why do cats like earwax

Why Do Cats Like Earwax? 5 Reasons

Cats can have all sorts of interesting behaviours that might puzzle us, humans, from time to time, but that can be completely natural for this species. 

But why do cats like earwax?

Cats like earwax because they are attracted to its ingredients. Earwax contains fatty acids, small quantities of cholesterol, as well as dead skin cells. 

So if you’ve seen that your cat loves to play with your used q-tips, she might be curious and might want to have a sniff. 

Why do cats like earwax?

There are a number of reasons why your cat may like earwax, however the 5 most likely reasons are:

1. They’re attracted to the protein and fats in earwax

If your cat actually likes to have a nibble on your used ear tips, you should make sure that she doesn’t ingest any of the cotton or whatever other material they might be made of. 

These can lead to intestinal blockages or other digestive problems. 

It is perfectly normal for cats to want to have a lick of your earwax, especially if they haven’t tried doing this before.

Earwax is rich in dead skin cells, cerumen secretions, and sometimes, even hair.

But besides these major ingredients, ear wax also contains squalene, cholesterol, as well as long-chain fatty acids — unsaturated and saturated alike. 

Since they are obligate carnivores, cats have fewer taste buds compared to humans — they only have a few hundred instead of 10,000, like people. 

This makes them more likely to want to sample the taste of earwax and other things in their environment. 

2. They want to understand the smell

Healthy earwax should have a very light smell or none at all. 

If your own has a pungent smell, it can often be the sign of an ear infection (otitis), which will definitely make your cat interested in the q-tips you used. 

A cat’s sense of smell is estimated to be up to fourteen times better than that of any person. 

cat smelling earwax on qtip

In fact, cat noses are equipped with as many as 200 million odour sensors whereas a human’s nose has just 5 million. 

This means that a cat wants to know a smell and understand it and remember it for the future — in the wild, their sense of smell is very important for survival, so they use it for guidance and for avoiding predators. 

Therefore, it is in a cat’s nature to want to smell your earwax, although it might seem less appealing to you. 

3. Marking their territory

Some cats might not want to lick or smell your used q-tips at all. 

Instead, they might rather want to rub the sides of their faces onto the q-tips. But why does this happen?

cat rubbing face on earwax

Well, cats have scent glands in their cheeks, so this is why they rub their faces onto a variety of things in their living spaces — from the sides of your furniture to your hand. 

If you see your cat rubbing her face on your used q-tips, it doesn’t mean that she is a huge earwax aficionado. 

It just means that she wants to make that used item her own as she does with you and everything else in her home. 

4. Grooming necessities

If your cat isn’t that interested in your q-tips, but she might actually want to lick your ears, she doesn’t have an appetite for your earwax. 

However, since she considers you a member of her family, her behaviour is due to the grooming instincts she has towards her other cat and human friends. 

Cats are known to want to cuddle with their owners, and they rub their cheeks on their owners’ ears and faces to show love and claim you as theirs. 

5. Pure curiosity and playfulness

If your cat doesn’t really have a lot of entertainment opportunities, especially when you are out of the house, she is going to use your q-tips to play. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean that she’d prefer to play with your earwax rather than something else. 

cat playing with qtip

It just means that you have to get your pet some new toys or rotate between them so that she doesn’t get bored. 

Some of our favourite toys for cats who have to spend at least several hours by themselves every day are interactive toys.

Several examples are puzzle boards, food-dispensing toys, any accessories that contain catnip, as well as multilevel rollerball toys. 

Moreover, pets that are predisposed to obesity might benefit from playing with slow feeder toys such as labyrinths or circuits or even the so-called ‘Ripple Rug’, which comes with holes in which you can add several treats. 

Final thoughts

Cats can be attracted to earwax because they want to know what it is, and they want to learn its smell and taste. 

Many cats can play with used ear tips simply out of boredom, and they might find that the right moment to do so is specifically when you’re working or watching TV

If you want to prevent your cat from ingesting earwax or playing with your q-tips, get a pet-safe trash can.