HEALTH & CARE

How to Clean Cats Ears: The Smartest Way to Keep Your Cat Free From Infections

Veterinary clening ears of a little kitty
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Cats are widely regarded as self-proficient because they can effectively clean and groom themselves. Although they have the best grooming skills, one section of their body which they’re unable to clean entirely is the inner parts of the ears. Now, as a concerned pet owner, you need to learn how to clean cats ears properly not only to keep your cat fresh all over but also to check for any symptoms of infections.

Cats live in different environments. While some spend their time indoors, others enjoy hunting in the bush while others yet enjoy perching on treetops. No matter what kind of lifestyle your cat leads, they are always exposed to all kinds of bacteria and viruses. These things thrive in dirty, unattended areas, so even if your cat is squeaky-clean all over if their ears are dirty, they could be vulnerable to infections. Only with your help will they be able to avoid the risks since they can’t clean the ears on their own.

The vet checking ears of a fluffy cat

Have you ever given your cat an ear-cleaning? Are you sure you’re thorough enough? To make sure you know how to ward off the risks of infections properly, this post will give you a complete guide on how to clean your cat’s ears to keep them as clean as possible. Some cats love to have their ears cleaned while others struggle all the way. We’ll help you understand how to make the experience a soothing and beneficial one for the both of you.

The Inner Workings of a Cat’s Ears

Did you know that cats are born deaf? Yes, deaf! In fact, it takes about three weeks for a kitten’s auditory canal to fully mature. Once it’s matured, your cat becomes incredibly sensitive to a range of frequency that’s even wider than what humans and dogs can hear.

If you’ve ever noticed, a cat can hear you open a pack of treats when he’s in the next room. Since they possess some of the best hearing abilities, it would be a waste if you don’t maintain it. Routine cleaning and regular checkup of your cat’s ears are highly essential especially if your cat is old or if he enjoys outdoor activities such as hunting.

A cat paying attention to some noise

Before we move on to the step by step guide on how to clean your cat’s ears, it’s important for you to understand everything about your cat’s ear first. The ear is a complex system that has multiple layers after all. It’s important to know when to go deeper and when to stop lest you hurt your cat by digging too deep—it could cause deafness.

Here, we would like to discuss the three main sections that make up a cat’s ear. These sections include:

The Outer Ear

This part is made up of two sections—the pinna and the ear canal. The pinna is the outer section you can see with the naked eye and is usually covered with fur or hair. This part has a characteristic funnel shape that taps sound waves from the environment to the ear canal.

image showing the outer erars of a cat

The ear canal is tapered and deeper in cats as compared to with humans and is usually used to transport sound waves to the eardrum. Now, due to the funnel shape of the outer ear, dirt and wax can easily build up along the ear canal, causing inflammation and infections if the cat is not cleaned regularly.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear is made up of several parts that include: the eardrum, three tiny bones (namely the anvil, the hammer, and the stirrup), and finally two muscles which are the oval window and the Eustachian tube (that transfer air from the nose to the middle ear).

The Inner Ear

Finally, we have the inner ear. This part is made up of very sensitive parts that include the hearing organ (cochlea), the vestibular system (aids in balance), and the semicircular canal which contains fluids used to help balance the body. Whenever you see your cat jumping from high places then landing safely without falling over, just know that it’s all thanks to the inner ear.

A person checking inner ears of a cat

Now that you understand the inner structure of a cat’s ears, you know how important they are. The ears do control not only the cat’s hearing but also the flow of air and the overall balance of their body. Worried you’ll go too deep and mess with something you’re not supposed to in your cat’s ears? Don’t be. As long as you know what to look for, you’ll be able to avoid hurting your cat.

What You Need to Clean in Your Cat’s Ears

Now, it’s not always necessary to visit a vet to check your cat’s ears. Periodic cleaning and regular at-home checks of your feline friend is the best way of keeping her clean and free from infections.

With that being said, let’s highlight some of the things you’ll be looking out for when cleaning a cat’s ears. If you know precisely what you need to dig out and what you need to leave alone, you’ll be able to clean your cat’s ears without hurting them effectively.

Ear Wax

Just like humans, cats also experience wax build-up in their funnel-like ears. This wax buildup varies from cat to cat depending on how often she goes outdoors. Although the wax is not something major to worry about, there are times when the build-up becomes excessive—giving your cat a hard time because the buildup can be itchy.

A cat scratching her ears

If you notice your cat scratching her ears and shaking her head, know that he’s trying to get rid of the wax, but he won’t be able to do it without your help.

Ear Mites

Another reason why you need to check your cat’s ears is to eliminate any traces of mites. Ear mites are one of the most common medical issues cats suffer from. Though tiny, these insects are very dangerous as they feed on the cat’s body fluids, blood, and dead skin debris.

a woman cleaning her cat ears with a solution

Now, how do you identify the presence of these tiny insects? Although they are hard to see with naked eyes, one way of identifying them is through checking for possible symptoms such as swelling and redness on the outer ears or a foul odor and oozing (which mostly happens in extreme conditions). In such a situation, you can either take your cat to the vet or simply use a recommended cleaning solution to clean your cat’s ears at home.

Ear Infections

The signs of cat ear infections are pretty noticeable. The symptom is quite similar to what happens in a severe infestation of ear mites—a foul-smelling discharge ranging in color from yellow, red, to brown or maybe even black. You shouldn’t miss such an obvious sign.

Two persons trying to clean a cat ears with solution

The problem arises when the infection is still in its early stages. If you caught it early, you could treat it without having to panic while asking for emergency help from the vet. Only, the signs are not usually so obvious. If you notice redness or swelling around your cat’s ears, know that it’s time to be cautious. With that being said, we will now give you a detailed step-by-step procedure on how to gently clean your cat’s ears without hurting her or chasing her away.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

As a cat owner, it’s your responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of your cat’s ears. If you notice excess wax buildup, you should clean them periodically as a way of avoiding infections. Unless the situation is dire and requires immediate veterinary checkup, pet owners can simply use specific ear cleaners recommended for pet use to get rid of any wax or mites.

Step One: Gather the Supplies

The first step of cleaning your cat’s ears is gathering the necessary supplies.

spun-cotton-balls in a womans hand

Although there are many other options available on the market, we would recommend pet owners to stick on these basic supplies as they’re the most imperative.

  • Olive oil or commercial ear cleaner warmed to body temperature

  • A container of distilled or purified water

  • Cotton balls

  • Hydrogen peroxide

Step Two: Choose the Ear Cleaner Carefully

When looking forward to buying a commercial ear cleaner, it’s great if you understand that there are several types of cleaners available. Some of these cleaners are designed to dry the ear canal while others are designed to break the wax. Now, due to the vast options available, we would recommend you as the pet owner to consult your local vet to find the best option that will suit your cat depending on the situation. There are two major options when it comes to ear cleaners:

Option #1: Commercial Ear Cleaners

In most cases, following your vet’s recommendation is the best way to go since they will propose an authentic product guaranteed to accomplish the intended task. However, there are some situations where you might be forced to consider an alternative product depending on the price, the quality, or the specs. In case of such situations, we have prepared an ear cleaner option you could consider as an alternative to other products.

a person holding ZYMOX Ear Solution

ZYMOX Ear Solution is what we’re talking about here. Made entirely in the United States, this ear cleaner plays a double role both as an ear cleaner and as a medication. With 5% hydrocortisone, this product works fast and effectively. To make it even more responsive, the manufacturer has included properties into the formula that make it capable of treating fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections (such as Staphylococcus, Proteus, Malassezia, and Pseudomonas) present in your cat’s ears.

When it comes to the dose, ZYMOX Ear Solution should be administered once a day over a period of 7 days. For cases of chronic infections, the dosage can continue for up to 14 days to allow complete treatment of your cat’s ears. This product is affordable and is readily available at both online and retail cat stores near you.

Option #2: Homemade Ear Cleaners

Or you can simply decide to make your own. If you opt to use homemade cleaners, consider vinegar as the best alternative as it doesn’t cause any health issues. Alcohol should be avoided as it irritates the ear especially if the cat has rashes or an infection. Water should be avoided at all cost as it promotes the growth of yeasts.

Step Three: Inspect Your Cat’s Ears

The second step is to inspect your cat’s ears. Here, you’ll need to shift to a separate well lit room free from any interference. The doors and windows should remain closed throughout the process to avoid any timely escape.

Image showing a person doing Ear Inspection Cat

Start off by turning the ear flaps inside out to gain a clear view of your cat’s ear canal. Check clearly for any instances of mites or infections before deciding whether you’ll proceed with the cleanup or simply seek medical advice. If the situation can be solved by home-cleaning your cat’s ears, then prepare for the next step.

Step Four: Cleaning Your Cat’s Ears

Here, you need to understand that the more firmly you hold the cat, the faster the cleaning process will go. Some cats love the feeling and would calmly lie in place for you to clean their ears, but that’s not the case with my cats. Both of them always struggle like there’s no tomorrow.

Vtt Placing some Drops into the Ears of the Cat

If you’re having difficulties holding the cat on your own, we would recommend that you seek assistance from a friend or a family member. When holding the cat, be very careful to avoid holding her too tightly or aggressively. Maintain a smooth, gentle grip and if possible rub her back or massage her fur as a way of being friendly.

Step Five: Apply the Ear Cleaner

Now, it’s time to clean the insides of the cat’s ear using the ear cleaner you’ve prepared previously. Before you apply the ear cleaner to your cat’s ears, first warm it to room temperature to make it feel nice and warm to your cat. Just like humans, cats will feel offended when a cold solution is suddenly inserted in their ears.

A woman applying ear solution in a cats ears

When it’s warm, administer the dosage as recommended by your vet or according to the instruction manual. Immediately after the dosage is administered, massage the base of the ear gently for about 20 to 30 seconds to allow the medication to sink gently into the inner ear. Repeat the procedure on the other ear while maintaining the gentle massage process to avoid damaging your cat’s eardrum.

Step Six: Clean Out the Ears

Now that the ear cleaning solution has softened all the wax and dirt, it’s time to clean them out. But before then, allow the cat to shake her head as much as she needs to dislodge any excess wax or dirt that had built up in the ears. This will give you an easy task of removing the remaining wax, dirt, or debris without having to go too deep into the ear.

Image showing a vet clening the ears of a little kitty

Using a cotton ball, cotton swabs, or a gauze, clean the inner ear gently. Use a flashlight to light the way, then focus on the area that you can see clearly and don’t venture too deep. Note that cleaning too deep into the ear canal can damage the eardrum or rupture the complex inner parts which can lead to serious problems such as loss of balance or loss of hearing.

When cleaning your cat’s ears, it’s advisable that you praise her, massage her belly, and finally give her treats as a way of showing her your good intentions. Otherwise, your cat might give you a hell of a time trying to wiggle out of your grip—thus making it risky especially if the cat has mites or infections.

Wrap Up

As we conclude, let us mention that each cat is an individual. While some enjoy the comfort of staying indoors, others spend most of their time in the wild hunting or playing with their mates. When it comes to cleaning your cat’s ears, it’s imperative that you know where and how she spends most of her time to understand how frequently she requires checkup.

It’s advisable that you perform regular checkups on her outer ears when relaxing or when you’re free. For those can’t afford to perform the checkup by themselves, it’s best if you take the cat to a qualified vet to be checked for any signs of infections or mites.

woman in knitted sweater holding ginger cat

For those who would prefer cleaning their cats at home, always remember to follow each step on this guide carefully to avoid hurting your cat. Cleaning a cat’s ears is easy, and it doesn’t require you to be an expert. All you need is patience and persistence, keeping in mind that practice makes perfect.

Although some of these cats might react violently whenever you try to clean them, you should persist because examining their ears frequently to remove dirt, wax and infections are the best ways of maintaining their overall health.

How do you usually clean your cat’s ears? What kind of ear cleaner solution do you use? We will highly appreciate if you’re willing to share your experience in the comment box below.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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