A normal healthy cat is usually very neat. Cats clean their ears every day with the help of their paws and claws. But if cat’s ears need additional care for some reason, the owner should know how to clean them and when to contact a vet for help.
The structure of cat’s ears
Cat’s ear is a perfect mechanism used not only for sound perception but also for balance adjusting. Due to the vestibular apparatus, located in the ears, cats always land on four paws when falling. Cats surpass humans in their hearing ability: the frequency range they can perceive is three times higher.
Ear shape is a distinctive feature of many breeds. Big ears of Siamese breed are wide open and almost not protected from dust, in Scottish cats the ears are hanging, and the ears of American curls are arched back. In most of cat breeds ears preserved their natural shape. But some exotic cat breeds might need some help in ear hygiene.
Cat’s ear structure differs very little from the structure of the human ear. It consists of the outer, middle and inner ear. Sounds are captured by the auricle and are amplified by resonance in the external auditory canal. Producing vibrations the eardrum directs the sound to the auditory ossicles that are familiar to us from the school course of anatomy as a hammer, an incus and a stirrup. If the ears are dirty – the hearing ability decreases as earwax hampers the normal passage of sound waves. Next, the sound is transformed and selective hearing takes place: the sound of firecrackers in the yard is muted, and remote rustle perception increases. Then the sound waves reach the inner ear, where the electric encoding of the information and signal transmission in the central auditory system are conducted.
Why do cats have excessive earwax in their ears?
Before deciding how to clean cat’s ears and what hygiene means to use, it is necessary to find out the reason for excessive earwax production.
Large ears of open shape tend to “collect” more dust and litter from the environment. But ordinary ear shape also constantly let small particles of dust get into the auricle. If it is too dirty and dusty outside, special ear glands get activated and start increasing the production of earwax, which closes the access to the middle ear. In this case taking care of cat’s ears is quite simple and does not require constant attention.
Sometimes ear glands work intensively all the time. This often occurs in cats, whose ears are either almost or totally hairless, because hairs protect ears from dust and dirt. When there are not enough hairs in the ear area, the ear gland performs double duty. The owners of such pets should clean cat’s ears regularly, because excessive earwax constantly accumulates in the ear canal.
Cleaning cats’ ears is not just an esthetic need. Earwax impaction presses on the eardrum, it can cause loss of hearing, vomiting and nausea, dizziness, chronic hearing troubles.
If the suspicions are confirmed, the vet will prescribe necessary treatment and explain how to clean the ear canals from the excessive earwax accumulated there.
Cleaning cat’s ears correctly
So how to clean cat’s ears without hurting your pet? To do this, the owner should have cotton swabs, gauze pads and boiled water cooled to the room temperature. If the ears are very dirty, you can use a special lotion or sterile NaCl 0,9% saline (available in pharmacies).
It is dangerous to use fluids containing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soap solutions and other “popular” means for cat ear cleaning. It can damage cat’s natural hygiene balance and may lead to drying of the skin, small sores and enhanced production of earwax.
Cat ear structure allows the owner to remove the excess earwax only from the visible surface of the ear. If you try to penetrate deep into the ear, you can damage the eardrum or scratch delicate skin and it may lead to increased production of earwax.
Since it is necessary to clean the ears cat regularly, you need to teach you pet to undergo this simple procedure without too much stress. It is not necessary to force the cat do that keeping it in an unnatural position and making it not to move. Obedience can always be achieved by persuasion and kindness.
If the amount of earwax is hardly noticeable it is enough to wipe the ear with gauze pad. When there is too much earwax, you might need to put some drops of normal saline in the ear canal and gently massage in order to make the fluid percolate deeper. Cleaning cat’s ears will not take long if you let saline drops do its work for at least ten minutes. After waiting for the necessary time you should put the cat on its side and remove the leaking liquid with the gauze pad. In tight spaces, you can use a cotton swab, but try not to penetrate deep into the ear canal!
You should clean your cat’s ears only when it’s really needed. No need to seek sterile purity removing all the earwax daily. Most healthy cats need their ears to be cleaned no more than once a month.