How to Clean Your Cat's Ears

Imagine having to clean those ears! 

Have you looked at your cat's ears lately? Like, really looked at them? Sure, they're soft, fluffy, and cute. But they also might be filled with wax and dirt, and in some cases -- mites.  And no one wants that!

While cats are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to grooming, their ears are one of the hardest places for them to reach. Proper cat ear care can help prevent annoying and often painful ear infections and help you as a pet owner learn to spot irregularities in your cat's health.

All in all, cleaning your cat's ears shouldn't take long and is a relatively easy process. If you find your cat hates having their ears cleaned, you want to make the experience as low-stress as possible. Offer them treats, plenty of love and reassurance and be gentle. If you can, start regular ear care early on in your cat's life. If you adopt an older cat, try rubbing their ears first with your hands, then introduce a cotton ball so they can slowly get used to the process. 

What's Normal

Healthy inner ears will be pale pink in color and be free of debris or odor and will have minimal earwax. Your kitty's ear wax, called cerumen, is different than human earwax - it is naturally brown in color. A little buildup of brown, waxy substance is normal. 

Ear Cleaning, Step by Step:

  1. You will need a liquid ear cleaning solution (or pre-moistened wipes) and cotton balls. Ear swabs are not recommended.*

  2. Warm the ear cleaner to body temperature by placing the container in a warm pan of water. Test on your skin to make sure it is not too hot! 

  3. Place the cat on a table or counter where they feel secure, and where you can safely and gently hold them. Make sure your cat is calm and relaxed - you don't want to equate ear cleaning with stress or fear. 

  4. Put a drop or two of the liquid into the opening of the ear canal.

  5. Gently massage the base of the ear for at least a minute, to work the liquid around. You might hear squishing of the liquid, which is normal. 

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other ear.

  7. Let your cat shake their head to help dislodge any dirt or wax in the ear canal.

  8. Use clean cotton balls to wipe away oil and dirt from the ear.

  9. Give your cat their favorite treat and tons of pets and chin scratchies. 
*Cotton swabs should be avoided, unless you are certain your cat will be very still and allow you to safely clean their ears. Even if your cat is okay with a swab, you should never place the swab into the ear canal. A cotton swab placed too deeply or forcefully into the ear can cause eardrum damage, pain, and even hearing loss. The ears are particularly sensitive areas, so always use caution when cleaning them.

When it Might be Mites

It's an unpleasant thought. Ear mites are insects that live as parasites in the ears of your cat or kitten, feeding off of earwax and skin oils, found mostly in kittens and outdoor cats. They are tiny and can only be seen under a microscope. Mites are easily transmitted to other cats, and should be seen to by a vet as they can advise you the best course of action and may provide medicated cleaning solutions. Signs that your cat might have mites include:

  • Pawing or scratching at ears excessively
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Hair loss on ears
  • Any irritation, swelling, or inflammation in the ear
  • Dark discharge in his ear
  • Accumulates debris in ear that resembles coffee grounds
  • Develops ear odor

Preventative Care 

Regular ear maintenance, as silly as it sounds, is the best way to prevent ear infections and mite infestations. It's good to get into the habit of taking a peek inside your cat’s ears whenever you get the opportunity. When you're petting your cat, take a couple seconds just to check in on your cat's ear health. It just takes a moment! 

Do you have to clean your kitties ears? Do you have any surefire techniques? Let us know in the comments! 

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