Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 15, 2022 by Crystal Uys


A cat’s sense of hearing is much better than that of a human. A human ear can hear sounds of very low frequency of 20 Hertz to a very high frequency of 20,000 Hertz. Cats’ hearing is about the same on the low end, but they can hear high pitched sounds of up to 100,000 Hertz. Everything about a cat’s ear is designed by nature to aid her in hunting, and that includes the ability swivel her ears. But what is the purpose of those small pockets on the side of your cat’s ear?

Anatomy of the feline ear

Your cat’s ear, just like a human ear, has three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer ear is made up of the pinna, which is the large triangular part, and the ear canal, which normally has few hairs and is white or pink in color. The middle ear is contained in a small bony pocket at the base of the skull and can’t be seen from the outside. The inner ear contains the actual organ of hearing (organ of Corti). This is where sound waves transmitted through the middle ear are converted to nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. The inner ear also contains three small fluid-filled canals set at angles to each other that are responsible for the sense of balance.


Henry’s Pockets

As we know, cats are mysterious creatures, and the small pockets on the side of your cat’s ear, also known as “Henry’s Pockets,” are one of those mysteries nobody seems to quite understand. They are a normal part of a cat’s ear anatomy, but seem to have no known function. One theory, according to Wikipedia, is that the pockets  aid in the detection of high-pitched sounds by attenuating lower pitches, especially when the ear is angled. So perhaps these pockets help your cat hear the mouse before she can smell or see it.

This post was first published in March of 2017 and has been updated.

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21 Comments on What Are the Small Pockets on Your Cat’s Ear?

  1. I think they have to do with acoustics and the way sound travels in waves that we don’t actually hear, but sometimes can feel..

  2. Hello! That is very interesting! I always wondered what those were. I love your page! It’s very informative. I foster cats and kittens for a rescue and I always love to earn more about our feline friends. I just recently created a website and started a blog to share my experience. It’s all so new to me but I am enjoying reading other’s for inspiration.

  3. Wrong it’s where the meows begin formation, then transfer through the whiskers into the leathery nose and out of the pink mouth, ensuring only the bottom fangs show.

  4. My cat recently passed away and during her final moments she bit me on the chi and brought blood. I had picked her up from where she was laying gasping for breath on the floor to move her to a place where I could take care of her better and apparently she was in tremendous pain and lashed out at me. She has been a totally indoor cat so she couldn’t have been exposed to anything and she has had all her shots. My friends won’t visit me now because they think she had covid 19 and so now I must. How do I convince them she didn’t?

    • I’m sorry about your cat, Kathryn. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that she doesn’t have COVID – what an odd conclusion to draw on the part of your friends. That’s clearly a case of fear blocking out all logical thinking on their part. Most likely she was disoriented when she passed, and that’s why she lashed out at you. My bigger concern is that your bite may get infected, see this article: If you notice any signs of infection of the area where she bit you, please seek medical care as soon as possible.

  5. I always thought they were like human earlobes. Not sure our lobes have any function other than to pierce for adornment:)

  6. That’s very interesting! I’ve often wondered about Gabby’s little ear pockets. You know, there’s a lot about cats we don’t know. Like purring! We don’t know how they do it, why they do it, or what purpose it serves. The only thing we do know is some of the times when they do it: When they’re stressed, nervous, scared, injured, or content. But the reasoning still escapes us.

    As far as cat anatomy, did you know that cats see more on the ultraviolet spectrum than we do? Cats can see dry urine as though it were under a black light, which enables them to track and trail prey.

  7. I’m glad you wrote this, I have wondered at times what they were for, just never thought to look it up in Wikipedia. Lol

  8. This is a very interesting post. I have never thought twice about the little side pockets, but now I feel I need to know more.

  9. A really fascinating article, never even thought about such things; wonder who “Henry” was to have pockets named after him!

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