The Curl is probably the most common breed of cat found in shelters and among stray populations, and we believe that is because their ears can cause so many problems. Ears should not be ignored when considering a pet cat and it’s crucial to be familiar with this anatomy and how it functions.
The Anatomy of the Ear:
Ears are an incredibly complex organ, and inner ear infections can be extremely dangerous particularly because they often lead to loss of balance and deafness before the pet is even showing signs of illness. To simplify, we will consider two parts; the outer ear (auditory canal), and the inner ear (cochlea, semicircular canals).
These are the parts of the earl will be referring to. First is the pinna or “ear flap”, then the auditory canal that leads into the eardrum, and finally the cochlea which rather than being shown here in cross-section actually spirals like a snail shell and has three delicate branches leading from it (the semicircular canals).
The auditory canal is lined with small hairs designed to catch dirt, dust, and debris before it reaches the eardrum. If these hairs become matted or full of debris they need to be cleaned so that they do not irritate the eardrum.
Prevention is key. The vast majority of ear problems are caused by neglect, so if it’s possible to raise a kitten with good ears you should be able to prevent almost all future problems!
Tips For Caring Your Curl Cat Ears:
With that being said, here are some basic tips for caring for your cat’s ears:
1) NEVER EVER use cotton swabs or any other tool to clean inside the ear canal. This is one of the number one causes of ear problems in cats. The auditory canal is a very delicate organ and the tissue inside is paper-thin with no protection from sharp tools, so using anything other than your pinky finger or an ear cleaning solution specifically made for cats can easily perforate the eardrum.
2) Ear infections are very common in cats and can be caused by a number of things, but they almost always originate from the buildup of wax and debris on the hairs at the opening of the ear canal. This is where regular cleaning is essential. It’s important to get into a routine and do this once every two weeks at the very least. You can do it weekly if you want to really stay on top of things.
3) There are several ways to do this, but the easiest by far is simply using a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear followed by a thorough flush with warm water. This should be repeated two or three times just to ensure that no debris can dry in the ear canal. There are also many good over-the-counter solutions you can use, but hydrogen peroxide is cheap and very effective so it’s what I recommend first.
How To Clean American Curl Ears?
The first step for cleaning American Curl ears is to give them a good sniff. If your cat smells really bad then obviously clean their ears as soon as possible, but if there is simply a bit of wax buildup letting them sit for another week won’t kill them.
The next step is to pull back the ear flap and look at the opening of the ear canal. It should look pinkish inside with small hairs curling in toward the center. You may need to spread apart these hairs gently with your fingers to get a good look inside.
If the ear canal is inflamed, red, has black or brown crusty buildup (pus), or an abnormal smell then you should be concerned and schedule an appointment with the vet.
Even if there are no obvious signs of problems however it’s always best to give each ear a good sniff. If it has an abnormal odor then clean the ears immediately, otherwise let them sit for another week before cleaning them again.
Also, make sure that your American Curl is not scratching or rubbing their ears excessively because this can lead to infections or irritation that will need to be treated by a vet ASAP.
After you have given each ear a thorough sniff you can clean it. Excessive waxy buildup will require several flushings to remove all the dirt, but if your cat’s ears are simply dirty then four or five flushes will likely be enough to get them squeaky clean.
Start by putting two or three drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear followed by three or more flushings with warm water. Make sure to use a cup of warm water that is not too hot or cold and pour it into the ear canal carefully so that it doesn’t splash, but do your best to get as much out as possible.
Next, gently massage each side of the base of the ear flap for about 30 seconds then hold the ear flap back and let your cat shake their head a few times to get the rest out.
Lastly, gently massage the base of each ear for about 30 seconds before letting them go. These two steps will remove any debris that may have been left behind from the last cleaning.
There you have it…all the steps needed to properly clean your American Curl’s ears. If they have any problems or get excessively dirty between cleanings then obviously take them to a vet, but if their ear canal looks healthy and has only a small bit of waxy buildup then simply do this routine once or twice per month which should keep their ears clean and healthy.
As a side note, if your cat’s ears haven’t been cleaned in a long time then the first cleaning may be accompanied by a large amount of waxy buildup which can clump together as it loosens from the hairs that line the ear canal. This buildup will likely have an extremely foul odor so if you see anything like this then go to the vet ASAP.