Ear Care for Your Cat

PetMD Editorial
Updated: May 16, 2017
Published: September 18, 2008
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Does your cat have enough earwax to contribute to Madame Tussauds museum? Have no fear. Here are some tips to clean those funky, smelly ears.


While we're not going to suggest you make cleaning kitty’s ears part of a weekly grooming routine (we're not that cruel), it is a good idea to gently check the ears for wax, debris, and any sign of pus or discharge. If there is pus or discharge, or the cat shows pain when its ears are touched, take it to the vet for a checkup.


And well, if the cat's ears look clean, then you’re home free. No need to clean. However, if they’re dirty, make sure you clean them very gently. This is because you can rupture the eardrum or even inflict scratches or pain if you clean the cat's ears the wrong way. Oh, and never, ever put anything into its ear canal.


So, how do you clean a cat’s ears safely and without inflicting pain? We have a few tips to help you on your way.


  • Make sure your cat is either sleepy or wanting affection. If you decide to attempt an ear cleaning when the cat is playful or lively, then there may be bloodshed. And we're not talking about the cat's blood. So make sure you play it safe.
  • Pretend your cat is a sandwich wrap: get a thick, soft towel and wrap the cat up nice and snugly, with only the head sticking out. This way you (a) restrict kitty’s movements and make the cleaning far safer for the cat, and (b) hinder the cat's ability to scratch, making it much safer for you. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Have a bowl of tepid water, cotton balls, and cotton tips ready and at your disposal. Dip the cotton ball in the water and gently clean the ear lobe, wiping away any debris. (Use freshly dipped cotton balls for each wipe.) Next, dip the cotton tip in the water and do the same with the cartilage (the pinkish part), making sure you do not enter the ear canal.

That’s it. If your cat is big, you might want to get a friend to help hold the cat. Also, immediately after the ordeal, shower kitty with plenty of praise and treats. And be prepared to have kitty shoot you dirty looks for an hour or so after, because they do that so well (and you may have stepped on feline dignity). Of course, if the cat's ears are excessively dirty or it seems to need the cleaning much too frequently, take the cat to the vet for a checkup, just to make sure there is nothing wrong.


Image: Anssi Koskinen / via Flickr