Should I Clean My Cat’s Ears?

Should I Clean My Cat’s Ears?




Just like dogs, cats’ ears need to be cared for on a regular basis. A combination of at-home care, your local pet groomer, and veterinary exams are a must to ensure proper health for your cat’s ears and

their overall health.  This article will share with you in-home maintenance as the first step to your cat’s ear care.

Ear Exam

Its important to keep your cat calm during the examination process.  A quiet room free of visual and auditory distractions is best.  If your cat is the affectionate type, just sitting in your lap and getting a good scratch is all you need.  If your cat is more of the dominant, “I’m the boss of you” type,  the towel “burrito” method may be your option.  See the video below for an example of burrito wrapping while cleaning kitty ears. Now that your cat is in a good position to be looked over, take a good look at the outer part of the ear.

The outer part, or pinna, should have a layer of hair on it. The skin should be clean and a light pink color.

Next, gently fold back the out ear to look down into the canal.  A healthy ear should be a light to pale pink color.  There should be no evidence of debris, odor, or thick earwax.  A little earwax is normal as a protectant to the ear.


Cleaning The Ear

Things you will need

  • Cotton balls or gauze pads
  • Professional pet ear cleaner from your veterinarian or reputable pet store

Using your lap or a table to have your cat up off the ground and possibly the towel “burrito” method or an extra set of hands, gently restrain your cat.  Fold back the outer ear to view the ear canal.  Put enough ear cleaner on the cotton or gauze to wet the material but not soak it.  While holding the cotton or gauze, gently push your finger into the ear to wipe out the inside.  If the ear contains a lot of debris you can administer the ear cleaner directly into the ear and massage the outer base of the ear to help break up the debris. The debris will move  to the outer surface of the ear and can be wiped away with your cotton or gauze.  Your cat will shake their head afterwards to remove any excess ear cleaner remaining inside the ear.  It is not necessary to wash the ear cleaner out or dry the ear as professional ear cleaners are designed to lubricate and dry the ear naturally.  This process should be done approximately once a week.


When To Visit The Vet

Besides a yearly exam, the following is when you should see your vet for your cat’s ears:

  • Persistent pawing and scratching at the ear or surrounding area.
  • Sensitivity to touch around the ears (Sometimes a cat can be sensitive around their ear area in general. Knowing your cat’s personality and temperament will help determine if the sensitivity is due to an ear problem.)
  • Disorientation/loss of balance/head tilt
  • Loss of hair on the outer ear/Dirt or debris stuck to the tips of the ear
  • Redness/swelling of the ear, outer or inner
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Large accumulation of ear wax, dark brown debris, black or yellowish discharge
  • Bleeding from the ear

Common Ear Disorders In Cats

  • Ear mites– pesky mites that live inside the ear canal and are contagious to other pets. Signs for these parasites include excessive itching of the ear and debris inside the ear that resembles coffee grounds.
  • Infection– Can be caused by either bacteria or yeast and can be contagious to other pets. Treatment depends on type of infection and usually includes an antibiotic medication, either by mouth or drops put inside the ear. Your veterinarian can determine which infection it is and which treatment is best.  Allergies and genetics are common factors for infections.
  • Hematoma- A swelling of the outer ear caused by a collection of blood or serum. This is often secondary to untreated infections or ear mites.  Other causes can be debris trapped inside the ear causing excessive shaking of the head or scratching of the ears. A hematoma can be painful and will need veterinarian care.


Keeping your pet healthy is one of the many joys of being a responsible pet owner.  A cat’s ears are very important to their wellbeing.  Always seek veterinary advice to confirm a diagnosis of an ear problem to confirm proper treatment.  Remember that incorrect use of cleansers and medication can be detrimental to your cat’s ears.  Your local groomer can also give you tips and advice for general ear care.  Visit yours today!

Additional Resources and Credits


  • Complete Cat Care Manual, Andrew T.B. Edney
  • The ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats, James R Richards    
  • The Cat Home Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, Eldridge, Carlson, Carlson, and Griffin

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