Cats are exceptional at self-grooming, but their ears are one place they can't reach to clean themselves. In this post, our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist shares a step-by-step guide to giving your cat a proper ear cleaning.
How to Tell If Your Cat's Ears Need Cleaning
Just like you brush your cat's fur and trim their nails regularly, you may need to clean your cat's ears occasionally. Inspecting and cleaning your cat's ears can help you prevent infections and detect problems, such as diseases or parasites, early.
Contact us for proper diagnosis and treatment if you notice any of these signs of infection:
- Scratching the head or ears
- Head shaking
- Red or scaly skin
- Discharge from the ear
- Excessive wax buildup
- Foul odor
Remember that a small amount of wax is normal. Some breeds such as Rex, Sphinx, and other hairless breeds may produce more wax in their ears. A change in the amount of wax in your cat's ears, may point to a problem, so ask your veterinarian about the changes.
Should you clean your cat's ears?
Sometimes, cautious pet owners wonder, 'Should I clean my cat's ears?' and how often they should perform the task.
Inspecting your cat's ears once a week or so is an important part of routine cat care. During your inspection, look for discharge, wax and dirt buildup, since kittens and cats with dirty ears are more prone to infection. A foul odor can also indicate problems with the ears.
However, if you don't see any issues, you don't need to worry about cleaning your feline friend's ears very often. Cats are meticulous groomers and the only time most of them will need an ear cleaning is if their ears appear to have wax or dirt in them.
What are the benefits of ear cleaning?
If your cat is prone to wax buildup and ear infections, ear cleaning can be an essential item on your to-do list for at-home care and hygiene.
Not only does cleaning your cat's ears at home give you the opportunity to identify any health issues your kitty may have, it also helps keep them tidy and reduces the risk of infection.
Cleaning your cat's ears at home gives you the opportunity to identify any health issues your kitty may have. Ear infections tend to be symptoms of other health concerns such as diabetes mellitus, autoimmune diseases, tumors, or other factors.
What do you need to clean a cat's ears?
If your cat's ears are in need of a thorough cleaning, here are the "tools" you'll need to have on hand to do the job 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 calm, relaxed, and in between zoomies sessions. Start slow with the process and never try to force your cat to participate, as many dogs can become uncomfortable or distressed, especially if their ear is bothering them.
When we advise clients about how to clean their cat's ears, one of the first tips we share is to offer lots of praise and cat treats throughout.
Though this doesn't have to do with the cleaning process itself, your actions, demeanor and tone of voice before, during, and after performing the task can greatly impact your interaction with your kitty - and your success in completing the cleaning.
Only perform the steps your cat will tolerate. If necessary, you can work your way up to a full cleaning over time. The key is to keep this first experience as positive as possible.
- Speak to your cat in a soft, soothing voice and give them gentle, loving pets. Continue doing this throughout the cleaning and afterward, so they associate it with positive interactions.
- 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.
- If your cat's ears pass your visual and smell tests, gently pull back the ear flap (pinna). If you are doing the cleaning alone, fold the flap back with one hand and use the other hand to hold the bottle of ear cleaner.
- Hold the bottle of ear cleaner close to your cat's ear without putting the tip of the bottle in the ear. If the tip touches your cat's ear, clean the tip with an alcohol wipe before using it. This reduces the risk of bacteria and yeast (potential causes of infection) spreading.
- After you place a few drops of cleaner in each ear, gently massage the outside of the ear, especially base. Make sure the cleaner covers the ear. The cleaner loosens debris, making it easier to remove discharge, buildup, dirt, and wax.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat the process for the other ear. If your cat seems stressed, try cleaning the other ear at a later date.
When should you bring your cat to the vet for an ear cleaning?
Even if you do understand the process of cleaning your cat's ears, you may still be hesitant to attempt this task. If that's true for you, you may want to schedule your cat's ear cleaning at Animal Friends Dermatology.
You'll also want to get the job done professionally if you spot issues such as wax buildup, inflammation, infection, or signs of ear mites when you inspect your cat's ears.
Infections can cause pain, which may make ear cleaning uncomfortable and distressing for your cat. This can increase the risk of ear injury or damage.
Our veterinary dermatologist offers deep ear cleaning for cats. We have the experience and tools necessary to complete this essential task safely and efficiently. For example, we can use a handheld video otoscope to illuminate the ear canal and facilitate deep cleaning if a chronic ear infection is present.