Fear Free veterinary training tip: Feline ear cleaning
Mikkel Becker is the lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. She is a certified behavior consultant and trainer who specializes in reward-based training thats partnered closely with the pets veterinary team. Mikkel is the co-author of six books, including From Fearful to Fear Free, and was the featured trainer on Vetstreet.com.
Gentle conditioning to the procedure will get cats on board, says Mikkel Becker, CPDT.
During the CVC Special Insights Seminar on low-stress techniques at CVC Kansas City (now Fetch dvm360 conference), Mikkel Becker, CPDT, showed attendees how to get cats to think it's no big deal to have their ears cleaned.
To start, warm up your kitty patients by petting them while introducing the reward item. Here Becker used spray cheese on a tongue depressor. After the cat is comfortable with petting, introduce the item you'll use to clean the ears, such as a cotton wipe. Let the cat look at the wipe as you mark the behavior, and offer reward them as the cat adjusts to the wipe.
From there, while still offering rewards, you can gently start to simulate wiping the cat's ears, moving from farther out on the head and neck and closer to the ears. If the cat is really fearful, stay at the level where they feel comfortable and gradually move to touching the ears, using brief touches of the cotton wipe.
After you've conditioned the cat to this process, they kitty won't think it's weird and scary to have you or their pet parent, touching their ears.