How to Clean a Cat's Ears

tabby cat ears
 Elke Schroeder / EyeEm / Getty Images

Depending on your cat’s grooming habits and environment, you may or may not need to clean your cat's ears. Many cats are excellent at grooming themselves and rarely require ear care. Others, not as good with their grooming skills, will need routine cleanings to help ward off infection. Generally, if you notice wax, dirt, or other debris, then it is probably time for a cleaning.

Periodic cleanings and regular at-home checks will allow you to find out about ear issues early, allowing for timelier treatment options. If you suspect your cat may have an ear problem, you should call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Prompt treatment often offers a better prognosis, can reduce the potential for chronic disease and hearing loss, and may also help with any discomfort your cat may be experiencing.

How to Clean Your Cat's Ears

For the best results, begin your ear cleaning with a good general grooming. Excess, dirty, or matted hair should be removed from around the ear canal and the ear flap. Heavy, matted, moist ear flaps, surrounding hair, and excessively hairy ear canals will decrease air flow to the ear canal, making it possible for wax and other debris to build up, potentially leading to infection.

In some cats, excess hair may need to be gently removed from inside the ear canal; note, this must be done carefully to avoid damaging the ear canal and minimize discomfort to your pet. A professional groomer or veterinary worker can help you remove the hair if needed.

Cleaning your cat's ears is an easy task that takes about 10 minutes:

  1. Assemble supplies: olive oil or commercial ear cleaner, cotton balls, and a container for water.
  2. Warm the olive oil or ear cleaner to body temperature by placing the container in a warm pan of water.
  3. Place the cat on a table or counter.
  4. Put a drop or two of the liquid into the round opening of the ear canal.
  5. Gently massage the base of the ear for at least a minute, to work the liquid around.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other ear.
  7. Leave your cat alone for 5 minutes. He'll do a great deal of head shaking, which will dislodge dirt and move it into the outer ear canal.
  8. After 5 minutes, use clean cotton balls to wipe away oil and dirt from the ear.
  9. Give your cat a treat for being so good.


  • Use the same techniques for administering medication to the ears, with the exception of steps 2 and 8.

What You Need

  • Olive oil or ear cleaner
  • Cotton Balls
  • Container for warm water
  • Plastic eye-dropper

Does My Cat Have an Ear Infection?

As your cat’s owner, you will be the first line of defense in detecting anything abnormal about your cat’s behavior or physical health. When cleaning your cat's ears, keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as:

  • Ear discharge
  • Odor around the ear
  • Excess scratching, pawing or rubbing the ears
  • Redness in the ear canal
  • Sensitivity or pain around the ears
  • Ear swelling
  • Masses around the ear area