How To Clean A Cat’s Ears

Those little furry triangles sitting atop a cat’s head are extremely cute, but they can be a source of infection if they are not taken care of. Let’s take a look at what needs to be done to make sure they’re clean and healthy.

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When Should You Clean A Cat’s Ears

veterinarian examining cat's ear

Cats are famously low maintenance when it comes to grooming. They are well-equipped to clean themselves, and based on the amount of time they spend at it, it looks like they enjoy it too.

As such, there’s no need to give your cat a helping hand in all matters of personal grooming, whether it’s giving him a bath or cleaning his ears. That’s as long as your cat is healthy and able to groom himself properly.

Old or obese cats may need a little help grooming hard-to-reach parts of their bodies. If your cat falls into these categories or is suffering from any condition that makes grooming difficult, always ask your vet first if you should clean his ears and, if so, how often.

Another reason to clean your cat’s ears is if your vet requires it for ear infection treatment. It is usually done prior to administering medicines.

While you don’t have to clean your cat’s ears all the time, it is important to check them at least once a week. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! So monitor your cat’s ears for any debris build-up or funky smell coming from in there. It’s also important to take notice of any increase in frequency and intensity of ear scratching.

Catching ear problems early and bringing your cat to the vet is the best thing you can do to help. You’ll not only save your fur baby from irritation and pain, but you’ll also save your wallet from getting emptied out with the expensive treatment needed to solve more serious conditions.

What You Need To Clean Cat Ears

vet pouring cat ear cleaning solution into cat ear

The process of cleaning cat ears is pretty straightforward. You will need a cat ear cleaning solution, gauze pads or cotton balls, cat treats (very important!), and maybe a blanket or towel.

Gauze pads or cotton balls are good for cleaning cat ears because they’re unlikely to cause any damage. This is the reason why you should never use q-tips! It’s difficult to notice if you’re pushing it in too deep and it can very easily penetrate the fragile internal ear structures if your cat suddenly moves.

It is important to use an ear cleaning solutions specially made for cats. There are a lot of brands on the market, but a good rule of thumb is to check the ingredient list. Stay away from anything that contains hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, or vinegar as that may be too harsh for your cat’s sensitive ears. Home remedies are generally not a good idea, but if you want to try one, make sure to consult your veterinarian first.

Cat treats are just as important as the materials you’ll actually use for cleaning. No matter how gentle you are or how effective your ear cleaning solution is, it’s all for naught if your cat won’t let you touch his ears. Use high value treats to help him associate ear cleaning time with fun. Lickable treats can help keep their mind of the unfamiliar feeling of having his ears touched. It would also be a good idea to play with your cat beforehand to tire him out, encouraging him to sit still.

If your cat is jumpy, make him a burrito! No, not the food, but the blanket-wrap technique for soothing cats. The gentle pressure helps calm him down, while also protecting you from sudden swipes. This is especially helpful if your cat has a painful ear condition that makes him more sensitive to touch in that area.

Step-By-Step Process Of Cat Ear Cleaning

vet rubbing cat ear with gauze pads
  1. Make sure your cat is comfortable and relaxed. Either tire him out with play, keep him busy with treats, or wrap him up burrito-style.
  2. Flap your cat’s ear backward to better visualize the ear canal.
  3. Pour the cat ear cleaning solution inside the canal until it’s full. If it overflows, it’s okay. What is important is that there is enough solution to reach all the nooks and crannies of the ear. Try not to let the bottle opening touch the ear as this may contaminate the opening and cause the spread of infectious agents. Wipe off the nozzle with a cotton ball or gauze pad soaked in alcohol to disinfect it.
  4. Give your cat a good ear rub! Massaging the base of the ear not only helps the cleaning solution dissolve whatever debris is inside the canal, but it also helps your cat relax after the peculiar sensation of having their ears flooded with liquid. Do this for thirty seconds.
  5. Do the same on the other ear.
  6. Let your cat walk around for five minutes. Let them shake their head to dislodge the dirt that has been dissolved by the cleaning solution, and get rid of any excess liquid in their ear canal.
  7. Take a cotton ball or gauze pad and gently wipe the outer ears.

Regina Ranada

Regina graduated with a degree in Psychology and worked in Human Resources for four years before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She is interested in companion animals and wildlife medicine. She sidelines as the social media manager of her pitbull, Pablo.

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