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Why does my dog lick my cat's ears?

Why does my dog lick my cat’s ears?

August 20, 2023

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Why does my dog lick my cat's ears?

As pet owners, we often observe our furry friends engaging in curious behaviors that leave us wondering about their motivations and instincts. One such behavior that may pique your interest is when your dog starts licking your cat’s ears. It can be quite amusing to witness this interaction between two different species, but have you ever wondered why dogs do this? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this behavior and shed light on the fascinating dynamics between dogs and cats. So, why does your dog lick your cat’s ears? Let’s find out!

The Instinctual Connection

Canine Ancestry and Pack Mentality

To understand why dogs lick their feline companions’ ears, it is essential to delve into their evolutionary history. Dogs are descendants of wolves, which were pack animals known for their strong social bonds. In a wolf pack, grooming behaviors, including licking, play a crucial role in maintaining social harmony and strengthening the pack’s cohesion.

This innate instinct to groom extends to domesticated dogs as well. When a dog licks another animal, such as a cat, it is essentially displaying affection and bonding with its feline friend. This behavior is an expression of the dog’s social nature and its desire to establish a connection with other members of its “pack,” which includes humans and other pets in the household.

Feline Acceptance and Social Hierarchy

While dogs may have an inherent instinct to lick other animals, whether or not a cat allows this behavior depends on its individual personality and comfort level. Cats are known for their independent nature and may not always appreciate being groomed by another species.

However, in some cases, cats may tolerate or even enjoy the attention from their canine companions. This acceptance can be influenced by various factors such as the cat’s upbringing, exposure to other animals, and overall temperament. If a cat feels secure and trusts the dog, it may permit the dog to lick its ears as a form of social bonding.

Reasons Behind Ear Licking

Now that we understand the instinctual connection between dogs and cats, let’s explore some specific reasons why dogs may engage in ear licking behavior:

1. Grooming and Hygiene

One primary reason why dogs lick their cat’s ears is to help keep them clean. Dogs have a natural inclination to groom themselves and others, and they often view their feline companions as part of their social group. By licking the cat’s ears, dogs remove dirt, debris, and excess wax, promoting good ear hygiene.

Additionally, a dog’s tongue has natural antibacterial properties due to the presence of lysozyme enzymes. This can help prevent infections or soothe any irritation in the cat’s ears. However, it is important to note that excessive licking can lead to over-cleaning and potential harm to the cat’s delicate ear tissue. Therefore, monitoring this behavior is crucial.

2. Affection and Social Bonding

Licking is also a way for dogs to show affection and strengthen their bond with their feline friends. Dogs are known for their loyalty and desire for social interaction. By licking the cat’s ears, they express their love and care for their companion.

This behavior can be particularly pronounced if the dog sees the cat as a “pack leader” or an alpha figure in the household hierarchy. The dog may engage in submissive behaviors such as ear licking as a sign of respect and deference towards the cat.

3. Attention-Seeking Behavior

In some cases, dogs may lick a cat’s ears simply because they want attention or are seeking interaction. Dogs are highly social animals that thrive on companionship and may resort to licking behaviors to engage their feline companions in play or seek their undivided attention.

If a dog feels neglected or wants to initiate playtime, it may resort to licking the cat’s ears as a way to elicit a response. This behavior can be seen as an attempt to communicate and bridge the gap between different species.

Understanding and Managing the Behavior

While ear licking between dogs and cats can be seen as a positive interaction, there are certain considerations and precautions that owners should keep in mind:

1. Monitor Ear Health

Regularly check your cat’s ears for any signs of irritation, redness, or excessive wax build-up. If you notice any abnormalities, consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination. Excessive licking can sometimes indicate an underlying ear issue that requires medical attention.

2. Create a Safe Environment

Ensure that both your dog and cat have a safe space where they can retreat and have some alone time if needed. While ear licking can be a sign of affection, it is essential to respect the boundaries of both animals. Cats, in particular, value their personal space and may become stressed or anxious if they feel constantly pursued by a dog.

3. Positive Reinforcement

If your dog displays appropriate behavior while interacting with your cat’s ears, such as gentle licking without causing distress, provide positive reinforcement through praise or treats. This helps reinforce good behavior and encourages your dog to continue engaging in positive interactions with the cat.

4. Professional Training

If you find that your dog’s ear licking behavior becomes excessive, intrusive, or causes distress to the cat, consider seeking guidance from a professional animal behaviorist or trainer. They can provide tailored strategies to manage and modify this behavior effectively.


In conclusion, the behavior of dogs licking cats’ ears is rooted in their evolutionary history and their desire for social bonding. Dogs view their feline companions as part of their pack and engage in ear licking as a means of grooming, affection, and attention-seeking. While this behavior can be seen as positive, it is crucial to monitor the interaction and ensure the well-being of both animals.

Understanding the reasons behind this behavior allows us to appreciate the unique dynamics between dogs and cats while providing appropriate care and guidance. By maintaining good ear hygiene, respecting boundaries, and seeking professional help when needed, we can foster a harmonious relationship between our beloved furry friends. So the next time your dog licks your cat’s ears, remember that it’s an instinctual expression of love and connection.

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