How To Clean Cats Ears: Vets Guide

Cats are pros in grooming, but even pros need some assistance from time to time.

If your cat is prone to ear infections or you notice some buildup it is a good idea to clean their ears. 

On the other hand, if you notice redness, swelling, head shaking, discharge, or if there is an odor coming from a cat’s ear you need to visit the vet ASAP. Ear infections and inflammation can be painful and can spread. 

Once your veterinarian identifies the cause of your cat’s ear issues, they may recommend at-home ear cleaning. 

This quick guide on how to clean cats ears includes practical tips curated by our vets. We also included what not to do to help you avoid damage to the cats ears.

let’s get to it.

Gather supplies 

You will need:

Cotton balls 

They are gentle and the safest option for your cat’s ears. It is always a good idea to have them on hand for cleaning their ear and eye area, or any other reason.

cotton balls

You can find them here.

Ear cleaning solution 

Your vet will recommend a specific solution, but if you are looking for a product to have on hand, look for veterinary formulations from reputable brands. 

For example, PetArmor Ear Rinse,

ear rinse

You can find it here


If your cat doesn’t have any serious health issues, I really like Catnip Toys Balls when I need to clean their ears, take their temperature, check for ticks, populate the stomach, etc. 

It keeps them engaged and reduces stress. 

cat nip cat treat

You can find them here.

Clean the outer ear first

Soak the cotton ball with a cleaning solution and clean the other area of the ear. Wipe off the debris and let your cat shake off. 

Clean the inside of the ear

Use the solution generously. Ideally, your cat should lie on its side but don’t worry if you can’t get your cat in that position.

Use a cotton ball to close the ear and wait for a solution to do its magic. 

Your cat will be uncomfortable so you might have to hold it. The solution can also foam a bit and the sound can be triggering. 

Depending on the specific solution, you may have to wait for 30 seconds or more. 

After this let your cat shake off the solution. Give it a shot break, and offer a treat. 

Final step

Use a clean and dry cotton ball to wipe off any leftover liquid and discharge. 

Vets tips on how to clean cats ears

What not to do when cleaning cat ears

thing you shouldn't use to clean cats ears

Cats’ ears are filled with sensitive nerves running through their ear canals, making them vulnerable to damage during cleaning. 

Their eardrums are extremely thin. 

To avoid damage never use:

Hydrogen peroxide – extremely drying and not efficient

Alkohol – can cause future damage

Cotton swabs or q tips – you can pierce the drum and make them deff. 

When To Leave Ear Clinging to the Vets

If you are unable to clean your cat’s ears at home.

If the infection did not reside. 

If you notice other ear problems such as swelling, sensitivity, warmth, and smell. 

Vet Q&A

What is the black stuff in my cat’s ears?

The black stuff in your cat’s ears may be:

  1. Earwax (Cerumen): Just like humans, cats can produce earwax, which can sometimes appear black or dark brown. Excessive earwax can lead to discomfort and should be addressed.
  2. Ear Mites: Ear mites are tiny parasites that can infest a cat’s ears, causing irritation, itching, and a dark, crusty discharge. These mites are highly contagious and require treatment.
  3. Bacterial or Fungal Infections: Infections in the ear can lead to the accumulation of dark, smelly discharge. These infections can be caused by bacteria or fungi and often result from underlying issues like allergies or anatomical factors.
  4. Hematoma: In some cases, a hematoma (a collection of blood) can form in the ear flap due to trauma or excessive scratching, and this may appear as a dark, swollen area within the ear.
  5. Foreign Bodies: Occasionally, foreign objects like grass seeds or debris can become lodged in a cat’s ear, leading to inflammation and discharge.
  6. Polyps or Tumors: Less commonly, growths such as polyps or tumors within the ear canal can cause dark discharge or bleeding.

Have your cat examined by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause and provide appropriate treatment.