How To Clean a Cat’s Ear?

Petting and head rubbing are just some of the moments which you can share with your cat. They are a form of praise which can boost its energy and keep it happy. However, have you ever noticed your furry friend having discharge from his ear which might be smelly?

Have you been neglecting your cat’s ears? Did you forget to clean them or do you find it not necessary? Read further as we discuss the importance of cleaning your cat’s ears, how to clean the ears, and what you can use to maintain great, furry ears.

vector image of dressed cat

The Importance of Cleaning Cat Ears

Keeping tabs on your cat’s hygiene makes sure that your pet is clear from any type of disease or illness. For many cats, ears are self-cleaning and do not require extremely frequent cleaning. That being said, here are some of the reasons why you might clean their ears:

  • Cats have a heightened sense of hearing which helps them stay alert as well as attentive to their people. Keeping them free of dirt will reduce accumulation which might lead to a blockage or the next point; an infection.
  • Keeping those ears clean will prevent infections that can temporarily or even permanently damage their ears.
  • Having dirty cat ears can cause irritation and scratching which can cause wounds and further infections. So, making sure that those ears are clean prevents such conditions.
  • Having your kitty get used to the procedure can create a bond between the two of you.
woman cleaning cat's ear at home with wool

The different parts of the ear

The ear is made up of different sections which can be cleaned. The flap of the ear, which sticks up is called the pinna. At the base of the pinna, is the entrance to the ear canal. The first section of the ear canal travels vertically. It then turns 90 degrees to go horizontally into the head. This makes up the external ear canal and will be the only bit you will clean.

At the end of the external ear canal is a thin film called the tympanic membrane. You might know this as the ear drum. In the case of an infection or trauma, this may become perforated. If it has been perforated, then nothing should be put down the ear without veterinary advice. On the other side of the tympanic membrane is the middle ear, and then inner ear, which contains a number of different structures to aid with hearing.

Inspection and Cleaning Of Cat Ear

Before you get your cleaning materials, you would need to thoroughly inspect the ear of your cat to see if there are any abnormalities present. Earwax and dirt are normal for cats to have. However, we believe that it is time to bring your pet to the vet if you find these on its ears:

  • Green or yellow discharge
  • Black or dark red discharge
  • Putrid odors
  • Swelling of the ears
  • Balance issues or tilting
  • Redness around the exit to the ears
  • Shaking the head

Discharge and foul odors can be a sign of an infection with yeast, bacteria or ear mites. These can be easily treated with drops in the ear, dispensed by a veterinarian, which suffocate mites and kill yeast and bacteria. 

Swelling of the ears and redness around the exits could be due to many things; most commonly allergies, infections or harvest mites. You veterinarian must distinguish what the root cause is as these are all be treated differently. 

Shaking of the head may be present with any of the previous findings, however it is also common if there is a foreign body down the ear canal, such as a grass seed. 

Finally, balance issues or tilting the head are indicative of either a neurological problem or a middle/inner ear complaint, and these ears must absolutely not have anything put down them; not even gentle ear cleaner. They can make the issue significantly worse. These ears need to be treated by a veterinarian under anaesthetic to flush them out with sterile saline.

All of these symptoms must be treated with the correct kinds and doses of medicine. Your veterinarian will also be the one to initiate the cleaning procedure to further examine the ear.

If none of these are present in your furbaby’s ear, then proceed to clean away the dirt and earwax. We recommend that you do this when your cat is fully relaxed to avoid any jerking or complications.

Set out the materials – the cleaning procedure should be down swiftly with no interruptions. This means that all the materials you intend to use should be ready and available to pick up in an instant. You can set a table beside you and lay out the cotton, wipes, solution, etc.

Provide ultimate relaxation – take advantage of your cat’s sleeping or resting time. This will definitely help you have an easier time cleaning the ears since there will be no resistance. We also recommend that you do the procedure in a well-lit room to make sure you get all the wax and dirt.

Squeeze a few drops of liquid ear cleaner – loosen up the dirt and wax build-up using a vet-recommended liquid ear cleaner or a wet wipe that has been warmed to room temperature. You can place a few drops in the ear canal and give it a massage for about 15 – 20 seconds for it to soften any hard material on the earlobe or canal. Let it shake its head to remove any dirt that it can.

Here are some brands that you can use as cat ear cleaning solutions and wet wipes:

  • Zymox Ear Cleanser
  • EcoEars Cat Ear Cleaner for Infected Ears
  • Arava Pet Ear Wipes
  • PetPost Pet Ear Cleaning Wipes

Before purchasing any of these off the internet or your local pet store, have your cat checked and have a recommendation by the vet.

If there are no underlying conditions that are causing the dirt and wax, then you can proceed with using wet wipes to clean your cat’s ear. However, there are some different types of cleaners on the market which will benefit mild underlying conditions. EDTA containing ear cleaners will help dry the inside of the ear and change the pH of the ear canal which will help fight bacteria and yeast. Also many ear cleaners are specifically made to dissolve waxy build up, if this is what your cat suffers from.

Use a wet cotton ball or wet wipe – rub the material of your choice on the dirty part of the ear once your cat has shaken it out and then make sure that the wipe or cotton ball is slightly damp to avoid friction which can cause discomfort.  Never use a q-tip to clean your cat’s ears because any sudden movement could shove the dirt further into the ear canal.

Repeat this step until there is no more dirt left on the earlobe. Follow this up with a head rub or a treat to make sure that your cat keeps itself in the comfort zone.

Shower your cat with praises and cuddles – doing this after every procedure will help your cats relax and will teach them to cooperate the next time you set up another ear cleaning session. Giving them treats can also help them build their trust in you as their master.

women vet doctor cleaning feline ear with swab

Can I Use These as Cat Ear Wax Cleaning Materials?

Cotton Buds or Q-Tips – No. As mentioned, your cat can make sudden movements during the cleaning session which could cause the item to push the dirt or wax further inside the ear canal. This can cause bigger problems especially if the Q-tip accidentally puncture the eardrums.

Alcohol and Vinegar – No. A lot of DIY owners recommend that you clean cat ears with a mix of these two substances. We discourage everyone from doing so since they both contain harsh chemicals and high acid which can hurt your cat or burn the eardrums.

Water – You can only use water to soften either a wipe or a cotton ball. However, you should not drop or squeeze water into a cat’s ear because this can create deposits which can culture yeast that can worsen the problem.

Your feline comes from independent animal species and cleaning itself is just one of the many things that it can do independently. Adult cats are very capable of cleaning themselves – even their ears but we recommend that you always double check.

Always remember that a clean cat is a healthy cat and that should be your top priority.

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