Most kitty owners don’t think to clean out their cat’s ears unless something is wrong. If you suddenly notice them shaking their head, scratching at their ears or losing balance we begin to worry what could be wrong.
However, even if nothing goes wrong (hopefully!) it is still good to be aware of what is normal and abnormal with your cat; including the inner workings of the ear.
Let’s start our exam and cleaning by first finding your cat. Is he under the bed- or maybe she is lounging in your fresh warm laundry? Pick up your kitty and give them lots of loving with pets and sweet talk.
Bring them somewhere you feel comfortable placing them close to your face; be it on the floor, a table, or even your lap. If you have never tried to inspect their ears, this first time may be a little uneasy for you both but rest assured, your kitty won’t mind and won’t be hurt if you coax them correctly.
Start by scratching the neck area and working your way towards the back of the ear. Most cats like to be rubbed right behind that bulge of their ear and some may even press harder against you. As long as your cat is enjoying it, feel free to press harder and work out some of that ear wax. You can massage or rub in circles or an up-and-down motion, but don’t forget this is pleasurable for your kitty, so still scratch and talk lovingly to your little one.
The very top of your cat’s ear usually comes to a point in most breeds; this is a pleasure point for them. You should have your massaging move upwards towards the top, almost folding the ear in half as you rub the fur on the outside of their ear. Don’t give as much pressure to that part of the ear as you did on the bulge, but a little bit should feel good. If you aren’t sure, try massaging your own ear to feel what pressure feels good and try just a little less for your kitty.
Now that he or she is relaxed you should be able to fold their ear back flat against their head and see the inner ear where there is not any fur. This is the place you are going to clean or just get a good look at. As you can see, there are lots of folds and grooves, which leaves dirt plenty of places to hide.
Be observant as long your cat lets you and try to get a good look at what’s going on inside their ear. Normal can be many variations of things based on breed and even your specific cat- remember no two are exactly alike. However, keeping that in mind, your cat’s ear should look clean and appear pink or peach colored. It may be slightly moist with a sticky-oily consistency or just dry; both are normal.
Some of the things you should be aware of are scabs, dark spots, little red bumps or sores and what I call black crud. In general scabs are from the cat scratching at an irritant inside their ear. Just as you would itch yourself, but their sharp nails sometimes cause more damage than the original itch did.
Dark spots may be dirt and should move when touched. If it is a part of the skin, it may normal but your veterinarian would know better. Little red bumps and sores are good indicators of fleas or bugs biting at your cats ears. Lastly, the black crud is an accumulation of feces from ear mites. These mites feast on your cat’s blood and leave their droppings at the skin.
The cleaning process itself is very easy. All you need is a cotton ball and an optional Q-tip. Some owners and vets like to use an ear cleaner (OTC or even olive oil) or ear mite drops (which are pesticides to kill the insect) which should be liquid dropped onto the cotton ball, not directly into your cat’s ear. You use the cotton ball inside the ear and very gently move it around to spread the cleaner or to pick up the dirt and extra ear wax.
Typically, the cotton ball should be moved in a circular motion. You may need more than one cotton ball per ear but you should definitely limit use one ball per ear; do not use one cotton ball for both ears. As an option, you may want to use a Q-tip to clean inside the folds and grooves of the ear, but never extend the Q-tip into a place you cannot see, and only use one if you are able to keep your cat still.
These are just suggestions and general cleaning care tips. If your cat continues to scratch or have balance problems, you should always take them to your veterinarian for an exam.
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