How to Clean a Cat’s Ears

Jennifer Grota, DVM
Vet Reviewed
By Jennifer Grota, DVM on Dec. 27, 2021
How to Clean a Cat’s Ears

Cats are fascinating creatures and popular companions. Part of that popularity stems from their being self-sufficient and fairly low maintenance compared to some other animals. Yet while cats often manage all their own grooming, their ears may need some inspection and cleaning from time to time.  

Are You Supposed to Clean Your Cat’s Ears?  

It’s a good idea to regularly check your cat’s ears, along with the rest of the skin and coat. Look for signs of infection such as odor, redness, pain, discharge, or itchiness. If you notice any of these signs, ask your veterinarian to do an examination to determine the cause of the problem and the best treatment.  

Do not attempt to clean your cat’s ears at home if they show any signs of infection (like redness and swelling), discomfort, or injury. If the ears simply look dirty and are not causing any discomfort, then cleaning them at home may be an option. 

Of course, if you are not comfortable cleaning your cat’s ears, your veterinary team can assist you.  

What Can I Use to Clean Cat Ears?  

There are over-the-counter ear cleaners that are safe for cats, but it’s good to check with your veterinarian first to determine which specific cleaners are best, depending on your cat’s health.  

A cotton ball soaked with an approved cleaner can be used to gently clean the inner part of your cat’s “ear flap” or pinna. You might want a second person to help gently hold your cat, and you may find wrapping your cat with a towel helps calm them during the process. 
Do not use a cotton swab to clean your cat’s ears as this may push any debris in the ear into the ear canal and potentially damage the eardrum.  

Cat Ear Cleaning Steps  

  1. Find a comfortable area and position for you and your cat. You may find wrapping your cat in a towel helps keep her still during the cleaning.  

  1. Carefully apply a cleaner approved by your veterinarian to the ear canal, either by squeezing some from a saturated cotton ball, or by squeezing a small amount directly from the bottle into the ear canal.  

  1. Massage the base of the ear for a few seconds and then allow your cat to shake her head.  

  1. After your cat shakes out the excess cleaner, gently wipe the ear flap and visible opening of the ear canal with a cotton ball or with a finger wrapped in gauze.  

  1. Repeat with the other ear.  

  1. Reward your cat with her favorite treat or with some affection!  

How to Clean a Cat’s Ears FAQs 

How much does it cost to get your cat's ears cleaned?  

An ear cleaning is sometimes included in the cost of an exam with your veterinarian or could be a separate smaller fee. It’s best to call your veterinarian to ask what they charge for this service.  

What is the black stuff in my cat's ears?  

Black debris in your cat’s ears could simply be normal waxy discharge or could be a sign of an infection with ear mites or yeast.  

Featured Image:

Jennifer Grota, DVM
Vet Reviewed


Jennifer Grota, DVM


Dr. Grota decided at an early age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. A native of Indiana, she grew up in a home where animals were...

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