Animals

What Are the Tiny Pockets Behind a Cat’s Ears?

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If you’re a crazy cat lady (and we mean that in the best way possible), you know everything about your felines: their favorite foods, their favorite toys, and, most important, their favorite place to be pet (which is around the ears, thank you very much). But one thing you may not know about your kitties is why they have slits in their ears. 

Perhaps you first noticed this little pouch on the side of your cat’s ear during a really good scratching session and immediately wondered what it was. It turns out that this little ear compartment is actually called a Henry’s pocket — how cute! In addition to cats, bats and some dogs can also have them.

Henry's pocket dogs

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Experts aren’t sure what purpose Henry’s pockets serve, but they have a few theories. The first is that it helps animals detect high-pitch noises, and that dogs and cats can use it to funnel sound waves into their inner ear. Another theory is that it acts like an accordion pocket, making it easier for cats and dogs to flatten their ears. 

One thing vets do know about Henry’s pockets is that these pouches are a breeding ground for bacteria and infection; because it’s a dark, moist environment, parasites can decide to set up camp. If you notice your pet is scratching his or her ears excessively, you may want to raise this issue with the vet during the next check-up. 

Fortunately, there’s an easy at-home method to preventing ear infections in cats. All you need to do is make sure you regularly clean your kitty’s outer ear with an ear cleaning solution ($14.51, Amazon) and a cotton ball or wipe. 

The fact that we may never really know what the purpose of a Henry’s pocket is doesn’t mean that this little compartment isn’t an oddly satisfying and weirdly soft place to tickle when you’re giving your sweet cat all those well-deserved snuggles

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