How to clean your cat’s ears
Now and then your cat may have waxy ears that need cleaning. Not sure how to do it or what to use? Read our article to learn how to do this with the best results.
- Included free as part of many pet insurance policies
- Help, treatment and if you need it, a referral to your local vet
- Open 24/7, 365 days a year
There are many reasons you might want or need to clean your cat’s ears, either due to an ear problem or even an ear infection for which the vet recommended frequent cleaning. Whatever the reason, the process is exactly the same.
To make the experience as easy as possible for yourself, you need to put some effort into making it as pleasant as possible for the cat.
First, get some of your cat’s favourite treats, ideally something liquid like the Lick-e-Lix that will keep their attention on something else than the ear. Tuna rubbed into a paste and smeared on a plate or similar would work too.
Choose a room where it would not be a big problem if the cat shakes off ear cleaner on the walls, like a bathroom.
Get a second person to help you hold the cat, as you will need both hands - one to hold the cat’s head and the other to hold the ear cleaner bottle.
Which product to use? It depends on what is the reason you’re cleaning them. For long term-use, you want to use a mild, but effective ear cleaner. For dry and hard wax, a stronger cleaner might be needed. If your vet recommended the ear cleaning, they will likely disperse the product. If you are picking the ear cleaner yourself, our recommendations are CleanAural Cat, EpiOtic, Otoact or Sonotix. These are the ones that vets most often use in practice.
Have your helper gently restrain the cat in place and hold the treat meant to keep the cat busy while you do the following:
gently grab the ear flap and lift and hold it upwards and outwards,
fill the ear canal with the ear cleaning solution,
holding the ear flap with one hand, gently massage the base of the ear with the other hand for 2-3 minutes,
(The vertical part of the ear canal can easily be felt as a firm, slightly compressible tube under the skin. The massaging movement is important for spreading the ear cleaner around the ear canal and dissolving the wax.)
carefully wipe away as much as possible of the dirty cleaner and debris that comes out of the ear canal with a soft, absorbable cloth or paper towel,
(Do not use cotton buds for this step as they only push the dirt deeper in the ear canal.)
release the ear flap.
(Please be aware that your cat will probably vigorously shake their head at this point, spraying cleaner everywhere.)
Give your cat a short break and a lot of praise before switching to the other ear. If you think a second ear cleaning would be too much for them, you can leave it for later.
Finish by washing your hands. Do not forget to clean the nozzle of the ear cleaner bottle as well. If possible, avoid touching the cat’s ear with it to prevent contamination of the cleaner with bacteria or yeasts. An option is to pour some cleaner in a small recipient and use single-use syringes to get it into the cat’s ear(s).
How often should you clean your cat's ears?
If you got your ear cleaner from the vet, they will advise you how often and for how long to clean the ear(s), based on what they saw in your cat’s ear(s) and what are the possible underlying factors causing the waxiness.
If you have noticed the waxiness and are trying to prevent an infection, then use the following schedule.
Start by cleaning the ear(s) once daily for 4-5 days. After this you would either notice a considerable improvement or none, in which case you need to see your vet.
If the ears are obviously cleaner and calmer, continue cleaning them but gradually increase the intervals between the cleanings, adding a day or two to them, until they become unnecessary. As mentioned in the article on ear infections, the ear has a natural self-cleaning mechanism and the goal is to allow it to restore itself.
For other ear-related questions, feel free to use the button to the right of the page to book a video call with one of our vets!