Outer Ear Infection Symptoms in Cats

If you suspect that your cat has an outer ear infection, then there are some things to keep in mind. 

The Symptoms of an Outer Ear Infection

There are several symptoms of a cat outer ear infection:

  • Rubbing or scratching. If your cat has an ear infection, chances are it is going to try to make that problem better by rubbing or scratching at its ear. 
  • Redness. With these infections, the outer area of the ear and the canal can become red from irritation. 
  • Swollen. It can also cause your cat's ear to become swollen from the infection. 
  • Odors. An infected ear will possess an odor that is not pleasant. 
  • Discharge. An infected ear is likely to leak fluid.
  • Shaking of the head. As another attempt to try to make the pain and discomfort go away, your cat may shake its head around. This is to try to get the infection out. 
  • Pain. Like any infection, outer ear infections cause pain. Your cat's ear will likely be very painful and thus very tender if touched or bothered. 

The Symptoms of It Being Something Else

With cats, there are two other types of ear infections: middle ear infections and inner ear infections. There are some symptoms that a cat will display only if it has one of these, but not the outer ear infection.

For middle ear infections, you will notice: 

  • Facial paralysis
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing

For inner ear infections, you will notice: 

  • Tilted head
  • Loss of balance
  • A tendency to wander around in circles

The Causes of Outer Ear Infections

There are a few things that can cause outer ear infections. With kittens, most of the time this will be caused by ear mites. With both kittens and adult cats, though, there can be other causes, such as: 

  • Something in ear, such as water or a foreign material
  • Allergies
  • Abnormal ear conformation
  • Skin disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Tumors
  • Trauma

Most outer ear infections are a result of an infection, be it fungal, bacterial or the result of a parasite. 


Outer ear infections can be treated in a variety of ways. 

  • Cleansing. If the ear infection is a simple one, it can often be helped by flushing out the ear. This can require sedation, however, depending upon how much pain your cat is in and how cooperative it is to the process. 
  • Antibiotics. For bacterial and fungal infections, a round of antibiotics can be given to clear the problem up. 
  • Topical medications. Depending upon what manner of infection has caused the outer ear infection, creams may be required to clear it up. This will also require some patience and a gentle touch, as your cat likely won't enjoy you having to touch his ear while applying the cream.
  • Allergy medication. If the infection is a result of allergies, then anti-allergic medication can be given. 

Of course, with any of these, your cat can also be given medication to help reduce the swelling and the pain that is associated with the infections.