Health Hygiene Kitty Kare Korner

Tips for Cleaning Your Cat’s Fur, Ears, Eyes & More

Tips on how to help your cat stay clean and monitor for health issues.

Daily Cat Care

I know, I know. Your cat licks its own butt so she’s got all that under control right? Not exactly. Yes, cats clean themselves, but as a cat owner, it’s your job to help your cat stay clean. Why? Because you can monitor their physical health and you’ll build a stronger bond with your cat. The BEST way to monitor skin conditions, search for growths, and find injuries is by brushing your cat and cleaning their ears and face. Secondly, your cat bonds with other cats through grooming, and no, I’m not telling you to lick your cat (gross), but brushing them and cleaning their ears and faces is the next best thing. Here are my tips for how to help clean your cat.

Brush Your Cat’s Fur

You really aren’t a cat owner until you’ve stepped in can vomit (happened to me today) or screamed at your cat for pooping on the floor but when you clean it you realize it’s a hairball (sorry, Vito!). Or my personal fave, when you step in a hairball vomit pile on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark! So fun.

Now, you can’t totally eliminate hairballs or shedding, but you can help both by brushing your cat at least once a week. Most of them (even aggressive ones I’ve fostered), absolutely love to be brushed (I think it’s almost a polite way of touching them by using a tool and not your hand). In the winter, I find cats really like to be brushed because the air is drier and their skin gets itchy.

White cat brush
Every time I brush Dolly, I get a pile of fur. She has fluffy bunny-like fur that gets EVERYWHERE.

Also, if you have a long-haired cat, you need to frequently brush them. They can get knots around their neck and butt. If you can’t brush them out, it’s okay to cut the knots out. Trust me, your long-haired kitty won’t mind.

Jessebelle has beautiful long hair that needs to be brushed frequently to prevent knots.
Pet brush
My old school FurBuster brush. Purple of course:-)

I got a FurBuster way back in the day, and they don’t make this one anymore. You can get some similar ones, like this one.

Brush & Monitor Your Cat’s Health

While brushing, keep an eye out for:

  • Cuts, scratches, or wounds of any kind. A small spot isn’t a big deal, but if there’s an open wound, hair loss, strange smell, or puss, go to the vet.
  • Black flecks or red moving spots. Black flecks could be flea dirt aka flea poop, and the red spots could be fleas. Treat your cat for fleas. Only use prescribed flea meds from your vet. OTC flea meds are not as effective because they’ve been out for a while and many fleas are resistant.
  • A rash. This could be ANYTHING – fungal (like ringworm), allergies, or your cat could be self harming or over grooming. See your vet.
  • As you brush, pet your cat. See if you feel any lumps. If you find any, don’t overreact. It could be a cyst, but you will feel better knowing so (you guessed it) – go to the vet.

Clean Your Cat’s Ears

You’ve probably heard you should never clean your cat’s ears. This isn’t true. I clean my male cats’ ears at least once a week because they both have wax issues. Like a person, a wax buildup can be uncomfortable. If you look in their ear and don’t see anything, don’t clean it.

Don’t dig in their ears. Don’t be an idiot. You will hurt them. If you were cleaning your ears, or a kid’s ears, you wouldn’t stick a cotton tip all the way into the ear. Same idea here. Clean the visible parts of the ear, closest to the outside. Use a tissue or cotton swap to clean the ear. No digging. Just wipe. My cats actually like it.

Just wipe the inside part that you can see with a cotton swab.

Clean Your Cat’s Ears & Monitor Health

All wax is brown, and just because you see wax doesn’t mean your cat has something wrong. Here’s what to look for:

  • Thick, excessive coffee-ground-ish wax (yeah, its gross). Get it checked out. It could be ear mites or something else.
  • A gross smell. It could be a yeast infection which needs to be treated. Go to the vet.
  • Anything moving. I’ve never seen that and hope I never do, but there should be NOTHING alive and moving living in your cat’s ears. Vet visit!

Wipe Your Cat’s Face

Eye boogies, nose boogies, chin acne – it all should be cleaned up. All you need is a damp tissue or paper towel, or even a dry tissue does the trick. Chin acne often comes from cats rubbing their chin on bowls. Keep your bowls clean and try to use porcelain or stainless steel.

Wipe Your Cat’s Face & Monitor Health

You also need to monitor eyes, ears, mouth and chin to make sure they aren’t something else:

  • Sometimes ringworm looks like acne, so if you wipe your cat’s chin, you see black spots and nothing happens when you wipe it, it could be ringworm or some other skin condition. Also, flea poop is black, so if you see a lot of black flecks, it could be fleas. Another thing to look for is bald spots on the face. That could also be ringworm (ringworm is a fungus, not a worm, so it’s slightly less disgusting than you’re imagining).
kitten with ringworm on nose
That bald area on this kitten’s nose is a fungus called ringworm. It’s harmless but highlight contagious (to humans too).
  • For the nose and eyes: Cats with chronic herpes (like my cat Beaker below), often have watery eyes and boogery noses constantly. Herpes for cats is a kitty cold, and some of them just have ongoing cold symptoms (kind of how some of us have disastrous sinuses all winter). Keep all areas clean to keep the herpes symptoms in check. You will help your cat’s airway stay clear and keep other germs from settling down.
gray cat with runny eyes
You’ll see moisture in the corners of Beaker’s eyes. This is one of the signs of chronic herpes symptoms aka chronic kitty cold symptoms.
  • Look in the eyes for any spots. A whiteish spot my be nothing or something more serious. Ulcers are raised bumps that can be very painful to cats and dogs. Get any growths checked out.
  • Keep an eye on your cat’s teeth. A build up of tartar can lean to other problems. Your vet should check this at your annual appointment, but it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on things too. If you see any black spots, consult your vet.

Cleaning Is Caring

Don’t forget, outside of monitoring your cat, it’s so important to strengthen your bond. Grooming is extremely important to them. Clean your cat and make it part of an ongoing routine and you’ll improve your relationship, and keep an eye out for anything gross.

Anxious Cat? Try Solliquin.

I use a supplement called Solliquin for one of my fosters, Lucy, and it has changed her life. I’ve done a bunch of research to understand how and why it works. Take a look at my last blog post to see my breakdown.

By LizsKittyBootCamp

Hi, I'm Liz, and I'm a cat behaviorist who provides advice and insights on cat behavior.

2 replies on “Tips for Cleaning Your Cat’s Fur, Ears, Eyes & More”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.