Cleaning a cat's ears

Cats are quite efficient in keeping themselves tidy, but even they need our help when it comes to keeping their ears clean. Although a cat’s ear has a natural cleaning mechanism that enables the wax to move toward the outer part of the ear, regular checks are necessary to avoid possible ear infections and other health issues.

There are no strict rules for how often you should clean your cat’s ears, and it often varies from cat to cat. If your pet has healthy ears, monthly checks will suffice. However, if your cat has a medical record of ear health issues, you should check their ears once a week to ensure that there are no abnormalities, like swellings or unpleasant odors. If you notice any sign of infection, a visit to the vet is necessary. Vets can take care of the ear cleaning, but if you prefer to do it at home, there are some things you can do to make the process easier for you and your feline friend.

Here are 5 steps on how to clean your cat’s ears safely:

  1. Inspect the Outer Ears
  2. Prepare All the Cleaning Supplies
  3. Have Someone Hold the Cat While You Do the Cleaning
  4. Gently Clean the Cat’s Ear
  5. Provide a Post-Cleaning Treat

You will find all the steps explained in greater detail below to help you properly clean your cat’s ears and make the process less uncomfortable for you and your pet. If you have any doubts or questions, make sure to consult a vet.

Step 1: Inspect the Outer Ears

A cat’s outer ear consists of the ear flap, or pinna, and the ear canal. The ear flap is the pointy part of the ear that’s covered in fur. The outer area of the ear flap has no bald patches, and its inner part is of pale pink color. The ear canal is light pink, and it should contain a minimum or no amount of wax. You should never attempt to clean the ear canal, as this area is very sensitive and it should only be treated by a vet. When inspecting the cat’s ears, gently pull back each of the ear flaps and look down the canal. Here are some of the signs of potential ear health issues you should be on the lookout for:

  • Unpleasant odor
  • Bald patches on the outer surface of the ear flap
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or the canal
  • Sensitivity or discomfort of the cat upon touching their ears
  • Excessive amounts of dark brown wax
  • Dark-colored debris
  • Frequent head-shaking or scratching of the ears and the surrounding area
  • Loss of balance and disorientation
  • Bleeding from the ear

If you notice any of these signs, it’s necessary to seek professional help.

Step 2: Prepare All the Cleaning Supplies

You can either get a specialized cleaning solution, or use warm distilled water, hydrogen peroxide, and olive oil. However, if you’re uncertain about which cleaning solution to use, it’s best to consult the vet. Use a cotton ball or gauze for cleaning, and never use Q-tip as it can further irritate the area. Also, be sure to have all the cleaning supplies on hand before you start the treatment.

Cat staring
Image Credit: Pexels by Krysten Merriman

Step 3: Have Someone Hold the Cat While You Do the Cleaning

Your cat may become nervous and reluctant to undergo the treatment upon having their ears touched, so it can be helpful to have a family member or a friend assist you by holding the cat while you clean their ears. It’s also advisable to wrap the cat in a towel to prevent them from moving. However, if your cat becomes extremely nervous and afraid, it’s best to leave the ear cleaning to the vet to ensure both yours and your pet’s safety.

Step 4: Gently Clean the Cat’s Ear

To begin the cleaning, put a small amount of the cleaning product on the cotton ball or gauze. Gently fold your cat’s ear and use the moistened cotton ball to remove any visible dirt, debris, or wax from the inner surface of the ear flap. Also, instead of rubbing, try to lift away the dirt. Repeat the same actions with the other ear.

Step 5: Provide a Post-Cleaning Treat

After the cleaning is over, it’s a good idea to give your cat a treat as a reward for being a good patient. Also, if the treatment needs to be repeated in the future, they will be less reluctant to undergo it if they know that there’s a treat waiting for them when they’re done.