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How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

Cats are notorious self-bathers and are able to clean their fur thoroughly with their tongue in a matter of minutes. However, while cats are particularly skilled in this regard, there is one area of their body to which they are unable to give adequate attention: their ears. Your feline’s ears will stay pretty clean most of her life, but every once in a while, you will need to give her a helping hand.

Before you approach your pet’s ear with a Q-Tip and some saline solution, however, know that there is a right way and there is a wrong way to clean a cat’s ears. From understanding their ear structure to knowing what tools to use, this post will help you clean your pet’s ears in as safe and effective way as possible.

Is it Necessary to Clean My Cat’s Ears?

First and foremost, you probably want to know if it’s even necessary to clean a feline’s ears. After all, they are self-bathers, as mentioned above, and wild cats managed to survive and evolve for thousands of years without our help, right? While each of those statements may be true, it is still necessary to lend your pet a helping hand every once in a while. That said, you should only clean them if you feel comfortable doing so.

If your pet is just a kitten, you can likely begin cleaning her ears now without a problem. If you make it a point to do so once a month or even more frequently, she will become used to it and sit nicely for you until you are done. However, if you adopt an adult cat, it may be more difficult for you to get in there. Adult cats who have never had their ears cleaned are generally skittish of anything coming near them. It would do them more harm than good if you were to try to wrestle a cotton swab in their ear than if you were to just leave them be. If you suspect that your cat’s ears need a good inspecting and cleaning, take her to your local feline vet, where she can be sedated and properly taken care of.

The Anatomy of a Cat’s Ears

If you feel comfortable with the process, study up on the anatomy of a cat’s ears. A feline’s canals are intricate and vastly different from those of a human’s, and if you attempt to stick anything in their ears without knowing how their canal is constructed, you could end up hurting them. Fortunately, harm can be avoided with a brief anatomy lesson.

A feline’s ear is composed of three basic sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear consists of two parts: the canal and the pinna (or what you likely think of as the “ear”). The ear canal is the gateway to the middle ear, which is much more complex than the outer ear.

The middle ear is composed of the eardrum, three miniscule bones and a tube that brings oxygen from the nose to the ears. The middle ear is highly sensitive, and if you proceed with the cleaning process in the wrong way, you may end up puncturing an eardrum or breaking one of those small bones, two problems that would result in hearing loss.

The inner ear is the most complex part of the ear, and also the most sensitive. Believe it or not, but the inner ear is what is responsible for your pet’s ability to maintain her exceptional balance, and is the reason for her ability to land on her feet no matter from how high she jumps or what acrobatic tricks she pulls. If the inner ear becomes injured, so does your pet’s personality.

Now that you’re familiar with your cat’s ears and why each section is important, let’s move on to the process of cleaning.

Examine the Outer Ear First

Before you begin cleaning, thoroughly examine your cat’s outer ear for any signs that something is wrong. Begin by looking for any abrasions, missing patches of fur or swelling. Smell her ears for any foul odors, and check for discharge. Any of these things could be the signs of an infection, in which case you may want to put off cleaning your pet’s ears and schedule an appointment with the vet.

Some other signs to look for include:

  • Bald spots
  • A bad odor
  • Excessive yawning, shaking of her head or ear scratching
  • Head tilting
  • Dry, scaly or dark colored debris in the ears (not dirt)
  • Earwax buildup
  • Visible discomfort when you touch your cat’s ears

If you notice any of these signs, cease the inspection and call your vet.

Get the Right Tools

If your inspection revealed nothing amiss, you may proceed, but continue to do so with caution, and only after you make sure that you have the proper tools on hand. Those include:

  • A cotton ball or soft rag (put down that Q-Tip!); and
  • Warm water;
  • Olive oil;
  • Hydrogen peroxide; OR
  • Any liquid solution recommended to you by your veterinarian.

Do not use rubbing alcohol or any product that contains alcohol on your cat’s or any other pet’s ears, as alcohol will sting and irritate the sensitive skin of your pet’s ears.

It’s Cleaning Time!

Once you determine that you have the necessary tools on hand, you can begin. Find a nice, quite place without a lot of distractions so that your pet doesn’t feel a need to get up and go check something out every few seconds. Hold your kitten securely in your arms and stroke her fur to let her know that she’s safe. Dip your cotton ball into your preferred cleaning solution; make sure that it is moist but not sopping wet.

Fold back your cat’s outer ear and wipe the cotton ball along the lobe, removing any excess ear wax or debris. Throw the used cotton ball away and get a clean one. Do the same with the other ear.

Never reach further inside the ear than your first finger joint can reach. Going any further than that can result in an internal ear injury. And never, ever just pour cleaning solution into your cat’s ears in the hopes of cleaning them further, as this will most likely result in infection.

Scheduling Your Cat’s Ear Cleanings

If you are going to clean your cat’s ears, you should have a set schedule for doing so. Try to inspect her ears at least once a week, and if possible, clean them after inspection as well. If you give your cat weekly baths, clean her ears then. Like with all things with your pet, habits are key. Make ear cleaning a habit for both you and her and the process will never feel like a chore.

Though helping your feline clean her ears is not a necessity, it is an extra measure you can take to protect her health. If you are uncomfortable cleaning your cat’s ears yourself, don’t feel bad—not many people are! Just be sure that your pet gets into see the vet every six months or so and request to have her ears cleaned then. To schedule your kitten’s first appointment with the skilled team at the United Veterinary Center, call now – 203 957-3375 !

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