As part of the ongoing joys of being a pet owner, I regularly clean out my cats’ ears. I’ve got the procedure down pat and it rarely takes very long – a few swipes of a Q-tip and I’m done. The cats tolerate it fairly well, especially since I give treats before and after. They’ll do anything for a treat.

I was cleaning out Fearless’ ears, always a hassle since that are as fluffy as the rest of her, and things were going smoothly. I had finished the right ear and was nearly done with the left when Fearless decided to shake her head. I pulled the Q-tip away so that she wouldn’t hurt herself, and saw that the cotton tip was missing.

Oh, shit.

I had my hand on Fearless’ shoulders to hold her still, so I clamped down at once. She had her ear folded down and was vigorously shaking her head. I managed to hold her head still and peer into her ear – I could just see a tuft of white sticking up. I couldn’t grab it with my fingers, so I picked the cat up and headed to the bathroom to get my tweezers.

Fearless, who is usually a fairly placid cat, was beginning to panic. Totally understandable in the circumstances, she could feel this thing in her ear and all she wanted to do was get it out. I was afraid if I let her go that she would run off to a hiding place and start scratching at her ear, possibly pushing it further into the ear canal, so I was fumbling around with her tucked under my arm like a very large football while I looked for my tweezers and a small flashlight. This was the easy part.

Once I found my tweezers, I had to figure out a way to hold Fearless immobile while I plucked the cotton from her ear. This involved me sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor with her in my lap and more or less wrapping my body around hers with a flashlight held in my teeth. I flipped back her ear and carefully plucked the cotton out like it was an errant eyebrow hair, checking to make sure it was the whole tip and that no stray bits were still in the ear. I released Fearless, who promptly sat down and scratched her ear before accepting the treats I offered. I watched her for a bit to make sure she wasn’t exhibiting any signs that there was something left in her ear – head-shaking, scratching, that kind of thing – but I figured she was fine when she curled up to take a nap. I guess she had a hard night.