Should I clean my cat’s ears?

“Should I clean my cat’s ears?” is a question that people direct at Google but, strictly speaking, it is incomplete. What I mean is this: you don’t think about cleaning your cat’s ears unless there is a reason to do so. The default attitude is to do nothing except, from time to time, to inspect their ears. The better question is, “Should I clean my cat’s ears if there is an excessive amount of debris and wax in the ear canal?” That is asking whether a cat owner should carry out ear profound cleaning or whether they should leave it to a veterinarian or vet tech as a veterinary clinic.

Should I clean my cat's ears?

Should I clean my cat’s ears? Infographic by MikeB

To quote a group of excellent veterinarians who wrote the best book on veterinary cat care for the layperson, “Routine ear cleaning is not required.”

You can expect to see some wax in the ear canal of a domestic cat because it’s purpose is maintain the health of the tissues. This is exactly the same for humans.

The veterinarians I refer to go on to say, “However, ears should be cleaned when there is an excessive amount of wax, dirt or debris”. But you don’t do this by inserting an ear bud into the ear canal of your cat which is the sort of thing which might instinctively come to mind. Please don’t do that because you can make things a lot worse.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Certainly, you can clean the outer ear (the pinna or ear flap) with a cotton bud but you can’t stuff it down the ear canal.

Personally, I have never cleaned my cat’s ears. I inspect them regularly and they are always clear. He is about eight years of age now. I do nothing special except provide the best cat caregiving I can. Proactive measures are the best and that would mean keeping the environment clean and healthy, providing an excellent diet and plenty of tender loving care plus play. The cat can deal with the rest.

To clean a very dirty ear

I’m going to quote the veterinarians on this but I think there needs to be a word of warning. You have to be really cautious and sensible to make sure that you don’t harm your cat. And many cats will object to ear cleaning which might mean that you have to restrain them. They might also object to that! This must be a big barrier and I’m inclined to think right now that if you believe your cat’s ears need cleaning you should book an appointment with your veterinarian.

It will probably be worth the money. Anyway, here goes.

Apply a few drops of either one of the following to the external ear canal: warm mineral oil, olive oil, a dilute vinegar solution (three drops white vinegar in 1 ounce of water) or a special ear-cleaning solution from your veterinarian such as Oti-Clens in America (my preference). There are many others which I’m sure you can find on Amazon.

Once you’ve added the solution you massage the base of the ear to loosen dirt, excess wax and debris followed by gently wiping out the ear with a cotton ball. The debris will loosen and migrate out of the canal over time, I presume.

Note, you do not put anything in the ear canal other than a liquid. The point is obvious. If you put something solid down the ear canal you simply push the debris further in towards the eardrum. This will compact these substances and make them harder to remove.

Do not irrigate your cat’s ears with liquid such as ethers, alcohol, or solvents. They will cause pain and swelling.

That’s about it. There are two major points to emphasise if I’ve not overemphasised them already! Don’t clean your cat’s is unless you really need to and if you are unsure see a veterinarian. Secondly, you use the liquids mentioned and not a solid object when cleaning the ear canal, which is the tunnel that goes from the outer ear to the eardrum. Behind the eardrum is the middle ear and then behind that is the inner ear.

P.S. The book referred to is: “Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook”.

Below are some more pages on ears.

Deaf white cats

White domestic cats often make bad mothers

The title sounds unfair and biased but it isn't as it is based in biological fact. The prevalence of deafness ...
Read More
Hearing range of domestic cat

Hearing range of the domestic cat

The hearing range of the domestic cat is one of the broadest among all the mammals. A study published in ...
Read More
'You've got eyes in the back of your head' applies to cats more than humans as they have swivelling ears

Domestic cats have ‘eyes in the back of their heads’

If you are a native English speaker, you have probably heard the of saying "have eyes in the back of ...
Read More
Cat Ear Positions - Ears Forward

How many muscles in a cat’s tail and ears?

Tail muscles mainly consist of the following 6 on both sides: M. sacrocaudalis dorsalis medialis (SDM); M. sacrocaudalis dorsalis lateralis ...
Read More
Strange cat ears

Semi-abstract picture of cat anatomy: ears

Here is a picture of a part of the domestic cat anatomy that is semi-abstract because the ears are so ...
Read More
Human vestigial ear flap movements

Humans try to move their ear flaps just like cats

We know how mobile the visible part of the cat's ear is. They have over 30 muscles to move their ...
Read More
Comparison of upper frequency hearing limit for cats and humans

Why can cats hear better than humans?

By 'better' I presume that the question refers to being able to hear a wider range of frequences in which ...
Read More
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...