How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

Although cats are usually great at grooming themselves, they always appreciate being pampered by their owners. Additionally, staying up-to-date with grooming your cat can help keep your cat healthy and happy. Here are a few easy tips to groom your cat at home.

Benefits of grooming your cat

Cats are known for being very tidy groomers, but it’s difficult for them to groom the insides of their ears. Because of this, your cat may need occasional ear cleanings to help keep issues like ear infections and ear mite infestations at bay.

How do you know if your cat’s ears need cleaning?

Take a look at your cat’s ears. If there is ear irritation, redness, ear mites, or discharge of any sort, skip the at-home cleaning and take your cat to the veterinarian instead. Ear issues can be painful for cats, so leaving this to an expert is always best. If it’s just some excess wax, dirt, or debris, talk to your vet and see if they recommend at-home ear cleaning for your cat.

What you’ll need to clean your cat’s ears

Cleaning your cat’s ears will likely take some practice, but these at-home cleanings can actually be quite easy. Here’s what you’ll need to begin:

  • Ear cleaning solution. This is very important, since putting the wrong solution into your cat’s ears could lead to deafness, balance problems, or other issues. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
  • Gauze. Use gauze to clean, wipe, and dry the inside of your cat’s ears. You can pick up gauze squares at most human pharmacies. You can also use cotton balls, cotton makeup rounds, or even a tissue. Just don’t use cotton swabs to clean out your cat’s ears, as you could damage their eardrums.
  • A towel. You can gently wrap your cat in the towel in a “purrito”, but remember – less is better in terms of restraint. Having a towel on-hand is also useful for drying surfaces after your cat shakes the solution out of their ears.
  • A partner. Depending on your cat, it may be easier for a second person to hold your cat while you clean their ears.
  • Treats. Offer treats throughout the process to reward your cat and help them have a positive association with ear cleanings.

Steps for cleaning your cat’s ears

If there isn’t too much debris in the ears and your veterinarian has cleaned the ear initially, you can begin cleaning your cat’s ears.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and hold your cat in your lap.
  2. Grasp the tip of their ear flap and gently pull it back.
  3. “Flood” the ear with solution – you should squeeze in enough to fill the ear canal (some may even spill out).
  4. Massage the base of the ear for 5–10 seconds with your finger wrapped in gauze to allow the cleaning solution to work. Allow your cat to shake their head to get out any of the excess solution.
  5. Wrap dry gauze around your finger and gently wipe the excess liquid or debris out of the ear canal.
  6. Repeat with your cat’s other ear.

While it may take some time to get your cat used to having their ears cleaned, with the right supplies, patience, and gentle handling, you can help them keep their ears clean at home (and save yourself some time in the process).

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Andy Hillier, BVSc, MANZCVSc

Andy Hillier, BVSc, MANZCVSc

Dr. Andy Hillier is from South Africa where he went to veterinary school. He spent 8 years in small animal practice in South Africa and Australia before going to the University of Florida to complete a residency in dermatology. He was on faculty at Ohio State University for 17 years, becoming a full professor and head of the Dermatology and Otology Service before joining Zoetis in May 2013 as a senior veterinary specialist. He now serves as the Associate Director of Dermatology Medical Strategy and Medical Lead for Allergy and Dermatology at Zoetis Petcare.