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Home Care of the Cat with an Ear Infection

An ear infection, also known by the medical term Otitis Externa in Cats (which means inflammation of the outer ear), is a common condition that may affect more than 20% of all cats. In fact, it is one of the top 20 reasons cats go to their veterinarian.

Below are some common questions cat owners ask about ear infections. The focus of this article will be “what you can do at home”.

What Is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is an infection of the ear canal. Most commonly it occurs in the outer ear but it can also extend to the inner ear.

What Causes Ear Infections?

Several factors can predispose cats to ear infections including infectious problems such as ear mites, allergies, trauma, tumors, foreign material in the ears, and generalized skin diseases.

A common question pet owners ask is, “How can I treat an ear infection at home?”

Home Treatment of Ear Infections

Specific treatments of ear infections are dependent on the underlying cause. Here is the general approach to treating ear infections:

– Restrain your cat. Start by wrapping your small cat in a large thick towel with just the head exposed. Or, if you have someone help by holding your cat’s body and legs.

– Clean the ear lobe. Using a cotton ball, paper towel or gauze sponges moistened with water. Gently rub the large pieces of dirt, wax and debris off the ear lobe. Repeat on the opposite ear.

– Clean the cartilage of the ear. After most of the debris has been removed with the moistened cotton ball, use a cotton swab (Q-Tip®) moistened with water to gently remove the pieces of debris trapped within the cartilage of the ear. Be very careful not to place the swab down the ear canal. This will stimulate head shaking and can lead to ear trauma. It is safest to clean only the parts of the ear you can see. If there is significant wax just inside the ear canal, you can briefly place the tip of the Q-tip into the ear canal to remove the debris. However, and this is important, you should ALWAYS be able to see the cotton tip of the swab.

– After cleaning the ears, it is a good idea to offer a treat. This will help make the next ear cleaning session a little smoother.

When Is an Ear Infection an Emergency?

An ear infection is an emergency when your cat is in pain, you cannot touch or look in your cat’s ear, the ear is red and swollen, and/or your cat has a head tilt. All ear infections should be examined and treated by a veterinarian.

For more details or related topics, go to: Ear Mites in Cats and How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears