How To Clean Cat Ears

When it comes to cats, it is common knowledge that they are pretty good at grooming themselves and can sit there for hours going over every spot. But, there are some nooks and crannies that even cats can’t get to which is the inside of their ears. 

Ears have lots of folds and creases that can make it the perfect environment for things such as ear mites and infection but even a build-up of dirt and foreign debris can be irritating for your cat. This is why it is important to check their ears regularly and clean them when necessary. 

Why You Should Clean Your Cat’s Ears

There are a lot of benefits that come with cleaning your cat’s ears. One of the most obvious ones is that it makes the ears nice and clean and not only keeps your cat feeling good but also reduces the risk of infection. 

Some cats are able to shake out any debris or materials that have gotten trapped inside, but others can suffer from irritation, itchiness, and even infection if they are unable to get rid of it especially if it is trapped within the ear canal. 

Cleaning your cat’s ears also keeps you informed as to what their ear should look like so that if you come across any discharge or inflammation, you will be aware of it much sooner and can treat it accordingly.

As beneficial as cleaning your cat’s ears are, there is such a thing as over-cleaning them which can cause a boomerang effect and cause irritation and infection. As well as this, not all cats need to have their ears cleaned and will happily go through life without any issues. 

You should still check their ears regularly but leave the cleaning until it looks like they really need it. Discharge, wax build-up, and lots of dirt are good signs that they are due a clean.

If the ears look red and sore, you should take them to the vet instead of cleaning them at home because your cat will be in pain, and they will likely need treatment for whatever is affecting them. 

How To Clean Cat Ears

Before you start cleaning, there are some supplies that you should grab first including a good quality war cleaner.

You can ask your vet for advice on what ear cleaner to get as some have ingredients that may make the ears feel irritated.

To help prevent ear infections, it is good to choose an ear cleaner that has antifungal ingredients and if your cat struggles with wax build-up, there are specific ear cleaners you can get for that too. 

As well as the ear cleaner, you will also need to get gauze or cotton balls and some treats for your cat to make the process run as smoothly as possible.

You should not use Q-tips because they can perforate the eardrum which is very painful and damages the ear canal, they can also cause you to push debris further into the ear. 

Now you have everything ready, it is time to clean your cat’s ears. 

The first thing you need to do is get into a comfortable position with your cat on your lap. Swaddling them in a towel will make them calm and less likely to struggle but make sure you are gentle. You may need an extra pair of hands if you feel that your cat is a bit of a wriggler. 

Pull back the top of the ear flap to expose the ear canal and with the other hand, take the ear cleaning solution and squeeze some of it into the ear so that it fills the ear canal.

When you do this, do not let the tip of the bottle touch the ear and if it does, wipe it off with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball to prevent any bacteria or yeast from spreading. 

To work the solution into the ear, massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. This allows the cleaning solution to break up any debris that has been trapped in the ear canal and if you hear a squishing sound as you massage, you are doing it right because that is the solution moving around the canal. 

Use a gauze or cotton ball to clean the upper ear and inner part of the ear flap. Once that is done, allow your cat to shake their head as this will get the rest of the solution and debris out of the ear. 

Make sure that the ears are all nice and clean and give your cat lots of praise and treats. It’s very important to make this process a positive experience because your cat will be a lot more willing to do it the next time. 

What To Look For As You Clean

When you are cleaning your cat’s ears, there are some things that you should keep an eye out such as swelling, redness, masses, and redness.

If your cat is reacting badly whenever you gently touch their ears, it is probably because they are in pain or their ears are feeling extra sensitive which can be a sign of infection. An infection can also be identified if you notice that your cat is shaking their head or itching its ears a lot. 

Discharge in the forms of pus, blood, or other fluid is also something you should be aware of and usually, a bad odor will accompany it. 

Common Ear Issues In Cats

Ear Mites

This is a quite common issue, especially if there are lots of cats around the same area as it can be spread among them. Ear mites are little parasites that live in and around cats’ ears which makes them shake their head and scratch themselves because of the irritation.

If your cat has ear mites, you may notice debris that looks like coffee grounds in their ears. You can take some of it out and put it in front of a dark background, you should see little white things moving around which are the live mites. 

Luckily, ear mites are easy to treat and all you have to do is get an over-the-counter treatment that will help kill the mites and flush them out. If you have any other pets in the household including dogs, make sure that you treat them too as ear mites are highly contagious. 


Cats can get infections both on their outer ear or inner ear. Infections that take hold of their outer ear are usually fungal infections and will make their ears red and swollen, making them shake their head and itch a lot. You may also smell a bad odor coming from the area. 

As for inner ear infections, it is typically caused by infections of the outer ear that has spread because it was not treated in time. Depending on what kind of bacteria has caused the infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics, topical medications, or even surgery. 

Foreign Bodies

If your cat has access to the outdoors, there are a lot of things that they come across and some of those things are small enough to get stuck in their ears. Common foreign bodies that are found in cat ears are grass awns, seeds, pollen, and food.

They will often shake their head and paw at their ears if there is something stuck in there which means it’s time for you to get a pair of tweezers and carefully remove it if you can. 

If you feel resistance, or you can’t get to the debris, you need to take your cat to the vet instead. They may have to sedate the cat so that it’s not in pain as they work on their ear and will also likely give some medication to prevent infection just to be safe. 


Even though cats take a lot of pride in what they look like and how clean they are, sometimes they can’t help but have ears that are in need of a clean.

It’s very easy to do and takes just a couple of minutes and there are lots of benefits that come with cleaning them. However, remember not to do it too frequently and if you spot any of the signs of other conditions that we mentioned, you should take them to the vet to get professional intervention. 

Courtney Trent
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