Step by Step Guide on How to Clean Cat Ears

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Your cat usually does a wonderful job at keeping her own ears clean. Her grooming habits are so thorough that she may even clean behind and in the inner flap of her ears.

However, it must be noted that your cats may at times need a little assistance in cleaning her ears. It is also a highly recommended that you often check your cat's ears to look for anything worrisome hiding inside the ears that could evolve into something more serious.

Please take your time to read this interesting article that will show you how to clean cat ears the right way. 

She can do it herself, why should you?

There is an old wives' tale that if a cat washes her ears it means it is going to rain soon. Cats wash their ears so often that this is not entirely true.But it is not entirely false either.

A cat's inner ears are very sensitive to pressure changes and humidity fills their fur with static.

If Kitty is grooming even more than usual and paying special attention to her ears, there may be a change in weather coming up. And be sure that you're nice to Kitty!

Another old wives' tale (admittedly, one that has absolutely no scientific basis) warns that if you're mean to a cat she'll make it rain on your funeral.

image of a feline licking her self clean

Superstitions aside, a freshened up cat is a happy cat. That means cleaning her down to the ears where bits of grime could be hiding. Kitty is good at getting the exterior of her ears, but she may need your help to get inside the ears.

The way that a cat’s ear-canal is structured makes it rather hard for foreign matter stuck deep inside the horizontal canal to be gotten out without a little help in cleaning.

These bits of dirt if not removed can make Kitty itchy at best and result in a nasty ear infection at worst.  There may also be some other problems such as mites and waxy buildup.

Keep in mind that if your cat has had any issues with her ears such as mites, blood blisters or ear infections, a good and thorough cleaning is going to be very necessary.

Your cat’s ears must be completely cleaned as well by a vet before topical medication is applied in order for the medication to be effective. Examine your cat’s ears on a regular basis in order to recognize any signs of abnormality.

Cats Ear Mites

The most common cause of ear infections in cats is ear mites. Fortunately, it is also a mild problem to take care of. If Kitty is constantly scratching her ears or shaking her head, it could be mites. She may scratch and shake to the point that she injures herself.

Other symptoms of these mites include a thick black or reddish brown crust in the outer ear and bumps that look like coffee grounds in the ear canal. Because cats sometimes sleep with their tails curled close to their heads, the mites may infect the tail as well.

These parasites are microscopic, so do not expect to actually see them. They majorly live on the surface ear canal, but may often spread to other parts of the cat's body such as the head and neck area.

Ear mites live off the dirt, wax and tissue fluid inside your feline’s ears. Not only does this infection cause obvious physical discomfort for your pet, an untreated ear mite infestation can lead to ear inflammation.

how to clean cat ears

Your furry friend is also at risk for bacterial and fungal infections. A severe case can result in hearing loss or even severe ear damage due to excessive scratching. Thus, prompt treatment is vital.

A little hydrogen peroxide will prevent any further infection caused by scratching and break down some of the wax. Apple cider vinegar can work but be sure to dilute it, particularly if Kitty is very young or very sensitive. Petroleum jelly can smother ear mites and remove wax. If home remedies do not seem to be working, you may have to take Kitty to a vet.

Mites are contagious so you need to treat all of your pets and do some serious house cleaning. Your veterinarian can recommend a medicated topical treatment for mites. Keep in mind that medicine for a cat is not medicine for another animal and vice versa.

You may damage your cat health if you use it. You will need to apply the medication for seven to ten days to completely exterminate the mites and their eggs. Take Kitty to the vet for a follow up visit one month later.

Cats and ear wax

It is not at all out of the ordinary for your cat to have a small bit earwax and dirt on, in and near her ears. In fact, earwax is actually healthy. and not damaging to your cat health

Earwax (also known as cerumen) is a natural lubricant for the ear. It also acts as a filter to protect the inner ear from fungi, bacteria, water and insects. A little is normal, but an excess of it causes itchiness and even hearing impairment.

Your cat should not have any heavy ear-wax, dirt, or insects trying to ride around in her ears. If you see anything of the sort or if your cats ears are starting to smell unusual, it is time to take her to a vet.

If all you see is nothing more than just some dirt or a mild case of waxy buildup, you can clean your cats ears yourself. You may even be able to do this with all your fingers intact when you are done!

How to clean your cat’s ears

It is not at all as difficult as you think it is! It may be easier to do when she is in a relaxed mood. Get all your supplies together first.

You will need a towel or baby blanket, (if your cat has a favorite, use that) ear washing solution formulated for cats, clean gauze or cotton balls, (NOT cotton swabs) isopropyl alcohol (the kind used for rubbing and disinfecting) and Kitty's favorite treats.

Follow these simple instructions and you might not need any bandages!

  1. First, sit in a comfortable position holding your cat in your lap. You should be somewhere quiet with no other pets or interruptions. If you wrap or swaddle your cat in a towel or her favorite blanket, this may aid in keeping her calm even if she does not like the idea of having her ears cleaned.
  2. Gently grab the tip of the ear flap (known as the pinna) and pull back just a bit in order to expose the hearing canal and to aid in straightening the ear-canal out.
  3. Make sure the washing solution is room temperature. Rolling it between your hands can warm it up sufficiently.
  4. While you hold your cats ears flap with one hand (gently but firmly), hold the ear cleaning liquid with your other hand.
  5. Squeeze a bit of the ear wash liquor solution into your cat’s ear. You should use enough cleaner to fill the ear canal fully. It is alright if a little of the cleaner spills out of the canal. However, you MUST NOT under any circumstance place the tip of the bottle into your cat's ear. Should the tip of the bottle touch your cat’s ear, just wipe the tip off with a clean cotton ball or bit of gauze soaked with isopropyl alcohol in order to halt the spread of any bacteria or yeast.
  6. Keep on holding the ear flap with one hand and administer a gentle massage to the base of the ear below the ear gap for about thirty seconds with the other hand. Closing in the tragus (that tiny flap at the base of the opening) may help. This will allow the cleaning fluid to break apart the foreign matter (colloquially known as “gunk”) that is inside the ear canal. You should hear a ‘squishy' sound as the cleaning solution flows about in the horizontal part of the canal. While you are at it, speak gently to Kitty and tell her what a good girl she is for putting up with this.
  7. While you are still holding the ear flap, gently wipe away matter from the interior part of the ear flap and the upper part of the hearing canal utilizing a cotton ball or bit of clean gauze.
  8. Let your cat shake her head if she wants. This will allow for the remaining ear cleaning solution and matter from the ear canal to migrate from the canal to the outer opening of the ear where it will be easier to remove.
    Once more, hold the ear flap. Then remove the loosened up bits of matter and cleaning solution away from the outer ear gap canal utilizing a clean cotton ball or gauze.
  9. Take out any bits of matter and left behind cleaning solution out of the hearing canal with a clean cloth made of cotton ball or gauze. Take care to go into the canal only as far as your finger can reach.
  10. You must NOT ever use a cotton-tipped applicator to remove the solution from the ear canal. Not to name names, but one with a brand name associated with the seventeenth letter of the alphabet is notorious for being used for this, even though the manufacturer recommends not to. (Basically, they are trying not to get sued.) Doing this can do damage to the ear canal and/or the ear drum or just push the matter further into the canal.
  11. Provide your cat with her favorite treat. Remind her that she is a good cat, and a nice cat and a pretty cat. Give her a little petting to reassure her.
  12. Repeat the above process with the other ear. Yes, this means you have to do all of this twice. Do not forget the treats and reassurance.
  13.  If your cat seems to be in pain at any point during the cleaning process, stop what you are doing and consult your veterinarian. A professional cleaning under mild anesthetic may be required. Any underlying cause of pain must be examined as well.
  14. Repeat this cleaning regimen as often as is recommended by your veterinarian.

Should your cat have an ear infection that calls for medication to be applied to the ears, you should clean the ears first before applying the medication. Make with the treats and reassurances to accomplish this task as well.

DIY Cat ear cleaner

Image of home medicines

A good ear cleaner should be mildly astringent and quick to dry. An astringent cleaner will cause the pores and skin cells to contract leading to less of an oily build up. Your cat dislikes feelings of moisture as it is so a quick drying cleaner will have her back to feeling like herself as soon as possible.

You can mix together a feasible do it yourself ear cleaning solution. It will not have any antibacterial or antifungal properties but if all you need is a simple clean up, it works. You just have to mix one part white vinegar to one part rubbing alcohol. This will work if it is used sparingly.

Always remember that if your cat has any scratches, inflammations, ulcerations or infections, using this homemade cleaner may sting. Go with what your vet recommends in this case.

Another at home solution to use for cleaning the outer ear is to utilize a ear stick that has been moistened with olive oil. Please note that a cotton swab is only to be used on the outer crevices of the ear and not actually stuck inside the ear-canal.

image of satisfied kitten

You may want to warm the olive oil up slightly by letting the container soak in warm water for a while. This makes it both more effective and more comfortable for your cat. Note that olive oil is not very effective to ear-mites. Mineral oil can be used as a means of prevention.Plain water should never be utilized as an ear cleaner as that can sit in the ear and create an environment for yeast to grow. Water will also macerate the skin, making it too soft and more liable to infection.

This is also why you need a cleaner that dries quickly. Not only will your cat feel more comfortable with dry ears but dry ears make it hard for infections to develop.

Some cleaners are made with the purpose to break up the cerumen while some are designed to dry the ear canal. You might also decide to us combination products, which have the advantages of being able to do a little bit of both.

Check with your local veterinarian to discuss what your cat’s best options would be.

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