Hairless cat earwax buildup (a discussion)

Female Elf cat
Female Elf cat. Photo: Dana Danilova. This is a hairless cat with is that curl back as you can see in the photograph. It is a Sphynx crossed with an American Girl.
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The public is told that earwax buildup is greater in hairless cats than normal. Because there is a greater than normal buildup of earwax in hairless cats, the ears have to be cleaned more frequently. However, there is some mystifying information surrounding hairless cat ear wax which I would like to discuss on this page.

The respected book, Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians tells us that “Veterinarians need to be aware of the fact that the Sphynx buildup a lot of wax in their ears due to the lack of fur in the ears”. Those precise words comes from a Sphynx breeder, Lisa Bressler. Also, on the Internet is another Sphynx breeder who tells us that this cat breed has more earwax than most cats because “they have little or no hair in their ears, so dirt, skin oils, and earwax accumulate more frequently…”.

So according to these people, earwax buildup is because they have no hair in their ears. This is interesting because there is no logical reason why that should be the case. How do you link a lack of hair to more than the usual amount of earwax? What is the medical reasoning behind it, the cause and effect? In fact, it is stranger than that because with respect to people, the medics say that a buildup of earwax can happen if you have lots of hair in your ears. So, British doctors are saying that an excess of earwax in the ears of people may be due to an excess of hair in their ears.

This makes better sense because if the ear canal is particularly hairy then it will block the exit of earwax from the ear canal to the exterior. Another cause of a buildup of earwax is “a skin condition affecting your scalp or around your ear”. Sphynx cats have a skin condition. It prevents them creating the normal hair that covers a domestic cat. Sphynx cats do have hair but it is very fine, almost invisible and downy in nature.

I’m going to suggest that the reason why Sphynx cats have more earwax than normal is because of the fact that they are almost hairless. This may affect the production of earwax. In other words the gene which causes hairlessness may also affect the glands that create earwax. However, a more likely reasoning is the fact that Sphynx cat does not produce more earwax than normal but that more dirt enters the ear canal and attaches itself to the earwax than normal because of a lack of hair to protect the ear. Earwax is there to catch dirt. Its purpose is to keep the air canal clean because the wax picks up this dirt and then the earwax gradually migrates to the exterior taking the dirt with it.

I know what I’m saying goes completely against the words of the authorities on this topic but I genuinely believe that the experts are incorrect because they have not applied common sense to their arguments. Also see the next topic, please.


I believe that the reason why Sphynx cat breeders want owners to clean their cat’s ears is because they look unpleasant when they are dirty. That is completely normal and acceptable. It just seems that the ears of Sphynx cats and other hairless cats look more dirty than in other cats. For example, my cat is a normal tabby cat. His ears always look clean. There is no requirement for me to clean them. I check them regularly and they are fine.

The point, here, is that the inside of the Sphynx cat ear flap but not including the ear canal has the same problem that afflicts the rest of the Sphynx cat which is that the oils produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin has nowhere to go. It cannot go on to the hair strands on the inside of the ear so it sits on the surface inside the ear, on the skin. That is why it picks up dirt and the inside of the ear looks dirty.

In the video you see the breeder cleaning this part of the ear and it has nothing, in my opinion, to do with earwax. But it has everything to do with the fact that the cat is hairless.

Cleaning the ears of a hairless cat

Cleaning the ear of a hairless cat as per the advice of a Sphynx cat breed Sphynxlair
Cleaning the ear of a hairless cat as per the advice of a Sphynx cat breed Sphynxlair. Screenshot.

Another troubling aspect of this topic is that one prominent Sphynx cat breeder online, SPHYNXLAIR, has produced a video on how to clean the ears of this cat at home because it needs to be done weekly. You can see the video below. In the video the lady uses a cotton-tipped swab to clean the insides of the ear flap. I don’t think she actually pushes it down the ear canal, thankfully. She uses the cotton-tipped swab to clean the inside of the ear. However, it is a very bad idea to take a cotton-tipped swab to clean ears like this because a lot of people will believe they can push it down the ear canal to try and remove some wax. If they did that they would make things a lot worse. All veterinarians would agree. Regrettably, I would have to argue that this is a poor video.

If you are going to clean the ears of your cat I would consult with a veterinarian first. Ask them what they would do and take their lead. I think it’s dangerous to do it and there may be an argument that you don’t do it. My advice would be to clean the insides of the ear but leave the air canal alone. And you have to do it gently. A cat would have to get used to it. The skin of a hairless cat needs to be cleaned regularly.

Ear mites

Apparently Lisa Bressler, who I mention above, says that this excess buildup of earwax in Sphynx cats is often mistaken for ear mites. And she says that it is not ear mites in “most cases”. That implies that in some cases it is. That, too, I believe is a careless statement.

Preventing earwax buildup in hairless cats

You can’t prevent earwax buildup. It is there to protect the cat’s ears from dirt and germs. You can soften the wax using eardrops but seek the advice of your veterinarian first, please. This will help the earwax to fall out on its own and should prevent blocked ears.

Lack of precision

The point is that there is that there are two issues, one is the production of earwax to protect the ear canal and eardrum and the other is the production of oils by sebaceous glands which is meant to go onto the hair strands. The breeders are getting these two aspects of the hairless cat anatomy mixed up in my opinion.

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