Cats are pretty good at keeping their ears clean. This is because they have a natural, built-in cleaning mechanism which "pushes" wax and other gunk to the external part of the ear. This helps keep the ears clean and free from infections. However, if they do get infected or particularly dirty, then you may need to clean their ears for them. This shouldn’t happen very often, but it’s best to always be prepared.
So when should I clean my cat's ears?
Despite their natural defence systems, cats are still prone to the odd ear infection, which can leave traces of pus and other unpleasant liquids in or around the ears. Ears are also a favourite hiding place for ticks, mites, and other parasites like fleas. An infestation of parasites will often leave traces of black dirt inside the ear. This is actually their poop, and so it needs cleaning up as soon as possible.
Cleaning your cat's ears
This might take a bit of practice, and you may need to use some treats to divert your cat's attention. Remember, kitty doesn't know that you're only trying to help him or her. From your cat’s perspective, you're just trying to stick something in their ear! If your cat is the reluctant type, then try some of the following tips:
Tip #1 Find an assistant
Find yourself a willing assistant. In other words, have someone else hold your cat, allowing you to focus all your attention on cleaning their ears.
Tip #2 Secure the cat
Wrapping your cat in a towel might help (just don’t make too tight!) This makes some cats feel safe and secure; it will also keep them still. If your cat starts becoming very agitated, let them go and try again later.
Tip #3 Wait for the right moment
Try waiting until the cat is feeling relaxed (post-dinnertime and post-playtime provide good opportunities.)
Tip #4 Distract them with catnip
Or how about giving them a little bit of catnip to chew on? It has a sedative-like effect on some cats.
Tips on how to clean your cat ears
When it comes to cleaning the cat's ears, work slowly and patiently. If your cat is really not enjoying the experience, then focus on cleaning just one ear. You can always come back and get the other one later.
Here's a quick guide on how to clean your cat's ears:
Tip #1 Get the equipment
Get some soft gauze and a cleaning solution recommended by a vet or animal specialist.
Tip #2 Handle with care
Gently pull back the ear flap and administer the cleaning solution. Massage the base of the ear for 5 to 10 seconds, then let your cat shake out the solution.
Tip #3 Take cover
TOP TIP: make sure to take some cover! Otherwise, you might get covered in flea dirt or some other kind of nasty ear gunk. Then wrap the gauze around your finger and use it to clean up any excess liquid, puss, or flea dirt. Then repeat with the other ear.
Tip #4 Never use earbuds
Never use earbuds to clean the inside of the ears. Firstly, they could damage your cat's ears. Secondly, they can actually push the infections or parasites further down into the ear canal.
Tip #5 Reward your cat
Use lots of treats, praise, and reassurance to make your cat feel as comfortable as possible. This will make the process much easier for both of you. It will also make the cat more inclined to cooperate in the future.
How often should I clean my cat ears?
If your cat has an ear infection or an infestation of parasites, then their ears will need a lot more attention than usual. Treating any ear problems is likely to include a weekly clean, but this all depends on the severity of the infection.
Cats have very high standards of personal hygiene, so it's unlikely that you'll need to clean their ears on a regular basis. Still, it's a really good idea to check them every few weeks. This way you can spot any issues in the early stages, which will make treating them much easier. If you do notice any abnormalities, then get your cat checked out by a vet. Most ear infections will clear up after a few weeks, and a vet can give you more advice on how and when to give your cat’s ears a good clean.