Applying Ear Drops to Cats
By Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM

In order to properly treat inflammatory or infectious ear conditions, topical ear medications are often necessary. Some cats will tolerate the administration of liquids or ointments in their ears while others may become irritable or upset. Remember that your cat's ear condition may be painful and that even a gentle and passive cat may respond by struggling, biting, or scratching. Until the medication begins to control the problem and ease the discomfort, you may need to wrap your cat securely in a towel or blanket in order to apply the medication.

"Your cat's ears may be painful and even a gentle and passive cat may respond by struggling, biting, or scratching."

Make sure you have carefully read the medication’s label and understand the instructions, including the amount of medication you should apply and how often, and then follow the step-by-step procedure outlined below.

If your cat needs her ears cleaned before ear drops are applied, see the handout "Instructions for Ear Cleaning in Cats".


  • If the medication is refrigerated, you may be able to warm it up by placing the container in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Be sure to ask your veterinarian if this is acceptable before warming any medication. Do not microwave the medication.
  • Hold the cat securely in your lap. It may be advisable to restrain the cat by wrapping it in a blanket or towel with only its head exposed. The first few times you apply the ear medications it may be helpful to have someone else hold the wrapped cat while you apply the drops.
  • Draw up the liquid into the dropper, if necessary. Hold the applicator or bottle between the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand. Use this same hand to rest your cat's jaw on your palm.
  • Use your remaining hand to hold open the ear canal.
  • Apply the prescribed dose of medication into the ear canal slowly.
  • Gently massage the base of the ear in a circular motion. Be cautious and calm. Some cats may not allow you to do this. If this is the case, do not force your cat to endure the ear canal massage. You should hear a squishing sound as you massage the medication deep into the ear canal.ear_drops_cat_2
  • Release the ear and allow your cat shake its head. If the medication contains a wax solvent, it will dissolve the debris. When your cat shakes its head the debris in the ear canal (dark material) will shake out of the ear. You may gently wipe out any accumulated debris from the ear flap with a tissue or ball of cotton.

Remember that your cat's ear(s) may be very painful and that your cat may respond by scratching or biting. Use caution and patience when treating your cat's ear(s).

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