In fiction, there are many ways to show a character is cute. You can give them cute hair decorations. You can give people a Little Bit Beastly Cute Monster Girl. Or, you can give a hint of both, which is where this trope lies.
Adding fake animal ears is a way to keep the media within the bounds of reality and avoid potential Squick while still having the appeal of a Bunny or Catgirl. They are most often found on a headband, but can also appear on hats, hoodies, or other hair decorations and head coverings. They can sometimes be accentuated with fake tails. Most common are cat ears, although fox, bunny, and dog can also be found.
Anime & Manga
- Mahou Sensei Negima Starting from the festival arc onward, these make appearances everywhere.
- Evangeline accepted a bet where she would have to wear cat-ears (plus glasses, a school swimsuit, and the top of a Sailor Fuku) if she lost. Regrettably, Evangeline won this bet, so the ultimate though the readers do get to see Eva with all that stuff on, courtesy of her imagination.
- Kaede gets some Bear ears for most of the festival arc (you can still see the tag in front of one of them)
- Also, during the festival, several girls wear cat ears as part of a costume or on their own.
- During the festival arc, Negi wears at various times a bunny costume, a cat-eared hood, and fox ears (the latter as part of a foxgirl outfit).
- In the Magical World Arc, a number of the girls wear cat ears as part of a costume
- Chisame and Setsuna have cat ears as part of their pactio outfits.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. Harumi Fujiyoshi has a massive affinity for these. She once chased Itoshiki-sensei around town because he had a tail accessory without the proper headgear.
- In Genshiken, Kanako Ohno tries thoughout the manga to get Saki to wear one. Also, Madarame once put one on her, and she responded by chasing him through the halls with a broom.
- In K-On!, Azusa is made to wear a cat ears band. The results are well worth it. This also earned her nickname "Azu-nyan".
- In Maria Holic, God has a pair. They even move, although her real ears are still visible.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Japan places a cat ear headband on Greece after the latter said that he wishes to be reborn as a cat.
- In Loveless, cat ears and tails indicate that someone is a virgin. One member of the female Zero team is ashamed of her lack of ears and so wears fake ones.
- Hayate the Combat Butler
- Izumi got cat ears when she was possessed (by a neko-spirit). Not a headband, but also not naturally hers.
- Hayate himself gets these in his unwilling Instant Cosplay Surprises.
- "Aki-chan" from Sensitive Pornograph is a rare male, non-cute example. The ears come off as props for his potentially forced bunny play role in his abusive relationship.
- Hazuki from Moon Phase. To the extent that in the anime adaptation it seems to be the main point of the entire show. After all, "Neko Mimi Modo Desu~"
- During the first story arc of Dragon Ball, there is a group of bandits that are identified by the bunny ears they wear on top of their hats. This is to show allegiance toward their leader, who's an anthropomorphic rabbit. Of course, confusion ensues when Bulma arrives in town while dressed as a Playboy Bunny because of Oolong.
- In early One Piece, the Black Cat Pirates, all of which are males, wear black cat ears, with the exceptions of their captain, Kuro, and first mate, Jango.
- In Kanon, child!Yuuichi gives a pair of bunny ears to his Childhood Friend to compensate for her short stature in hide-and-seek. She ran with it.
- In Ouran High School Host Club, Ritsu Kasanoda is briefly shown wearing cat ears as part of his attempt to be less scary. It doesn't work.
- Naruto and his team mates wear the cat ears version in a filler episode. The ears enable them to understand the cat-people language.
- Koboshi in Pita-Ten, until her hairstyle change late in manga.
- Hiiro in Yomeiro Choice. She also sports a strap that hangs off the back of her dress that clearly mimics a tail.
- Kuro in Kodomo No Jikan often sports these to complement whatever she's wearing from her Unlimited Wardrobe.
- Given that her name is Nekota and her Gamer Chick In Universe Nickname is Nekonyaa, it's not surprising that one character in Girls und Panzer wears cat ears. All the time.
Comics -- Books
- The Cat (aka Greer Grant Nelson), from Marvel's short-lived 1972 series, wears a masked hood with cat ears as part of her costume.
- Hellcat (aka Patsy Walker), of Marvel's Avengers and Defenders teams, wears a masked hood with cat ears as part of her costume.
- The Cheetah (aka Priscilla Rich), longtime foe of DC's Wonder Woman, wore a masked hood with cat ears as part of her costume.
- A second Cheetah (aka Deborah Domaine), succeeded her aunt as an enemy of DC's Wonder Woman, wearing a cat-eared headband as part of her costume.
- Catwoman, of Batman fame, wears a masked hood with cat ears in most of her incarnations.
- Batman himself always has tiny bat-ears on his cowl, in all incarnations.
- Runaways. Molly Hayes wore a kitty-eared hat at least once.
- Barbara Thorson of I Kill Giants wears these to give herself Unusual Ears. It also helps to serve as visual shorthand for how other people in the story see her as an outsider and "weirdo."
Films -- Live-Action
- ET the Extraterrestrial. On Halloween, Elliott's mother dresses up in a leopard costume complete with an Animal-Eared Headband.
- The Josie and The Pussycats film has cat-ear bands that were part of a plot to secretly brainwash teenagers into buying whatever the villains wanted them to.
- Theme parks usually sell these; the most famous example is Mickey Ears from Disney Theme Parks.
- Final Fantasy XII
- The Cat-Eared hood is an equipable accessory that ups speed by a lot.
- The Devout Class in Final Fantasy III and Seer Class in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and A2 have Cat-Eared Hoods.
- Krille's White Mage job class in Final Fantasy V has a cat-eared hood. This is probably to be cuter rather than sexier, given her age.
- Some of Leanne's hair bands in Resonance of Fate have cat ears.
- The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask have the bunny mask which increases speed.
- In Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Melee, equipping said item will increase a character's running speed and drastically increase your jumping height.
- Guild Wars: Cat-eared headgear was handed out as a freebie during Halloween 2010. It's purely ornamental and has no game effect.
- Ragnarok Online has various types of animal headbands, like the Kitty Band (which has oddly round ears instead of pointy) and the Bunny Band.
- Tales of Vesperia has the Bunny Ears Guild, which gives you bunny headbands for various characters in exchange for acquiring titles. Rita also gets a waitress costume which involves cat ears—presumably on barrettes as they are not attached to a band—and a different headband with a cat face decoration on it.
- Trickster Online. Every character has these and a detachable tail by default. Each character type is actually named after which animals ears/tail they have. Odd thing is, they cannot be unequipped until you reach Lv20. Also are non-dropable and have their own equip slots, so they don't hog any real inventory space. Most headgear also let the ears clip through, as if they had holes in them, but capes hide the tail completely.
- World of Warcraft has an achievement for Easter to cast bunny ears on a woman of every playable race above level 18.
- It also has the literal version of the trope, a wearable item that gives one bunny ears.
- Kokari of Okami wears a rabbit pelt over his head. The ears of the pelt are positioned where they would be if he were an anthropomorphic rabbit. It makes him look both cuter and tougher at the same time.
- Team Fortress 2: One Nice Hat is the top half of a rabbits head, a pre-order bonus from Sam and Max Freelance Police.
- Pangya features cat ears for most of the characters for sale for pang.
- The Boss can buy and equip cat-eared headbands in Saints Row 2.
- Rune Factory: Frontier uses Virtual Paper Doll for head equipments. One of the more powerful headgears happen to be a bunny ears headband.
- An equippable item for Pericci, the Catgirl and thus totally superfluous, in the first Star Ocean.
- Spacetrawler: Yuri starts off wearing a cat-ears headband. She eventually replaces them with real cat ears.
- Josie and the Pussy Cats theme song.
Josie and the Pussycats
- Yugo's hat, and those of all Eliatropes in The Guardians spin-off, evoke this trope.
- In the Gobbowl story arc, all the cheerleaders (including Amalia and Evangelyne) wear bunny-ears headbands.
- Younger daughter Louise in Bob's Burgers constantly wears a hat with bunny ears which only adds to her borderline psycho persona.
- Finn from Adventure Time wears a Nice Hat like this. Don't call it stupid.
- Waitresses at the Playboy Club used to have to wear these.
- And now there's a version that reacts to your brainwaves.