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How To Clean Your Cat's Ears: Complete Guide

Cats are adept at grooming, but they cannot clean their ears themselves. In this post, a veterinarians in Santa Rosa shares a step-by-step guide on properly cleaning your cat's ears.

How to Tell If Your Cat's Ears Need Cleaning

Just as you maintain your cat's fur and nails, cleaning their ears is essential. This practice helps prevent infections and detect problems such as diseases or parasites at an early stage.

If you notice any signs of infection, please get in touch with us 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 

It's normal for cats to have a small amount of wax in their ears. However, some breeds, such as Rex, Sphinx, and other hairless breeds, may produce more wax. If you notice a change in the amount of wax in your cat's ears, it could be a sign of a problem. In such cases, it's best to consult your veterinarian and ask about any changes you've observed.

Should you clean your cat's ears?

Pet owners often wonder if they should clean their cat's ears and how frequently they should do it. Inspecting your cat's ears once a week is essential to check for any discharge, wax, or dirt buildup since dirty ears can make your cat more susceptible to infections. Additionally, a foul odor may indicate your cat has an ear problem.

However, if you don't see any issues, you don't need to worry about cleaning your feline friend's ears often. Cats are usually very clean and groom themselves frequently. They will only require an ear cleaning if their ears have wax or dirt buildup.

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, but it also helps keep them tidy and reduces the risk of infection.

Cleaning your cat's ears at home lets you 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 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?

It's important to choose a time when your cat is relaxed and calm, and not in the middle of a hyperactive play session. When cleaning your cat's ears, it's important to start slowly and never force them to participate, as this can make them feel uncomfortable or distressed, especially if their ear is bothering them. 

We recommend offering 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 have an impact on 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 full cleaning if necessary. The goal is to make this experience as positive as possible for your cat.

  1. Speak to your cat softly, 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 doing the 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. This reduces the risk of spreading bacteria and yeast (potential causes of infection). 
  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 at a later date. 

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 Montecito Veterinary Center. 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 Santa Rosa for an appointment today!

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