Ear hair on a cat can be incredibly cute. While it can give your cat a kind of quirky mad professor look, a cat’s ear hair has a surprisingly important job. But because it can look overgrown or messy, cat owners often wonder if it’s safe to trim. Quite often though, this can do more harm than good.
Cats have two types of ear hair. This includes ear tufts, which pedigree cats tend to have, and hair furnishings. Ideally, a cat’s ear hair should never be cut. This is because it’s essential in preventing debris from entering the ear canal and can help a cat keep its balance. However, if done safely, you can trim a cat’s excess ear hair using blunt scissors.
Knowing how to trim a cat’s ear hair, if you should at all, is important. Without proper grooming and care, cats can develop sores and infections inside their ear canal. Not only is this painful, but it can impede a cat’s balance or lead to other health issues. While this is the worst-case scenario, it’s best to be prepared by knowing how to care for a cat’s ear hair.
Table of Contents:
Why Do Cats Have Long Ear Hair?
Ear hair falls into two categories: ear tufts and cat hair furnishings. It’s easy to get the two confused, so it’s a good idea to be able to distinguish the two.
Ear tufts are also known as lynx tips. They are the fur that grows from the tips of the ears. Only certain breeds of cat have ear tufts. This includes the Main Coon, the Norwegian and Siberian Forest cat, and the Highlander (amongst others).
Ear furnishings are the inner hairs that can be found inside the ears of cats. They’re incredibly important, as they help prevent particles and debris from entering into the ear and down the canals. They also filter sound into a cat’s eats, as explained in a journal published on NCBI.
A cat’s ear hair covers the pinnae, which is essential for collecting sound and directing it into the external ear canal.
Should I Cut My Cat’s Ear Hair?
Overall ear grooming is vital. In Science Direct, clinically normal cats in northern Greece had their ears studied for signs of a mite infestation. The rate of mite infestation was higher with the presence of ear discharge and acne-like lesions. Without proper care and attention, ears in poor health can lead to worse problems later on.
When it comes to trimming ear tufts, however, it’s frowned upon. They’re too important for keeping dirt, mites, and other nasties out of the ears.
Ear tufts show off your cat’s unique personality too, showcasing the special traits of its breed and distinguishing them from other cats. And if you exhibit your cat at shows, judges will almost certainly want to see these ear tufts as a sign of its pedigree.
Ear furnishings on the other hand can be trimmed, but only on the very-most tip and if done safely. Safety is really important here as a cat’s ears are incredibly delicate. A slip of the hand could easily lead to your cat being injured, which could be painful and will almost certainly require veterinarian attention.
It’s important to note that groomers don’t tend to cut the hairs that are inside or protruding from the ear as they’re simply too important for a cat’s overall wellbeing.
It’s also important to consider that a cat’s ear canal features a self-cleaning mechanism. They’re very sensitive and can easily develop irritant reactions. The ear hair should only really be trimmed if it’s causing irritation or has been heavily infested with mites. Try to seek some advice first, before you attempt anything.
How to Get Cat Hair Out of Ears?
Before you start tidying up your cat’s ear hairs, it’s a good idea to carry out a quick and gentle clean. Have a look inside to see if you can see any obvious issues. This includes dirt lodged in the ears, excessive wax, sores, discharge, redness, or inflammation.
Check for any unpleasant odors too. This is usually a sign that something’s wrong. You may also find mites. They’re not too hard to spot and will look like small, black dots. Where mites are present, you’ll likely find a smelly reddish/brown discharge. It tends to be very itchy, so cats will usually scratch their ears if they have an ear mite infestation, alerting you that something’s not quite right.
If you find any of these, don’t attempt to cut your cat’s ear hair and instead, consult your vet as soon as you can.
Another good recommendation is to take your cat to a groomer or have a groomer visit you in your own home if your cat doesn’t like to be placed in a transportation box or carrier. A groomer is a trained expert and will know exactly what to do without risk of injury. They’ll also advice if trimming the hair on your cat’s ears is the wrong thing to do.
However, if that’s not an option then it’s viable to give your cat’s ear hair a trim yourself. Don’t cut too much off – only the tiniest amount required.
Tools You’ll Need
- Blunt scissors. Your cat’s hair will be fine so a blunt pair will be safer than one that’s sharp.
- Small flea comb.
- Cotton wool balls.
- Alcohol-free ear cleaner.
- Gently comb through the ear hair with a flea comb to break up any wax or debris.
- Dampen a cotton ball with an alcohol-free ear cleaner. Wipe the hair gently until the debris comes off onto the cotton ball. Do not use cotton swabs as they can push wax or debris further into the ear canal.
- Take the blunt scissors and gently trim the parts of your hair that need to come off. Be careful not to take off more than you need to.
One last thing to mention is that it’s not advisable to use an ear cleaner that contains tea tree oil, essential oils, or benzoyl peroxide. All of these are toxic to cats.
The reality is though, that there’s usually no real need to cut off a cat’s ear hair. While many owners may deem it as unsightly or too long, this is a cosmetic issue – the health of your cat should come first. Cutting off too much ear hair will no doubt cause problems, so it’s rarely worth the risk.
And if you do spot any obvious signs of discomfort or pain inside the ear, you need to consult with your vet. Let them tackle the issue – don’t attempt to solve it yourself.
Does Cat Ear Hair Grow Back?
A cat’s ear hair is just like any other type of hair and will eventually grow back if cut. The rate at which will vary depending on your cat’s breed, age, and lifestyle. Given time, the hair will return to its original length, or it may even grow longer.
Ear hair can sometimes fall out as your cat grows older too. Many Persian cats begin life with very long ear hair that often looks too long compared to the size of their head. As they grow older and their heads and ears get slightly larger, the ear hair becomes proportionate to their size.
However, there are many factors may cause a cat’s ear hair to not grow back at all. This is usually the case if you cut too much off your cat’s ear hair, or if there are underlying issues that are not treated before you give the ear hair a trim.
Scientifically known as Otodectes cynotis, ear mites can be troublesome for your cat. They often cause severe itching, which will lead your cat to scratch their ears, resulting in hair loss. Ear mites can be easily transferred from cat to cat, so they need to be dealt with straight away.
Mite infestations can also cause mange. This is where the skin becomes covered in a grayish-yellow crust that is itchy. Mange will almost always lead to hair loss and is a really unpleasant condition for your cat to bear.
Ear hair is essential in protecting the ear canal from parasites. Cats with fewer hairs inside their ears will be more susceptible to infestation.
The saliva from a flea bite can cause a reaction that makes your cat itch. If a flea has bitten your cat around its ears or head, your pet may rub against surfaces or try to itch its ears to offer itself some relief. Ear hair is particularly vulnerable to loss when your cat reacts in this way.
There are shampoos and treatments that can help relieve itching and kill fleas. Many are available to purchase over the counter but seek advice from your vet first as they can tailor the product to your cat’s specific needs.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that lives in hair follicles, feeding on a cat’s dead cells. It’s incredibly contagious, and you’ll often find crusty patches around the ears or anywhere else it has affected. Ringworm often leaves bald spots and again, can cause extreme itchiness in cats.
Allergies, whether caused by food or other factors, can cause hair loss, intense itching, and oozing sores around the ears. Cats who suffer from allergies will often lose hair around their ears first, as this is usually the first place your cat will start to itch.
Finding the cause of the allergy is important. Food trials to discover the allergy and treatments are needed to help your cat feel well once again.
Many cats don’t enjoy being groomed. In fact, it can cause a great deal of stress in cats who don’t like being touched or don’t like the sounds of the tools being too close to their ears. This can, in rare cases, lead to a lack of hair growth once the ear hair has been trimmed.
Stressed cats will cry out, kick, run away and hide, and do anything to get away from the grooming table. If your cat appears anxious and agitated when they undergo any form of grooming, it’s worth considering whether it’s better to leave your cat’s ear hair as it is.
If you’re choosing to cut your cat’s hair for aesthetic reasons, your cat won’t appreciate any of the benefits and may start to distrust you. While cats can be forgiving, it’s well worth thinking about to avoid these problems.