Ear Care and Ear Problems in Cats

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA Logo for ASPCA

ASPCA logoYour cat’s ears may be able to pick up the sound of a bag of treats being opened across the house, but they could still use a little help staying clean and healthy. Monitoring your cat’s ears weekly for wax, debris, and signs of infection will help those sensitive ears stay perky and alert to your every move.

Outer Ear Appearance

A healthy feline outer ear, or pinna, has a layer of hair on its outer surface with no bald spots, and its inner surface is clean and light pink. If you see any discharge, redness or swelling, your cat’s ears should be checked by a veterinarian.

Outer Ear Exam

Bring your cat into a quiet room where there are no other pets. Gently fold back each outer ear and look down into the canal. Healthy outer ears will be pale pink in color, carry no debris or odor, and will have minimal or no visible earwax. If you find that your cat’s ears appear to have excessive amounts of wax, have dark colored debris, or you detect an odor, your cat should be examined by your veterinarian.

Ear Cleaning 101

Place a little bit of liquid ear cleaner (ask your vet for a recommendation) onto a clean cotton ball or piece of gauze. Fold your cat’s ear back gently and wipe away any debris or earwax that you can see on the inside of the outer ear. Lift away the dirt and wax rather than rubbing it into the ear Do not attempt to clean the ear canal-probing inside of your cat’s ear can cause trauma or infection and is best done by a veterinary professional.

Signs of Ear Problems

Watch for the following signs that may indicate your cat’s ears should be checked by a veterinarian:

  • Persistent scratching and pawing of the ear or surrounding area
  • Sensitivity to touch around the ears
  • Head tilt
  • Frequent shaking of the head
  • Loss of balance and disorientation
  • Redness or swelling of the outer ear or ear canal
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Accumulation of dark brown wax
  • Hearing loss
  • Bleeding from the ear


Know Your Ear Disorders

  • Ear mites are common parasites that are contagious among pets. Telltale signs include excessive itching of the ears and debris that resembles coffee grounds.
  • Ear infections are usually caused by bacteria or yeasts. Treatment should be sought promptly as ear infections can cause considerable discomfort. Allergies in cats can be a predisposing factor in developing ear infections.
  • An ear hematoma is a collection of blood and serum between the cartilage and skin of the outer ear. They’re often caused by infection, ear mites, fleas or trapped debris that causes your cat to scratch her ears or shake her head excessively. They can occur in association with frequent head shaking in association with ear infections, ear mites, or allergies. But it can be seen in animals with normal ears.

How to Administer Ear Drops

If your veterinarian has recommended ear drops or ointment for your cat, please ask for his/her advice on how to properly administer them. Below are general guidelines on administering medications in your cat's ears:

  • Read the label instructions carefully for correct dosage before administering.
  • If there is debris or excessive wax in the outer ear or visible ear canal gently clean the external ear with a cotton ball or gauze moistened with a veterinary recommended ear cleaning solution
  • Gently pull the ear flap back, squeeze out the correct amount of solution or ointment into the outermost earl canal
  • Gently massage the base of the ear to help work the medication deeper into the canal.
  • Administer the medication according to the label directions given by your veterinarian. Not completing the entire course of treatment can interfere with total resolution of the issue being treated.
  • Reward your cat with a treat afterward.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA
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