how to care for your cat's ears

Guest post by staff 

Cats rely on their hearing to stalk squirrels, hear approaching cars, and sneak up on unsuspecting pieces of string. Regularly cleaning your cat’s ears and checking for problems helps prevent infections and conditions that may interfere with hearing or health. Take five minutes out of your busy week to monitor your cat’s ear health and spend some quality time with your furry feline in the process.

Caring for the outer ear

A cat’s outer ear is the part that is visible. A layer of hair should cover the outer surface of the earflap, with no signs of trauma, infection, or baldness. Look inside the inner surface of your cat’s earflap to check for redness, discharge, swelling, or other problems. The inner surface should appear light pink and clean. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any problems or if your cat pulls away or becomes upset when you attempt to examine her outer ear.

Caring for the inner ear

Checking your cat’s inner ear for problems is a bit trickier than examining her outer ear. It may help to bring her into a quiet room and pet her gently for several minutes before beginning. Once she is calm, fold back the outer ear so that the ear canal becomes visible. The inside of your cat’s ear should be light pink and free of dirt and earwax. An odor may indicate the presence of an infection, ear mites, or another problem and requires veterinary attention. Minor debris, dirt, or earwax is treatable at home.

Cleaning your cat’s ears

Dampen a clean cotton ball with a gentle ear cleaner to wipe away any visible earwax or other debris from the underside of your cat’s ears. Clean the inside surface of the outer ear and the rim of the ear canal, but do not attempt to remove any debris from inside the canal. Doing so may lead to injury. If you cannot remove dirt and earwax with gentle pressure, stop cleaning your cat’s ears and consult your veterinarian. If your veterinarian prescribes eardrops for your cat to treat infection or soften earwax, administer the drops as instructed.

When to call your veterinarian

Call your veterinarian promptly if your cat experiences trauma to the inner or outer ear or if your notice persistent scratching of the ears, head shaking or tilting, balance problems, sensitivity to touch or sound, or hearing abnormalities. Also, call for an appointment if you detect an unpleasant odor coming from your cat’s ears or if you see a discharge or redness inside the ear.

Most ear problems in cats are minor and easily treatable with cleaning or medication. However, ignoring possible symptoms of infection or hearing loss may result in serious illness or  hearing loss. Although your cat may initially pull away or resist having her ears examined, it is essential to check for problems before they worsen. An ear exam in an otherwise healthy cat should not cause pain, and you will not harm your cat by performing a basic ear examination at home.

Photo: Flickr, Cute Cat by Ola Wilberg 

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