Cats are extremely resourceful creatures. They do not typically require constant affection and pet grooming like dogs do, and, most of the time, they noticeably appreciate their perceived independence. As this is the case with so many cats, it becomes easy for pet parents to overlook the importance of proper cat care and pet grooming for cats.
Feeding, brushing and loving your cat are all standard procedure when it comes to sustaining his overall health and well-being. But, unbeknownst to many, cleaning cat ears is also imperative to include in your cat’s grooming regime. “It’s good to clean your cat’s ears on a regular basis,” says Rachel Mulheron, Director at helpucover, a pet insurance provider that helps to take away the worry of unexpected vet costs.
Mulheron says that many cats are perfectly capable at self-grooming, so you should not need to clean their ears too often. “However, regular ear checks are essential to help prevent painful ear infections [from] developing.” Mulheron recommends checking your cat’s ears on a weekly or biweekly basis. “If you notice any wax, dirt or other debris blocking the inner ears, it is time for a clean,” she says.
Even if you don’t see anything wrong, it is still good to have your cat on a regular ear-cleaning routine so he can get used to having his ears touched. That way, he’ll be less likely to protest if something does need treating, says Mulheron.
When you are ready to start cleaning cat ears, keep in mind that preparation is key. “Excess hair or dirt should be gently removed from around the ear canal and ear flap,” says Mulheron. “If you don’t feel confident doing this or your cat reacts badly, you may want to consider asking a professional groomer to do this for you.”
To begin, you will need an ear cleaner, cotton balls and lukewarm water. There are many different types of solutions for cleaning cat ears, as some are designed to break up the wax, while others are intended to dry out the ear canal. To gently break up wax, there’s Halo Cloud 9 Herbal Ear Wash. It’s made with high-quality herbal ingredients to eliminate odors, and soothing chamomile, sage oil and clove oil for a fresh scent. This solution prevents infection and heals abrasions, and is safe to use as often as needed. FURminator Ear Cleaner also provides an effective, yet gentle wash that cleans the ears while reducing odors. Vetoquinol Cerumene Ear Cleaner penetrates wax barriers and cleans out debris, and is clinically shown to be useful even in ruptured tympanic membranes. This safe, fast-drying liquid formulation may be used prior to otic medication.
To dry out your cat’s ear canal, there’s Tomlyn Veterinarian Formulated Dog & Cat Ear Cleaner. This super effective formula has been proven in lab testing to provide antimicrobial support to fight against yeast infections and bacteria within 15 seconds of being administered. If you are unsure of which type of ear cleaner to use, Mulheron recommends using a combination of these products to tackle both issues. You can always connect with your vet to discuss which method is most appropriate for your pet.
When cleaning or inspecting the inner ear, look to see that it is pink and odor-free. “If you notice your cat has developed a more serious problem such as ear mites, an infection (bacterial, fungal or yeast) or an allergy, there will be obvious signs, and it is best to consult a professional vet for treatment,” says Mulheron. These symptoms include: discharge, bad odor, excessive scratching, redness, sensitivity or pain, swelling, and lumps or masses.
During the cleaning, “Always be gentle, as [the ears are] particularly sensitive areas of the body,” notes Mulheron. “Never insert any cleaning tools too deep into the ear canal, as this can cause pain and long-term damage.” Hold the solution between your hands to warm the liquid before dropping in your cat’s ears, so they will be less startled by the cold sensation. After administering the drops, massage your cat’s ears so the solution can reach the affected area. Mulheron strongly advises pet parents to make sure their cat is calm during this pet grooming process for best results. You can slip the ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Solution on your cat before his grooming session for a dramatic calming effect.
If your cat’s ears are not fully clean after the process, depending on your cat’s mood, “you can repeat the cleaning process again or wait until your next scheduled clean to complete,” says Mulheron. “If you think your cat is in any pain or discomfort after cleaning—shaking his head or scratching his ears—have him examined by a vet as soon as possible.”