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What is it called when an animal's ears are folded back?


New Member
Can it only be triggered by emotion or can they do it at will?

and no, that is not my cat.


Where'd the time go?
Uhhhh... both, I think? Might also be purely reflexive to different situations/stimuli/emotions.


Inglorious Bastard
Stimuli and emotions, mostly. When a cat has their ears laid back, it mostly means afraid, irritable and/or angry.


Usually you say it pinned it's ears back.


Avocado Expert
Why should every specific things like these have a name? First the lizards and now this. English isn't my first language but I'm 95% sure there's no name for it besides describing what just happened, as jtrekkie said, pinning its ears back.


Are we moomin, or are we dancer?
Pinned-back sounds like the best call to me. English definitely has a word for this, for our language has a surplus of esoteric words and Horses also fold their ears back, so there will probably be a horsing term for it.


Cats will also move their ears (similarly to the picture) in order to pin-point a sound source. It's not like they lack muscular control over their ears. It can be voluntary, but we only see pinned ears in particular contexts because that's how cats express their emotion physically.

For example, we make particular faces when we're angry (furrowed brow, tightened jaw, squinted eyes). Nobody sits around with an angry face on for no particular reason, but there's nothing stopping us from recreating that face when we're not actually angry.

I'm a little curious why you are looking for such a distinction in this behavior in the first place?


New Member
I'm a little curious why you are looking for such a distinction in this behavior in the first place?
I wasn't intending to look for such a distinction in this behaviour in the first place.

Usually you say it pinned it's ears back.
I searched that in Google Images and here's what i got:https://www.google.com/search?q=pin...=1280&bih=895#tbm=isch&q=pinned+its+ears+back
No animal results, huh? I don't think it's pinned it's ears back.
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Well, honey...you've got as complete of an answer as you can get! Sometimes questions have unsatisfying answers~
Good luck.


New Member
I asked a main question which is:
[h=2]What is it called when an animal's ears are folded back?[/h]Then I asked an external question to it:

Can it only be triggered by emotion or can they do it at will? I asked this because I was curious to know if they could or not. I don't really have any answers for the first question.


Well-Known Member
I'd call it flattened ears. Although I wouldn't google that, unless you wanna see birth defects.

Edit: I'm a credible source because my avatar is a cat


Couple different things
Some dog breeds have what is called "rose ears", which are half-folded ears that are usually held back (think Greyhound, Borzoi, etc)
When the animal is pinning it's ears back willingly, this is usually a sign of "submission", fear, stress, appeasement/calming signal.
When a cat puts his ears back in that way that you've shown, it's usually one of a few things based on other bits of body language.
1. He's hearing something behind him and is a little startled
2. He's stressed out, will leave soon. Will usually avoid eye contact and will turn his head when stared at
3. If he's growling, staring, and hissing, he's fearful and aggressive.

EDIT: If you're asking what I'd call that, I'd say the cat has his ears turned back.
"Pinned ears" to me would show the cat with his ears bent even further back, flattened down.


New Member
I've heard it called "airplane ears" in cats. Not sure how common that term is.
It usually means they're irritated, but they can do it on command for non-emotion reasons. I had a cat who was used to being pet by my dad's big meaty hands. It would mess up his ears and he didn't like it, so he eventually started putting his ears flat to his head whenever someone was petting him so they wouldn't buffet his little ears. Most don't care enough to do that kind of thing, though.