Cleaning (or medicating) a catís ears at home

One of the primary reasons for recurrent ear infections is that folks don't know how to properly apply cleaners and treatment products.  Many are afraid of going too deep into the ear canal and thereby they only treat the outer portion of the ear, never cleaning or addressing the root of the problem which lies further down inside the ear opening.

Some Maine Coons (and other breeds of course) have dirty waxy ears and they should be cleaned regularly to keep infection from brewing. If your kitty came from a reputable breeder, chances are that it didnít come with ear mites, so donít be alarmed at dark crud coming out of the ear.

As youíll see from the diagram, a catís ear canal makes a sharp turn in towards the sinus well before it comes near the ear drum, so gently probing with a q-tip or antibiotic applicator tip is perfectly safe.

Note: You never want to put a dry q-tip in any animalís ear, as if there is a sticky wax in the ear canal, it may pull the cotton off of the q-tip, and itís no fun having to dig it out with tweezers!

There are many good ear cleaning products on the market, and your vet may have one s/he recommends. For ears with heavy discharge, it is best to use a cleaner you can drop directly into the ear (read the instructions for use on any prescribed or OTC product).

Generally 2-4 Drops go in the ear canal, making sure you put the applicator deep enough into the ear opening to get down inside the canal. Holding the catís head, massage the upper cheek just below the ear opening - you should hear a squishy sound. If you don't hear the squishing, you haven't reached the lower part of the ear canal with the product; try again.

The massage will loosen up the wax and dirt deep in the ear. After a few seconds of massage, release the cats head and it should shake the debris out of the lower ear canal. Simply wipe the outer ear with a soft cloth or cotton pad, then you can use a q-tip to get inside the ear. If using this method to apply a topical antibiotic, don't worry that the cat shakes much of the product out - there is enough left coating the inside of the ear canal to do the job, you don't need to reapply.

If after 4-5 days of this deep cleaning you still see discharge, or if any discharge ever has an odor, have your vet do a smear to check for infection.  He/she may prescribe an antibiotic ointment which would be applied using the same technique as described above.

For ears with light discharge, simply dipping a q-tip into a feline approved ear cleaning solution or straight Witch Hazel and swabbing the ears weekly or bi-monthly should suffice.

Ears that are left with heavy wax buildup are prone to yeast infections which can be very uncomfortable for the cat. Itís much easier to keep the ears clean than to treat an infected ear once it has become inflamed and painful! Special antibiotic ointment from the vet is required to treat an infected ear. If introduced to simple ear cleaning as a kitten, most kitties learn to tolerate the experience, but wrapping the cat in a heavy towel or blanket is a good way to keep damage to yourself to a minimum with a recalcitrant patient, or you  might have a second human on hand who can get a good scruff on the cat while you perform the cleaning.


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