Cleaning Cat Ears


"Dogs come when they're called; cats take a message and get back to you." Or maybe your cats won't come when they are called because they can't hear you. It is probably time to learn how to clean your cat's ears. Ear cleaning is an important part of your cat's grooming and overall health care. You can avoid some serious problems by learning how to clean your cat's ears or by having a vet or professional groomer do it for you.

Let's begin with a quick cat anatomy review, so you're familiar with all the parts of a cat's ear.

  • The Outer Ear: Also known as the pinna or ear flap. This is the visible part of the cat's ear and it is usually upright with a pointed tip. Some breeds are an exception, such as the Scottish Fold, which has a floppy ear.
  • Ear Canal: This is a two inch tube-shaped organ that leads to the eardrum. The eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, is the essential part of the cat's hearing. The eardrum vibrates when it picks up sound.
  • Inner Ear: The part of the cat that's responsible for maintaining equilibrium and balance.

It's safe to assume that your cat is probably not going to look forward to his ear cleaning episode. Following a few simple steps can make the process quicker and easier for both you and your pet. You do not need to clean your cat's ears constantly, but you should check them every other month and be aware of symptoms that might indicate problems with your cat's ear health. The most common problem for cats is a parasitic infestation from ear mites. If you notice your cat scratching his ears excessively or shaking his head, this may be a sign of ear mites or another type of ear infection. A trip to the vet will be necessary.

Supplies You Will Need For Cat Ear Cleaning:

  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Warm water
  • A plastic eyedropper
  • Large towel for swaddling a nervous, squirming cat

Step-By-Step For Easy Ear Cleaning:

  • Always have your veterinarian examine your cat's ears first before you attempt to clean them yourself.
  • Clean the ear with a ceruminolytic (de-waxing) agent. Ear cleaning solutions for a cat can be found at any pet store.
  • Hold the cat in your lap swaddled in a towel
  • Fold the cat's ear back so that the ear canal is accessible
  • Fill the ear with de-waxer solution and massage the ear gently
  • Release your cat for about five minutes giving him time to shake his head.

The solution will help loosen any wax so you can remove it more easily. You probably want to have all the doors to the room closed, as the first reaction your cat is going to have once you release him is to take off.

  • Wipe the inside of your cat's ear with gauze or a cotton swab
  • Never used a cotton tipped applicator! (Q-Tip). You may accidently puncture your cat's ear drum with this type of tool, so it is much safer to stick to cotton swabs.

If you have never cleaned your cat's ears, you should be observant of symptoms that may indicate an ear mite infestation or other infection. Some things to look for include redness, discharge, small black spots that resemble coffee grounds, odor, scratching or head shaking. Normal ear wax will be light brown. Any kind of liquid discharge from your cat's ears is serious and you should contact your vet immediately.

Fast Facts About Cat's Ears:

  • There are hundreds of ear cleaning and ear mite products for your cat. Most are available through your pet store or on the Web. Ask your vet to recommend a solution so that you are confident you're purchasing the most effective product.
  • Dogs are more prone to ear infections than cats
  • Persian cats are more prone to ear infections than other cat breed
  • The external canal (Otis Externa) is where most infections occur in a cat
  • Chronic ear infections are extremely serious and can close a cat's ear canal. If this happens it will probably require surgery.

If you have an indoor cat and it is your only pet, it will be less likely to catch a contagious infestation such as ear mites. It's still a good idea to gently clean your cat's ears from time to time and be aware of the signs that could indicate a problem.

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