found in their saliva as well as their fur and skin. So if you are one of those people who have even the slightest allergy to cats, don’t let them lick your ears.

why do cats like earwax - mama siamese cat licking the ear of her kitten

How D I Keep My Cat Away From Earwax

A cat’s love of earwax has been known to result in the demise of many hearing aids and earbuds. They just can’t resist chewing on earwax-coated objects.

As I mentioned earlier on, I keep my bathroom door closed all the time to keep my cat from taking cotton swabs out of the trash. Another good idea is to have a covered trash bin, one that the cat cannot open. This is an also an absolute must if you leave dental floss in your trash – that stuff can be lethal to cats.

When it comes to objects like earbuds and hearing aids, anything left laying around is going to be fair game. The best thing to do here (and really the only thing you can do) is to make sure that whenever these items are not in your ear they are in a tightly closed case.

As for your ears – well, it is difficult to store them safely away! And some cats can be quite insistent, especially if ear licking has become a comforting bonding ritual for them.

For most unwanted cat behaviors I find a quick squirt with a water bottle does the trick. If you don’t mind squirting yourself in the head, this could be a solution for you.

Redirecting their attention away from your ears and onto something much more appealing may also work. Keep a high-reward treat on hand, such as lickable cat treats, to distract them from your ears.


It is perfectly natural for cats to be drawn to earwax. Unfortunately, their love for earwax can mean raided trash bins and the destruction of hearing aid and earbuds. And itchy ears for allergy sufferers!

cute tabby with green eyes laying on braided rug looking straight into the camera


  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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