Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites in cats are a common problem for kittens but can occur at any age. The mites, known as otodectes cynotis, can infect multiple mammals including cats and dogs and can be found anywhere on the animal's body but are usually found in the ear canal. Ear mites feed on debris, wax and skin lining the ear canal, causing pain, inflammation and discomfort in your cat. Treatment is simple but should be addressed early on to prevent further health issues, such as infection or deafness.

Symptoms of Ear Mites

Ear mites can lead to hearing loss if left untreated, so early recognition of symptoms if essential to preventing serious health issues. Signs that your cat has a mite infestation will depend on the severity of the mites, but owners should look for signs like:

  • Scratching, chewing and pawing at the head, neck and face
  • The appearance of something that looks like coffee grounds, which is actually dried blood, in the ear canal
  • Discharge in the ear, often reddish or brown in color
  • Head shaking
  • Odor from the ear
  • Secretions in the ear, often caused by an infection (a common secondary symptom of ear mites)

Ear mites are very contagious and can be transmitted between cats or cats and dogs. Because the mites can live outside the ear, transmission may occur if the mites are on a cat's leg or feet and then become transmitted to the ear while the cat is curled up sleeping or scratching at the ear.

Ear Mites Treatment

If you suspect your cat has ear mites bring him to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Your vet will examine the ear, which may require sedation if the infestation is causing too much pain, the ears have a large blockage or your pet isn't cooperating. Once the vet has established that the mites are present, he or she may prescribe a medication containing ivermectin to kill the ear mites.

Treatments with fipronil and selamectin may also be recommended to prevent and paralyze and kill mites present on the body, including the tail, rump, legs or feet. Secondary bacterial or yeast infections will most likely be treated with an antibiotic. Revolution is also effective in treating and preventing ear mites along with other parasites like fleas, ticks and worms.

Preventing Ear Mites

Due to the highly contagious nature of ear mites, households with multiple pets should consider treating each cat or dog in the home if a single animal becomes infected. Ear mites feed on debris and wax in the ear canal, making cat hygiene an important factor in preventing mite infestations.

If you are inspecting or cleaning your cat's ears, do not try to clean out the ear canal with a Q-tip or cotton ball by pushing into the ear canal; this will most likely push debris and wax further into the ear, possibly causing pain, discomfort, blockages and harm to the ear drum and lining of the canal. Washing your cat's ear with a vet-approved product can prevent infestations and infections.