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How To Clean Your Cat's Ears: Complete Guide

Cats excel at grooming, but they cannot clean their ears independently. In this post, our veterinarians in Mooresville offer a step-by-step guide to properly clean your cat's ears.

How to Determine If Your Cat's Ears Require Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your cat's ears is as crucial as maintaining its fur and nails. This practice helps prevent infections and enables early detection of potential problems such as diseases or parasites.

If you observe any signs of infection, please get in touch with us immediately for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Scratching the head or ears
  • Head shaking
  • Red or scaly skin 
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Excessive wax buildup 
  • Swelling 
  • Foul odor 

Cats typically have a small amount of wax in their ears, which is normal. However, certain breeds, like the Rex, Sphinx, and other hairless breeds, may produce more wax. Any changes in the amount of wax should prompt a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss observed changes.

Should you clean your cat's ears?

Some cautious pet owners may wonder, 'Should I clean my cat's ears?' and how often they should perform the task.

Inspect your cat's ears once a week or so as part of routine cat care. During this inspection, look for discharge, wax, and dirt buildup, as kittens and cats with dirty ears are more prone to infection. A foul odor can also indicate problems with the ears.

However, if there are no visible issues, cleaning your feline friend's ears very often is unnecessary. Cats are meticulous groomers; most will only need an ear cleaning if their ears appear to have wax or dirt.

What are the benefits of ear cleaning?

If your cat is prone to wax buildup and ear infections, cleaning their ears at home can be essential to their hygiene and care routine. Not only does it help to keep your kitty's ears tidy, but it also enables you to identify any potential health issues.

Ear infections can be a symptom of other underlying health concerns, such as autoimmune diseases, tumors, diabetes mellitus, or other factors.

Therefore, regularly cleaning your cat's ears at home can help you catch any potential health issues early and seek veterinary treatment promptly.

What do you need to clean a cat's ears?

If your cat's ears need cleaning, here are the tools you'll need to do it safely:

  • Cat ear cleaning solution 
  • Cotton gauze, cotton balls, or squares 
  • Cat treats 
  • Cat ear wipes or pads
  • Towel or blanket to wrap around your cat, if necessary
  • Partner to hold your cat while you clean their ears (optional)

How do you clean a cat's ears?

Choose a time when your cat is relaxed and calm, avoiding hyperactive play sessions. It is crucial to start slowly and never force them to participate, as it can make them feel uncomfortable or distressed, especially if their ear bothers them.

Offer praise and treats throughout the process to help your cat feel more comfortable and relaxed. Your attitude, tone of voice, and actions before, during, and after the cleaning process can all impact your interaction with your cat and your success in completing the task.

Only do what your cat can tolerate and gradually work your way up to a complete cleaning if necessary. The goal is to make this experience as positive as possible for your cat.

  1. Speak to your cat softly and soothingly, and give them gentle, loving pets. Continue doing this throughout the cleaning and afterward, so they associate it with positive interactions.
  2. Check your cat's ears for ear mites (which appear as tiny red or brown spots), inflammation, discharge, built-up wax, or other debris. Also, note any foul odors and dermatological issues such as scratches, lesions, or bumps, which may indicate infection. If you see any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for treatment advice before you clean.
  3. If your cat's ears pass visual and smell tests, gently pull back the ear flap (pinna). If you are cleaning alone, fold the flap back with one hand and use the other hand to hold the bottle of ear cleaner. 
  4. Hold the bottle of ear cleaner close to your cat's ear without putting the tip in the ear. If the tip touches your cat's ear, clean the tip with an alcohol wipe before using it to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and yeast (which are potential infection causes)
  5. After you place a few drops of cleaner in each ear, gently massage the outside of the ear, especially the base. Make sure the cleaner covers the ear. The cleaner loosens debris, making removing discharge, buildup, dirt, and wax easier. 
  6. Your cat will likely shake their head when the cleaner drops in. The cleaner may even splash onto their fur, but that's okay - it won't hurt them. 
  7. Use a cotton pad to clean debris from your kitty's ear. Again, never put anything, including your finger, into your cat's ear canal. 
  8. Repeat the process for the other ear. If your cat seems stressed, try cleaning the other ear later. 

When should you bring your cat to the vet for an ear cleaning?

If you're hesitant to clean your cat's ears even after understanding the process, you can schedule a professional ear cleaning at Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital. When inspecting your cat's ears, it's important to get the job done by a professional if you notice issues such as wax buildup, inflammation, infection, or signs of ear mites.

Infections can cause pain, making ear cleaning uncomfortable and distressing for your cat, which can increase the risk of ear injury or damage.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you notice any worrisome symptoms of an ear condition in your cat? Or do you want to schedule an ear cleaning for your feline? Please call our vets in Mooresville for an appointment today!

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Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of cats, dogs and exotic pets. Book your pet's first appointment today.

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