How to Clean a Cat’s Ears
Most cats do not need their ears cleaned typically. Cats prone to infections or excessive wax build-up may need occasional ear cleaning. You should consult your vet to determine the best ear cleaner for your cat’s situation, along with the appropriate ear cleaning frequency.
When to Clean a Cat’s Ears
You should check your cat’s ear every week or two, or at least monthly, to ensure there isn’t any visible debris or wax blocking their ear canal. If you can see excessive wax or debris blocking ear way, it is time to clean your cat’s ears.
You may also want to speak with your vet to determine the best kind of ear cleaner because there are different options depending on if you are trying to clean, break up wax, or eliminate odor.
Signs of an Ear Issue
The below list may be signs that your cat might have an ear infection, ear mites, or another ear health issue. If you notice these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian right away.
- Cat is scratching ears a lot
- Cat shakes their head frequently
- Cat is having balance issues
- Ear canal giving off a bad smell
- Discharge, redness or swelling
- Sensitivity to you touching their ear
- Visible debris in ear canal
- Lumps or masses
What You Need to Clean Your Cat’s Ears
Gather all your supplies before catching your cat for their ear cleaning. If possible, do your cat’s ear cleaning with a helper who can hold the cat while you clean their ears.
- Cotton pad rounds or gauze squares (which are preferred to a cotton ball which don’t always stay intact as well)
- Cat ear cleaning solution (ask your vet for a recommendation on the best one for your cat)
How to Clean Cat Ears
Cleaning your cat’s ears shouldn’t take too long, especially if you have someone assisting you. There are a couple of ways to clean your feline’s ears. Read the instructions on the bottle of cat ear cleaner, as some recommend being poured into the cat’s ears. There are steps below for both wiping out the ears and pouring the ear cleaner directly into the ear.
Choose one of the methods below.
Steps to Clean Cat Ears by Wiping Them Out
- Wrap your cat in a towel to help keep the cat calm and secure their paws to prevent being scratched
- Pour a few drops of cat ear cleaning solution on the cotton rounds or gauze squares
- Gently pull back the tip of the cat’s ear flap
- NOTE: If you notice dark brown or black wax that has a foul odor, redness, swelling, or discharge, then stop and consult your vet immediately.
- Carefully wipe any ear wax, dirt, or debris that you can see by lifting the cotton/gauze in an upward motion so you don’t push debris further down the ear canal, then repeat on the other ear
- Reward with treats
Steps to Clean Your Cat’s Ears by Pouring Solution Inside
- Warm up the ear solution by either rolling the bottle between your hands or placing the bottle it a bowl of slightly warm water to so you aren’t pouring cold liquid in your cat’s ears
- Don’t use hot water, boiled water or microwave it – that would make it too hot
- Wrap your cat’s body in a towel to help keep them calm and secure their paws to prevent being scratched
- Gently pull back the tip of their ear flap
- NOTE: If you notice dark brown or black wax that has a foul odor, redness, swelling, or discharge, then stop and consult your vet. Slowly pour some solution in your cat’s ear in a controlled manner
- Once the solution is in the ear, gently massage the ear to be sure the solution is getting in all areas of the ear
- Let your cat shake its head to remove the liquid, then repeat on the other ear
- If your cat isn’t shaking the liquid out, you can use a gauze square, cotton round or ball in the ear flap and gently wipe or massage to absorb any excess liquid
- Don’t use cotton tip applicators
- Don’t stick anything down the ear to remove the liquid
- Reward with treats
Helpful Tips When Cleaning Your Cat’s Ears
- If you are uncomfortable doing an ear cleaning or your cat has chronic ear infections, consult with your vet
- Having a second person to hold your cat is helpful
- Wrapping your cat in a towel (kitty burrito style) helps to keep them under control and still
- Use only cat specific ear cleaners
- Be sure the ear cleaning solution is at room temperature for comfort
- Put ear solutions on the gauze or cotton ball/square opposed to pouring it in your cat’s ear will be more appealing to your cat
- Check with your vet on the appropriate frequency for ear cleaning; too often may cause ear infections
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to clean your cat’s ears?
It is safe to clean your cat’s ears if there’s not a lot of debris in them as long as you are using proper cat ear cleaning items. Ear cleanings as a part of a regular grooming routine can help keep your cat healthy.
How did my indoor cat get ear mites?
Ear mites are very contagious. Your cat could get mites from contact with other infected animals, such as at a shelter or with other pets in the household.
What is the black stuff in my cat’s ears?
If the black stuff looks like coffee grounds and smells terrible, your cat may have ear mites. Ear mites can increase wax production, resulting in a crusty black substance that combines wax, dried blood, skin, and mites.
What is the brown stuff in my cat’s ears?
If the brown stuff looks like coffee grounds and smells terrible, your cat may have ear mites. The dark wax color in a cat with ear mites is a combination of wax, dried blood, skin, and mites. Regular cat ear wax is lighter brown and doesn’t stink.
How do you tell if your cat has ear mites or just dirty ears?
Mites usually look like coffee grounds in your cat’s ear and create a foul odor. Regular cat ear wax is a lighter brown and does not smell.
What can I use to clean my cats ears?
You can use gauze squares, cotton balls, or cotton rounds that you use on your face to wipe out your cat’s ears. Don’t use cotton swabs.
Can I use cotton-tipped ear swabs to clean my cat’s ears?
No, cotton tip applicators should never be used in your cat’s ears because there is too much risk of either pushing debris further into your cat’s ear canal or causing ear problems such as damaging your cat’s ear drum.
Can you clean cat’s ears with baby wipes?
No, baby wipes should not be used on your cat because they have chemicals that are not safe for cats. Only pet wipes formulated for cats should be used on your feline.
Can I use hydrogen peroxide to clean my cat’s ears?
No, you should never use hydrogen peroxide in your cat’s ears. There are pet-safe ear cleaning products for cats if you want to clean your cat’s ears at home, which you can get at a pet store or online pet retailer.
Can I use vinegar to clean my cat’s ears?
No, you should never use vinegar to clean your cat’s ears. The best option for cleaning your cat’s ears at home is to get a cat ear cleaner at a local pet store.