How to Clean a Cat's Ears

By Lisa McQuerrey

While cats are meticulous groomers, they sometimes need a helping hand when it comes to their ears. Regularly cleaning your kitty’s ears can help reduce the potential for ear mites, ear wax buildup and yeast infections. Always use caution when cleaning the delicate inside of cat ears and get your vet’s OK about the most appropriate ways to tackle a grooming session before you get started.

Clean as Needed

If your cat’s ears don’t appear dirty or waxy, there’s no need to clean them. When it is time for a cleaning, focus your attention on the shell of the ear and the cartilage but avoid the sensitive and delicate inner ear. Putting anything in your cat’s inner ear runs the risk of eardrum rupture and should be avoided. If you see a discharge, pus, notice a foul-smelling odor or the ear looks red or inflamed, see a vet for evaluation.

Supplies and Solutions

All you need for cleaning you cat’s ears are tepid water and several cotton balls or pieces of gauze. If you have a severe waxy buildup, your vet may recommend a medicated or commercial cleaning solution or a homemade mix of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Dampen a cotton ball, gently fold back your cat’s ear and softly wipe the inside of the ear and the cartilage. You may need several cotton balls per ear to do the job effectively. Your objective should be to lift up debris rather than rub it in.

Ear Mites

If you see what appears to be “dirt” inside your cat’s ears, she may have ear mites. These can be treated with a vet-prescribed ear ointment or with a few drops of mineral oil placed in the ear canal. Gently massage the base of your cat’s ears to distribute the oil effectively. In addition to treating your cat’s ears, you’ll need to clean bedding to protect against reinfestation or spreading the mites to other cats in the home.

Be Safe

Cleaning a cat’s ears means taking safety precautions for both you and your pet. Wait for a time when your cat is feeling snugly or is asleep. Swaddle her in a fluffy towel or blanket to keep her from clawing her way free and hurting you or herself in the process. You may find it helpful to have someone else help you until your cat becomes accustomed to the activity.