The Mysterious Pouch. Uncovering the Truth Behind Cats’ Henry’s Pocket


Henry’s pocket refers to a small flap of skin located on the outer base of a cat’s ear. It is also known as a cutaneous marginal pouch. This article will provide an overview of the anatomy, origins, functions, and behaviors related to Henry’s pocket in cats. The health considerations and proper care for this area will also be discussed. Finally, common myths and interesting facts about Henry’s pocket will be addressed.


Henry’s pocket is a small fold of skin located on the outer base of a cat’s ear, specifically in the location of the antitragus (the small bulge opposite the ear canal). The pocket is formed by a double layer of skin that creates a slit-like opening on the outer margin of the ear.

Structurally, the pocket consists of an inner and outer dermal layer of skin that do not fully fuse together during embryonic development. This results in a pouch-like invagination of the epidermis which forms the entrance to the pocket. The opening of the pocket faces upward and outward when the ear is in its natural position.

The inside of the pocket contains adipose tissue and blood vessels but does not contain cartilage or muscles. The pocket has an average depth of around 1cm but this can vary between individual cats. Overall, the anatomy of Henry’s pocket is relatively simple, consisting solely of a folded section of skin and underlying connective tissues.



The origins of Henry’s pocket can be traced back to the evolutionary development of cats. According to Wikipedia, Henry’s pocket, also known as a cutaneous marginal pouch, is “a fold of skin forming an open pouch” near the base of a cat’s ears Henry’s pocket – Wikipedia. Many experts believe this pouch evolved to help ancestors of the modern cat funnel sounds into the ear canal, allowing them to better hear prey moving in tall grass. Over time, as cats became more domesticated and relied less on hunting skills, the need for improved hearing diminished. However, Henry’s pocket remained as a vestigial anatomical feature. Genetically, Henry’s pocket is a polygenic trait, meaning multiple genes contribute to its development. While all cats have the genetic basis for Henry’s pockets, the extent to which they are expressed phenotypically can vary between individuals.


The Henry’s pocket in cats has a few possible uses and functions. One important function is thought to be protecting and helping kittens. The pouch provides added cushioning and protection for kittens while the mother cat carries them in her mouth. The extra cushioning helps shield the kittens’ fragile bodies and prevents injury.1

The pocket may also play a role in scent communication and territorial marking for cats. Cats have scent glands in their heads near the pocket region, and rubbing this area against objects leaves behind their scent. The pocket shape helps spread scent efficiently when cats rub their heads on things. So the pocket likely aids how cats use their facial scent glands. 2


Cats exhibit several interesting behaviors that involve their Henry’s pocket. Here are some common observed behaviors:

Scratching or rubbing the inside of the pouch – Cats will often use their back legs to scratch at their ear and the inside of the Henry’s pocket. This may help remove dirt or debris.

Flicking their ears – Rapid flicking or twitching of the ears is a common behavior, which allows cats to show emotion and release energy. The loose skin of the Henry’s pocket facilitates free ear movements.

Inserting their paws – Cats may insert one of their front paws into the pouch while grooming themselves, likely to scratch an itch or stimulate the area. Kittens also knead the pocket.

Shaking their heads – Shaking or tossing the head side to side can loosen and straighten out the Henry’s pocket if it has folded over. It may also serve to clean out the pocket.

Ignoring sounds – Folding the rim of the pocket over the ear canal may muffle sounds that cats want to ignore temporarily. This may be an instinctive behavior to control stimulus intake.

Cats use their highly flexible ear flaps and Henry’s pockets in social communication, mood expression, grooming, cleaning, scratching, and managing sound intake. The pouch supports normal feline behaviors and movements.


Henry’s pocket can be prone to certain medical issues and diseases. One common problem is infection of the pocket, which can occur from bacteria, yeast, or other pathogens entering the folds of skin. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor. If untreated, the infection can spread and cause tissue damage. It’s important to keep the pocket clean and dry. Veterinary antibiotics may be needed to clear up the infection.

The pocket can also collect dirt and debris over time. This can lead to irritation of the skin inside the pocket. Regularly cleaning the pocket gently with a damp cloth helps remove any built-up debris.

On rare occasions, tumors or cysts may form within the pocket tissue. These growths usually require surgical removal. Cats should be checked periodically to feel for any lumps developing in the skin of the pocket region.

Overall the pocket itself does not lead to many serious medical problems in cats. But as a skin fold, it does require some monitoring and cleaning as part of routine cat care.


Keeping your cat’s Henry’s pocket clean is an important part of caring for their health and hygiene. Here are some tips for properly cleaning and caring for the pouch:

Use a cotton ball or soft cloth dampened with warm water or a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner to gently wipe away any dirt or debris inside the pocket. Take care not to push debris further into the pocket. After cleaning, gently dry the area with a soft towel.

Check the pocket regularly, such as during weekly brushing sessions, to stay on top of cleanliness. Look for signs of redness, irritation, odor, or discharge, which could indicate an infection requiring veterinary attention.

Trim fur around the opening of the pocket if it is prone to trapping debris. Never insert objects into the pocket to clean it. Seek veterinary advice before using any home remedies or over-the-counter treatments.

Avoid bathing cats too frequently, as this can strip oils and cause dryness around the pocket. Discuss an appropriate bathing schedule with your veterinarian.

Make sure your cat is up to date on vaccines and parasite prevention to reduce the risks of illnesses affecting the pocket area.

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities or have concerns caring for your cat’s Henry’s pocket. With proper care, your cat’s unique pouch should remain clean and healthy. (Source)


There are some common misconceptions and myths about Henry’s pocket in cats:

Some believe Henry’s pocket helps cats hear better, but there is no evidence to support this. Cats already have excellent hearing due to their large, cupped ears. The pocket does not seem to enhance their hearing abilities (Source).

Another myth is that the pocket helps cats fold their ears back. However, cats don’t tend to fold their ears back like dogs do. So the pocket does not seem to assist with ear folding or flattening (Source).

Some people think the pocket traps scents to aid hunting, but again, there’s no evidence for this. Cats rely more on their excellent vision and hearing to hunt rather than scent (Source).

While the pocket’s purpose still remains a mystery, the common myths about improving hearing, folding ears, and scent trapping appear to be just that – myths without scientific support.


Henry’s pocket contains some interesting quirks and facts:

The pocket is named after French anatomist Marie F.X. Bichat, who first described the pocket in 1801 and called it “Bichat’s pouch.” The name “Henry’s pocket” arose later as a misinterpretation of the anatomy. 1

The pocket helps cats hear high frequency sounds like those made by rodents and birds up to 65 kHz, far exceeding the human hearing range. The pocket likely helps amplify and direct high frequency sounds into the cat’s ear canal.1

The pocket can trap dirt, debris, and ear mites, making the ear more prone to infections. Regularly cleaning the pocket is important for health. 2

While present in all cats, the pocket is more pronounced in some breeds like the Scottish Fold. The fold in the ear leads to a larger pocket.2

The pocket is not unique to cats – other animals like dogs, bats, and weasels also possess the pocket, suggesting an evolutionary purpose.1


In summary, the Henry’s pocket is a small flap of skin located on a cat’s lower abdomen, just above the hind legs. All domestic cats have this special pouch of skin, which is named after the French veterinarian who first described it in the early 1900s, Henri Parquet.

The exact evolutionary origins of the Henry’s pocket are unknown, but it likely provided advantages for primal cat species in regards to mating behaviors. Today, the pouch allows male cats to safely grip and balance on females during intercourse. It also aids female cats in stimulating ovulation.

Additionally, the Henry’s pocket has several other important functions. It helps regulate body temperature and scent distribution. The pocket also protects vital arteries and veins located underneath. Understanding the purpose and biology behind this unique anatomical feature provides cat owners greater insight into their pet’s health and behavior.

By reviewing the key facts about the Henry’s pocket in cats, it’s clear that this small flap of skin plays an important role. Though the pouch itself is unremarkable in appearance, it serves many crucial purposes for cats’ survival and reproduction. Appreciating the value of even subtle anatomical adaptations allows us to better provide proper care for our feline companions.

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