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How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

How to Clean Your Cat's Ears

Cats seem pretty self-sufficient when it comes to grooming. After all, that is how they spend half of their waking hours.

Yet, one of the hardest places for a cat to reach is inside his or her ears.

Outdoor cats, especially, are at risk for serious ear hygiene problems.

Whether your furry bundle of love is an indoor-only princess or an adventurous outdoor tomcat, proper ear maintenance can make for a happy, healthy, comfortable cat.

Perfect Cat Ears

Perfect Cat Ears

They’re cute, fuzzy, and perfectly pink, which explains why they’re all the rage on Snapchat filters. Here’s what to look for when you take a peek at those cute things perched on top of your cat’s head.

On the outside, your cat’s ears should have no bald spots. If your cat’s fur is light in color, you should be able to see the skin, which should be light and pink. If you see any redness, swelling, sores, or bald spots, take your furry friend in for a check up.

Inside of the ears, you should be able to see that the skin is all one color - a nice healthy pink. Your cat shouldn’t have any visible ear wax, dirt, or insects trying to catch a ride. If you notice any of these or if your cat’s ears are giving off an odor, it’s time to see a vet.

Routine Maintenance

Weekly Checks

Ideally, you should do an ear check with your cat once per week. Now, before you go looking for your “Ain't nobody got time for that!” gif, let us clarify: this ear check should take you about 20 seconds.

Your feline friend may be up for several hours of lap time each day, but chances are he won’t have much patience when you start touching his ears. So you want to make this process quick and as deceptively affectionate as possible.

If you don’t already, start adding head rubs to your shows of affection toward your cat. Most cats love a quick swoop over the head and a nice scratch behind the ears. When you pull off this maneuver, add a bit of wrist and thumb action to get a good look inside your cat’s ears.

It shouldn’t take long, and the more often you do it, the more familiar you’ll become with the way your cat’s ears should look - which means you’ll be able to spot irregularities quickly and easily.

Monthly Maintenance

Now here’s where things get tricky. Depending on how rambunctious your cat is, he may need an ear cleaning once per month.

Outdoor cats are especially prone to getting dirt and hitchhikers in their ears. If your cat likes to roam outside, he may need an ear cleaning more often. However, for most cats once per month is enough.

When the day comes, prep your tools before bringing your cat into the mix. You can either add a bit of ear cleaning solution made for cats (like this) to a cotton ball or soft cloth, or you can use pre-moistened wipes (we like these). Avoid using cotton swabs as they can easily slip into your cat’s ear canal and cause damage.

Once you’re ready, sit with your cat in a comfortable position either on your lap or somewhere you both feel secure. Use one hand to support your cat’s head and the other to gently dab away any dirt, debris, or excess ear wax. Try not to wipe, as this could cause the debris to scratch your cat’s skin and he surely won’t like that.

Stay outside of the ear canal and only clean what you can see. Probing into your cat’s ear too far can cause damage or even an infection.

Tick & Mite Checks

Cat ear mites image

Another thing to look out for - again, especially for outdoor kitties - is the occasional unwelcome insect. Ticks and mites love to live in cats ears since they’re small, warm, and offer easy access to blood supply.

If your cat picks up a tick or has an ear mite infestation, visit your vet straight away. Ear mites are very difficult to see on cats, but the symptoms of them are easy to spot. Your cat may have ear mites if he:

  • Paws at his ears excessively
  • Shakes his head often
  • Experiences hair loss on his ears
  • Has any irritation, swelling, or inflammation in the ear
  • Has any dark discharge in his ear
  • Accumulates debris in his ear that resembles coffee grounds
  • Develops ear odor

Both ticks and ear mites are rather quick to treat, but it should be left to a professional. You may need an ear mite treatment for cats to get rid of any persistent pests. Ticks can often be removed quickly by expert vet hands.

Maintenance Prevents Problems

Luckily, the vast majority of cat ear issues are curable. However, it’s best to avoid the problem all together and the key to that is regular maintenance.

Get in the habit of looking inside your cat’s ears whenever you get the opportunity and you’ll be able to spot any abnormalities before they turn into problems.

Have a question about your cat’s ear health? Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to find an answer for you!

Of course, if you just want to show off how cute your cat’s ears are, post your adorable pics on Facebook or Instagram using #PrettyLitterCats!




Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



13 Responses

Mary
Mary

May 07, 2018

I took my cat to the vet a while back because she kept scratching her ears. They gave her meds to stop the itching. It worked for a little while but it’s now back. She’s an indoor cat. The only time she goes outside is to eat grass and I’m with her at all times. From what I can see her ears looks clear. I just don’t know why she keeps scratching her ears. Please help!!

Patsy Quinn
Patsy Quinn

May 07, 2018

I get my tools ready for the ear inspection. Next, I wrap the cat in a towel, bundling the whole body, especially the legs, with only the head showing so they don’t scratch their ears and scratch me too. Then I take warm liquid coconut oil on a cotton ball. Squeeze out the excess before applying. I wipe the ear to get the hair out of the way. Then, I take a flashlight and examine the ears. I see a lot this way. Wear your glasses if you need to. I do. You have to learn how to wrap your cat, hold your cat and hold the flashlight too. I’ve got it down now. Bubby, loves the warmth of the coconut oil and his eyes close. It took a while to get to this, but he knows I am helping him. His ears get checked and cleaned by me once a week. You have to be patient, firm, confident, and soothing all at once. The others get their ears checked too, but theirs are pretty clean.

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

April 30, 2018

@Leslie – You’re absolutely right! Litter dust can wreak havoc on your and your cat’s respiratory systems. Thank goodness PrettyLitter is 100% dust free, right? ;-)

@Karen – Hey Karen, good question! From the article above, You can either add a bit of ear cleaning solution made for cats (like this – http://a.co/blnSFxx) to a cotton ball or soft cloth, or you can use pre-moistened wipes (we like these – http://a.co/1bquAoz). Avoid using cotton swabs as they can easily slip into your cat’s ear canal and cause damage.” Best of luck to you and your fur baby!

@Ellen – Hey Ellen, sounds like you have a super unique feline on your hands! If she is experiencing more earwax than the average bear (ahem…cat!), I’d recommend taking her in to see the vet. She may have a condition causing her extra earwax build up, or it may just be her breed like you mentioned. Better safe than sorry! Also, your vet may be able to give you a stronger earwax cleaning system than what you can find online. Some products are only available by prescription from a vet and it sounds like that may be what your girl needs. Take her in for a checkup and let us know how she’s doing. :)

Ellen Scordato
Ellen Scordato

April 30, 2018

Interesting but could have used more info on the actual cleaning process. I have a big beautiful Maine coon, indoor princess, and she gets awful earwax! Big brown hunks. For such a pretty kitty it’s very…earthy. The vet cleans it once a year when he sees her, and says it’s her breed, not mites. But I’d like to try to do it more often, at home. A quick swipe or “gently dab away any dirt, debris, or excess ear wax” doesn’t really achieve much. Any direction on where to find more precise directions? ALSO Pretty Litter rocks. PL 4evah!

Karen Kuhn
Karen Kuhn

April 30, 2018

What are you suppose to clean the ears with other than a soft cloth? Do you put anything on the cloth?

Susan Grand
Susan Grand

April 27, 2018

Im so happy to be a part of the Pretty Litter family! I will never use another cat litter and all my friends with cats know how thrilled I am! Its only a matter of time before they realize how ridiculous it is to hang on to old litter habits! Thank you so much! Love to you all! Genius!

Leslie
Leslie

April 30, 2018

The dust in the litters out there can cause lung problems or worse . Make sure you get the one with 99.9 dust free !!!!!

Jan Lane
Jan Lane

May 07, 2018

I live in a rural community and have a septic system with a drain field instead of a sewer system. After scooping up the hard excrement and tapping off the Pretty Litter, is it acceptable to flush it down the toilet?

Linda Wallen
Linda Wallen

April 23, 2018

This article is so helpful, I feel much smarter about caring for my cat! Thanks.

Sarah Kelton
Sarah Kelton

April 23, 2018

Thanks for yet another great article on caring for our kitties! Had no idea how to clean cat ears.

Bob Levy
Bob Levy

April 22, 2018

Prettylitter is without a doubt the best, easiest and cleanest cat litter ever. I can’t believe there is never a odor and it lasts a month.
I would never buy any other cat litter product.

Valerie Pitts Sawyer
Valerie Pitts Sawyer

April 22, 2018

I absolutely love Pretty Litter!! It has changed everything that was wrong with Tidycat!! I was experiencing dust from Tidycat so very horrible because I live in a dry climate and have tile floors through out my house. I seriously was ready to go crazy dealing with the dust in my house. I could cut the dust with a knife, so to speak, and it was so heavy on everything including my kitties breathing that!! Thank you so very much for saving myself from losing my mind!! It was just that horribly bad!! I hope this comment helps someone who might be going through the same thing!!

Raetta Romero
Raetta Romero

April 22, 2018

Thank you for such a wonderful lesson on cat ear care.

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