1‑866‑ARF‑MEOW

How To Clean A Cat’s Ears

5 min read

Updated - May 6th, 2022

As a cat owner, there are many responsibilities that come with owning and taking care of your feline companion. From feeding your feline the best cat food possible to consistent litter training and cleanup, there are many boxes to tick when it comes to keeping your cat happy and healthy – and grooming your cat is no exception.

In some cases, this means checking and cleaning your cat’s ears. Although you can take your cat to the veterinarian for this, it is always good to have an understanding of what you can do at home to help your furry friend remain in tip-top shape. Here are some tips on caring for your cat’s ears. 

Do I really need to clean my cat’s ears?

You might be wondering how important it really is to clean your cat’s ears. 

While cats are meticulous groomers, they are unable to clean themselves inside their ears. But ear care is important, as cats can develop a buildup of dirt, wax, or other debris in their ears. This can cause skin irritation or infections, and in worse cases, lead to other health complications down the line if left untreated. There is also a chance that your cat could be suffering from infestations caused by mites or fleas, which will look like reddish-brown or black dots inside the ear.

Some breeds of cats might not need their ears cleaned as frequently as others, but breeds that are more prone to wax build up and ear infections – such as Himalayans and Persians – should be monitored closely. Regardless, all breeds should be checked regularly to ensure your cat’s ears are clean and healthy.

What should I use to clean my cat’s ears?

It is imperative that you only use an accredited cat ear cleaning solution to clean your cat’s ears. Some websites might suggest that it’s okay to use hydrogen peroxide or a vinegar solution in a pinch, but using products like these could end up causing irritation or other more serious complications. 

With that said, home remedies like olive oil, mineral oil, or coconut oil can be safe to use. However, it might take longer for remedies like these to solve the problem; it is always better to use an accredited cleaning solution when possible. 

How do I know if my cat’s ears need to be cleaned?

Before cleaning, it is important to check your cat’s ears and see if there are any signs of ear infections or discomfort in your cat. These include:

  • Excessive head shaking or scratching of the ears
  • A bad odor emitting from the ears
  • Redness and visible skin irritation
  • Dark patches and discharge
  • Tiny black or reddish-brown spots that could be mites

If you notice any of these signs, visit your local veterinarian for a consultation. If it looks like just a normal build up of wax or debris, here are the steps you can take to clean your cat’s ears. 

How do I begin cleaning my cat’s ears?

Although it might seem daunting, cleaning a cat’s ears is a relatively simple task that only requires a few materials and some patience. 

You know your feline friend best. Before you start, make sure they’re in a familiar location, a good mood, and a comfortable sitting position. Keep them calm by talking to them in a soothing tone while giving them plenty of petting and encouragement.

If you are having issues getting your cat under control, you can try swaddling: a tried and true method for stopping squirming. Wrapping your cat in a blanket or towel can keep them still and secure as you attempt to clean their ears. 

When in need, call for assistance! With more rambunctious cats, you might need someone to help hold and stabilize your cat as you clean their ears.

Cleaning your cat’s ears: Step-by-step

To begin the cleaning process, you will need:

  • Cat ear cleaner
  • Cotton swabs or gauze pads
  • A light source such as a flashlight or phone light.
  • Treats: Treats are always helpful as a way to keep your cat happy through the cleaning process!

Step 1:

Once you have your cat comfortably positioned and ready to go, gently pull their ear back and shine a light into their ear to get a better look at the situation. Check the outer and inner parts of the ear for debris, mites, discharge, skin irritation, or built up wax. Make sure you don’t pull the ear too far back, as you don’t want to hurt your cat (or cause so much squirming that you’re back to square one). 

Step 2: 

Take the ear cleaning solution and “flood,” or completely fill, the ear canal. It is important not to put the tip of the solution bottle inside the cat’s ear, but don’t worry about pouring too much as any excess solution will fall out when your cat shakes their head after. 

Step 3:

Gently massage the base of the ear for 20-30 seconds, allowing the solution to break up any debris or wax build up that might be in the ear canal. After, allow your cat to shake out any excess solution from their ear.

If the tip of the solution bottle does touch your cat’s ears (mistakes happen!), wipe the cap with alcohol to kill any bacteria or yeast that might linger. 

Step 4:

Take your cotton ball or gauze pad and gently remove any visible debris from the cat’s ear flap and upper ear canal. Only go as far as your finger or cotton ball/gauze pad can easily reach; do not try to force your finger or a Q-tip further inside, as this could cause damage to the ear canal or ear drum.

Step 5:

Once you have finished the first ear, give your cat a treat and some attention so that they can de-stress before you move on to the other ear. 

Then, repeat this process – and voila! You’ve cleaned your cat’s ears.

If you are nervous or uncomfortable trying to clean your cat’s ears for the first time, it can be helpful to let your local veterinarian assist. They’ll give you a demonstration of the process so you have more confidence in trying it the next time. 

Even when we’re proactive with our pet’s care, the unexpected still happens from time to time. That’s why Pumpkin Pet Insurance plans help cover the cost of veterinary care when your pet gets sick or hurt – helping you keep your kitty healthy for years to come.

Tristan is a copywriter and proud dog uncle of a rambunctious Goldendoodle named Lily.