Regular ear care is one of the most overlooked areas of cat health. Many people are hesitant to clean their cat's ears because they are concerned that they may hurt their cat in the process. The result is that many cats come into clinics with severe infections or mite infestations that might have been avoided with regular cleaning.
Good routine ear care is very safe and consists of a weekly inspection and, if necessary, a cleaning. Some of the more common problems infecting cat ears include:
- Ear mites
- Bacterial infections
- Yeast infections
- Fungal infections on the ear tips
There are right ways and wrong ways to inspect and clean cats' ears. While most cats will learn to tolerate routine cleanings very well, here are a few tips that will help you get started.
- First and foremost, make regular ear cleaning part of your routine. If you inspect and clean your cat's ears on a weekly basis from the time she is 8 weeks old, it will become a routine part of life and she won't fight you when you start handling her ears.
- Make it a positive experience. This sounds simple but it's the step that most people forget. Use treats like Feline Greenies® or our Tuna Flakes during and after the cleaning to keep the experience positive.
- Clean your cat’s ears when she is content and relaxed, and do not engage in any other stressful activity. Save nail trimming for another day.
- Hold the tip of the ear between your thumb and forefinger and gently roll it up so you can visualize the inner part of the ear. If the cat tries to scoot away, try wrapping her in a bath towel. Not only will you protect yourself from possible scratches, in many cases it works to calm the cat, especially those cats who are anxious or fearful.
- Examine the ear for redness, or discharge. Light brown wax is O.K., but black, red, or infected-looking discharges (e.g. yellow or green pus) indicate a problem and should be examined by your veterinarian. Use an Ear Clens Pad to gently wipe the inside of the brown, waxy ear.
- If the ear contains a lot of wax or debris you should squirt 5-10 drops of an ear cleaner like our Ear Clens into the ear and massage the base of the ear for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Wipe the inside of the ear with a cotton ball or another Ear Clens® Pad. If a large amount of debris is removed, repeat steps 6 and 7.
- If the ear is sore or infected or if the cat is shaking its head or scratching at the ear, have her examined by your veterinarian. Ear mites are a common cause of ear infections in young cats and your veterinarian will recommend a treatment.
When it comes to ear problems, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so make routine ear exams and cleanings part of your cat's weekly routine.