Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

How To Clean Cat Ears

cat_orangeCats normally do not require ear cleaning on a regular basis. However, your veterinarian may prescribe an ear cleaning routine for a number of reasons.

It might be necessary for a cat with:

  • ear infection or wound
  • mites, used in conjunction with specific ear mite therapy
  • naturally greasy ears that develop a low-grade buildup of waxy secretions.

Before medicating ears, one cleans them first. As long as your cat does not have a painful condition, she should tolerate this procedure quite well.

Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do the ear cleaning while still at the veterinary facility, and try it out there yourself. That way, any procedural questions can be addressed.

A Few Tips for Ear Cleaning:

  • Have all of the materials close at hand before you begin so that the session is short, and you do not give her an opportunity to go off and hide under the bed while you fumble for things.
  • If she is the type to bring the front claws up or is ready to run off before you start, consider having a family member or friend help to steady her. As well, a soft bath towel wrapped firmly but not tightly around her body, with the head exposed can protect you, make the cat feel more secure, and keep her from skittering away. As a bonus, it will absorb any dribbled cleaning liquid.
  • Do not proceed if you think she might bite. Contact your veterinarian for advice in this instance.
  • Be gentle. Cats have very sensitive ears. Avoid pulling hard on the pinna (the ear flap that sticks out from the head).
  • Avoid pushing fingers or cotton down too deep into the ear canal as the delicate lining can become irritated or damaged, or the pressure may lead to pain.
  • Do not pull out and up on the ear as this straightens the ear canal and makes it easier to go too deep—position the ear flap on top of the head to maintain an angle in the ear canal.
  • As you steady the ear, take a little loose skin in your grasp between your fingers of the same hand you are holding the ear with. This allows you to stay with the cat if she moves away suddenly. If you hold the ear flap only, you can end up pulling the ear as she moves away, which causes pain and may make her shy about having her ear handled in future.
  • If your cat seems to be particularly sore when you clean the ears or instill cleaning solution, contact your veterinarian promptly as a broken ear drum can occur. In this case, the medication can enter the middle ear, causing extreme discomfort. As well, some cats have hypersensitivity, or even an allergy to some medicinal components, so the medication might need to be switched. Some cats may have deep ulcers of the lining of the ear canal, and the liquid may sting as it contacts that exposed surface.
  • Praise her when she sits quietly for the procedure.

Demo of Ear Cleaning Procedure:

Step 1: Hold the ear correctly

This shows the incorrect method—note how the ear is being pulled on and stretched up and out away from the head. Note the steadying hand does not touch anywhere but the ear.


Step 2: Ear positioned correctly for cleaning

A different view showing the gentle anchoring of the hand to the skin over the head to help prevent a pull on the delicate ear if she moves suddenly.


Step 3: Ear cleaning in progress.


Success! See that dirty cotton ball.


Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.