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What To Do For Ear Mites In Cats

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What Problems Can Result From An Ear Mite Infection

The scratching can become intense and because a cats hind claws are so sharp, the constant scratching can abrade and lacerate the ears, cheeks and neck as the cat endeavors to alleviate the discomfort. The scratching can also cause an aural hematoma to develop. This is a blood-filled blister that develops on the earflap. The scratching damages blood vessels inside the ear. Subsequently, leakage of blood from these vessels between the skin and cartilage of the earflap causes a large, soft, blood-blister to develop. If left untreated, a mite infestation can lead to further infections with bacteria or yeasts. The infection can also damage the eardrum and enter the inner ear.

Watch For Scratching Or Shaking

  • Ear mites lead to irritation, and so the cat scratches repeatedly at an ear using a back paw or frequently shaking off its head.
  • The cats claws can break the skin surface, causing additional soreness and thus bacterial infections.
  • A cat which suffers from ear mites for a long period of time develops inflammatory polyps in ear canals, and blood blisters on ear flaps because of constant rubbing and scratching.
  • In addition, the external ear can be inflamed and thus produce pus, or the cats eardrum can be torn, leading to balance issues and other problems which need professional veterinary assistance.

How To Keep Ear Mites From Returning

To make sure no ear mites are hanging out in kittys fur, your veterinarian can also recommend a parasite preventive to help keep the bugs away for next time and make sure any other ear-mite hitchhikers have been taken care of. After prescribing your cats specific treatment plan, your veterinarian may also want to see your feline friend back for a checkup in a week or two to make sure all the bugs are gone for good.

Creepy Crawlies: Cats And Ear Mites

This Halloween, you may think spiders and worms are the creepiest pests around, but cats have a whole other idea of what creeps them out: microscopic parasites that crawl into their ears and make themselves at home. This might sound like something out of a horror film, but its a common occurrence for cats ear mites!

Heartworm Treatment For Cats

How Do Indoor Cats Get Ear Mites?

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available for heartworm disease in cats. The treatment for dogs with heartworm disease is potentially fatal to cats and is rarely if ever administered. Veterinarians will often recommend getting your cat on heartworm prevention to help prevent future infections.

Surgery to remove heartworms is rarely done but may be recommended in severe cases. Unfortunately, surgery is risky; many cats will die during the procedure or recovery period.

Supportive care is generally recommended for cats with heartworm disease. Your vet may prescribe some medications to treat symptoms and others to reduce inflammation caused by the heartworms. Routine monitoring is also important to assess the cat’s lungs and overall health. Heartworms typically only live for two to three years in cats . If the cat can outlive the heartworms, there may be residual chronic lung disease.

What Are Ear Mites And What Causes Them

Ear mites are creatures that resemble tiny spiders and they live in your pets ear, feeding on her blood and the tissue of the ear canal to survive. Once they reach adulthood they can reproduce, causing more and more mites to appear. While it is possible for just one ear to be infected, in most cases an animal will experience ear mites in both ears at the same time.

Ear mites are contracted from the environment in which your pet lives or visits. Often, they attach to your furbaby when she passes through heavily grassed or wooded areas, clinging onto her when she brushes past. However, since they are very easily passed between animals, if your cat or dog comes into contact with an infected animal on the street, in the groomers or kennels, or even your local veterinary offices in Castle Rock, CO, she could become infected with ear mites too. 

Many people worry if ear mites can be passed to humans. However, this is not the case. Ear mites can only be transferred between cats, dogs and ferrets. They also do not live long without a host. 

Fast Facts About Ear Mites In Cats:

  • Ear mites are extremely tiny and not always visible to the naked eye, so a vet will have to examine your cats ears with a special instrument known as an otoscope to confirm their presence.
  • A secondary infection can result if the ear mite infestation is not treated. The sooner you bring your cat to the vet, the better. Your family pet health provider will check the cats ears and may examine the discharge from the ears under a microscope.
  • Other animals can catch ear mites from a cat, but humans cannot.
  • The ear mite life cycle from eggs to adult takes about 21 days. From the time your cat becomes infected to the time the ear mites reach maturity, your kitty might be infested with hundreds or thousands of mites. A quick visit to the vet and prompt treatment is the best solution.
  • Tell us: Have you ever battled ear mites in cats? What worked in treating them?

    This piece was originally published in 2009. 

    Thumbnail: Photography by Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock.

    Can Ear Mites In Cats Be Prevented

    Mites can be prevented by appropriate anti-parasitic treatments. You should speak to your vet about which product they recommend and whether your cats usual flea treatment covers ear mites. Its important to keep your cats indoor environment as clean as possible, especially if they have been treated for mites in the past.

    Ask your vet whether they recommend ear cleaning in your cat. This is not necessary for most individuals, but may be appropriate if they have a history of regular ear problems. If youre not sure how to clean a cats ears, check out our easy guide, and make sure a vet or vet nurse has shown you what to do.

    Cat Ear Discharge: Common Causes

    When your cats ears are healthy, theyre pink and clean inside, have no smell, have very little or no wax, and seem able to detect the sound of a can opener from a mile away.

    When your feline friend has ear problems, you may notice a much different kitty. Symptoms of ear problems in cats include pawing at the ears, sensitivity to touch, a large amount of cream colored, orange, dark brown, or black wax; hearing loss; head tilting or shaking; and loss of balance. The most common causes of ear discharge in cats include:

    • Ear mites . So tiny you usually need a microscope to see them, ear mites are the most common cause of cat ear problems, and they can be very irritating to your cat. An ear mite infestation can get so bad, that along with a lot of head shaking, your cat may scratch hard enough to create bloody sores; an ear infection may result.
    • Ear infections. This is serious business. Ear infections are not only extremely uncomfortable for your cat, but if left untreated they can lead to permanent deafness or a need for surgery. Ear infections in cats can be caused by a number of things, including a piece of debris caught in their ear canal, wax buildup in the ear canal, allergies to food or pollen, autoimmune diseases, thick hair in the ear canal, a ruptured eardrum, drug reactions, tumors or polyps in the ear canal, and environmental irritants.


    Check Your Other Animals

    • If you have more than one pet and you, therefore, suspect that one of them has ear mites, then you should ensure that you check all of their ears.
    • This is due to the fact that ear mites spread easily between the animals if they sleep together or even groom each other.
    • If you only treat the affected animal, then it can be that other pets are harboring the parasite but dont indicate any signs, and might thus act as a reservoir for a re-infection.
    • If one pet is having ear mites, then it is likely that you are required to treat all the pets in the house so as to do away with an infection.

    How Do Ear Mites Look

    There are a lot of types of ear mites in cats and dogs and humans. The most common one is Otodectes cynotis, an eight-legged crab-like ear mite. Although theyre invisible to the naked eye, you can see them under a microscope or with a special tool called an otoscope, usually used by a vet.

    Ear mites have a life cycle of three weeks. During this time, they consume large amounts of ear wax and ear oils and try their best to reproduce like crazy. Its when they have a stable source of food and good shelter that they multiply immensely.

    When this happens, you still cant see traces of an ear mite infestation, but its there. Because there are so many mites feeding off of your cats wax and oils, an ear mite infection may start to develop. Its important to treat ear mites at this point so the infections dont get too bad.

    You might have noticed that cats with ear mites usually have a black or dark-brown discharge clogging up their ear canals. This debris you see isnt an ear mite colony, but rather discharge from the ear infections. As soon as you see it, youll recognize it. It looks oddly similar to coffee grounds.

    Are Ear Mites In Cats Contagious

    Ear mites in cats are not just found in ears. This parasite may travel all over the cats body. Ear mites they are very contagious. Without treatment, your cats ear mite infestation might spread to family dog or hamsters. All the family pets can be treated if the mites are found on just one animal.

    Thats just another reason why a trip to the local veterinarian or even a pet health care clinic is supposed to be scheduled if you suspect ear mites in cats.

    Parasites are just one cause of cat otitis. Other causes are allergies, endocrine diseases and tumors. Only a trip to your vet will give you with a proper diagnosis.

    How Are Ear Mites Diagnosed

    How Can I Treat My Cat

    The vet will examine your cats ear canal for any signs of mites using an otoscope. They will look for signs of inflammation, swelling and discharge. The vet will also be looking for other causes of the ear problem such as a foreign body like a grass seed.

    Sometimes your cats ears are too sore for them to sit still during the examination, and they may need to be sedated for the diagnosis and initial treatment. A microscopic examination of the ear discharge is commonly performed to look for mites and to check for other types of infection.


    Symptoms Of Cat Ear Mites

    As weve mentioned, the best course of action is to address the ear mite in cats problem as soon as possible. This is the only way to prevent nasty ear infections from developing.

    In order to catch the ear mite problem in time, youll need to know what the symptoms of an ear infestation are.

    Head shaking is a very good sign that your cat has an ear mite infestation. They will also try to scratch the inside of their ears and even their ear canal with their paws or by rubbing up against hard surfaces. Cats do this because the ear mites are a source of itching and shaking their heads and scratching their ears alleviates this feeling.

    How Do I Prevent My Cat From Getting Ear Mites

    Ear mites are a very common problem in cats, particularly in kittens.  If your cats ears appear red, inflamed or irritated, or you see waxy debris inside their ears, consult with your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment options.

    Ear mites are transmitted through social interaction with other infected cats, which can include grooming, sleeping and playing together.  All cats should be checked regularly for any signs of ear mites.

    Ear mites can be successfully treated with a number of medications. Because ear mites are contagious, all pets in the household should be treated for ear mites. Your veterinarian can provide assistance in choosing the most effective treatment for your cats and other pets.

    Facts You Need To Know About How To Get Rid Of Ear Mites In Cats

    Sometimes it feels like treating ear mites is a hard and daunting task. But were firm believers that knowledge is power and that the more you know, the easier it will be to kill ear mites.

  • There are many, many kinds of mites out there. Scientists have identified more than 30,000 species of mites and are still looking into 450,000 more.
  • Its not just the Otodectes cynotis that affects our beloved pets. The Sarcoptes mite caused sarcoptic mange in dogs, while the Demodex mites cause demodectic mange.
  • If you suspect your cat has ear mites, bring them to the veterinarian so they can check for the presence of the parasite with an otoscope.
  • A consequence of having ear mites is developing infections in the middle ear and in the outer ear. Because mites reproduce very fast, its important to get rid of them very quickly.
  • Although also parasites, fleas are nothing like ear mites. What works in killing fleas should never, ever be used to exterminate ear mites.
  • How To Get Rid Of Ear Mites In Cats


    Before seeking treatment for your cat, it is important to be certain that they are indeed suffering an ear mites infestation. This can be done by looking out for the symptoms indicated below. Where you are not certain, always seek direction from your veterinarian to ensure the best is done for the cat.

    What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has Ear Mites

    Since ear mites can be hard to see and may not be the only reason for inflammation or damage to a cat’s ear, it’s best to have your cat checked out by a veterinarian for a professional diagnosis.

    Your vet will look for the hard-to-see small, white critters through a microscope or a magnifying scope that veterinarians and physicians use to look into ears. Another way your vet might identify ear mites is by placing a sample on a dark, well-lit background and using a magnifying glass to look for the moving white specks.

    Cat Ear Infection: Ear Mite Treatment For Cats

    Now that you know all there is to know about mites, you can move on to the stage of the treatment of ear mites. The first step is to go to the vet, but well go over the most common procedures recommended.

    First of all, there are cat ear mites products that vets prescribe cat owners. They can be directly applied to the ear or the medication is applied on the skin.

    Secondly, if your cats ears are too clogged up by the coffee-grounds-like debris, you should clean them. You can do this by using rubbing alcohol on a ball of cotton or on a q-tip.

    There are also some ear drops that your vet may prescribe that will help to clear up the infestation. If your cat has developed infections because of the mites, then antibiotics are recommended.

    How To Treat Your Cat For Ear Mites

    Ear mites are the most common cause of ear infections in cats.

    These microscopic, white parasites live on the surface ear canal, but sometimes can migrate to other parts of the body like the head and neck. Ear mites feed off dirt, wax and tissue fluid in your felines ears. Beyond the obvious physical discomfort to your pet, untreated ear mite infestations can cause ear inflammation, bacterial and fungal infections. Severe cases can lead to hearing loss or ear damage from scratching, so prompt treatment is important.


    • Depending on the severity of the infection, frequent scratching and head shaking are two common signs that your cat may be infected. Some cats are more bothered by ear mites than others.
    • Mites also stimulate the wax producing glands inside the ear canal. The result is a black, crusty build-up in the ears that resembles coffee grounds. This discharge is made of blood, wax, debris, and mites themselves. In some cases, this crust can thicken enough to block the ear canal.
    • If you think your cat is infected, then your vet can easily diagnose the problem using a magnifying otoscope. Your vet will be able to see them moving about in the ear or on a slide. A professional diagnosis is also a good idea, since ear mites are not the only cause of feline ear infections.

    Treatment: Otodectes cynotic is the common cat ear mite.


    How Long Does It Take To Get Rid Of Ear Mites In Cats

    What Do Ear Mites Look Like On Cats

    The life cycle of an ear mite usually lasts three weeks which means that you should wait at least that long for your cat can be rid of the microscopic insects. The itchiness should start to subside as the medication takes effect, but you should contact your vet if your cats symptoms dont improve.


    How To Get Rid Of Ear Mites In A Cat

    This article was co-authored by Ray Spragley, DVM. Dr. Ray Spragley is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and the Owner/Founder of Zen Dog Veterinary Care PLLC in New York. With experience in multiple institutions and private practices, Dr. Spragleys specializations and interests include non-surgical management of cranial cruciate ligament tears, Intervertebral Disk Disease, and pain management in osteoarthritis. Dr. Spragley holds a BS in Biology from SUNY Albany and has a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is also a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist through the Canine Rehab Institute as well as a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist through Chi University.There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 18 testimonials and 100% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 988,932 times.

    Where Did The Ear Mites Come From

    It can be extremely frustrating when you have absolutely no idea where the infestation came from in the first place. Not only will finding the source satisfy your natural curiosity, but it will also help to put you in a position where you can keep your cat away from these potentially problematic situations. If you have an outdoor cat, they could have got them from typical rural areas like barns, lawns, gardens, etc. They can also be passed between felines, so a mother may pass them onto their kittens as they are spending so much time in close proximity with one another. There is also a possibility that the mites have been passed along through close interaction with other animals. If your cats ears are generally unclean and there is a build-up of wax, this creates an environment where the ear mites are more likely to survive and thrive. However, one thing that should put your mind at ease is that cats rarely transmit their mites to humans as we are immune from them.

    How Did My Cat Get Ear Mites

    Ear mites are highly contagious, so there are a variety of ways your cat could have caught them. Ear mites can travel from the ears of an infected cat to any other cats in close contact. Outdoor cats are more prone to catch them from other cats while wrestling around or snuggling , but indoor cats can also catch them from the toys or bedding of other infected cats. Mites are very prevalent in kittens and shelter cats, so any time you adopt a new cat be sure to check their ears immediately for ear mites. Its best to bring a newly-adopted cat in for a checkup as soon as you can.

    Home Remedies For Ear Mites In Cats

    1.      Cleaning Bedding and Cages

    One of the things that are supposed to be done is cleaning the cages that your cats have access to. You will be required to wash and dry any bedding that your cats sleep on since the ear mites in cats were discovered.

    Additionally, you might as well make sure to bleach so as to sanitize the hard surfaces that the cat has access to.

    Vacuuming a home every other day while your cat has ear mites is also important. This is true if you have the carpet, drapes, and soft furniture.

    2.      Directly Applying a Garlic and Olive Oil Mixture

    The anti-bacterial properties of garlic, when combined with moisturizing effects of olive oil, can provide a gentle healing agent for scabby ears. Also, the olive oil can smother any available ear mites in cats.

    Required Ingredients:

    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
    • Dropper
    • Peel and then chop the cloves of the garlic.
    • Add them to a small dish and cover using warmed olive oil.
    • Let the mixture sit for about 12 hours
    • After the 12 hours, take the dropper and then collect several drops for use in cats ears.
    • Directly apply 5 of the drops into ears and massage the base of the ear so as to allow the mixture spread to each area of the ear.
    • Repeat once a day for a period of 24 days.

    3.      Directly Applying Honey

    The naturally occurring properties of honey are very wonderful for the healing of any tears brought about by the scratching due to ear mites in cats.

    Required Ingredients:


    4.      Directly Applying Vaseline

    Required Ingredients:

    Cat Ear Mites Vs Yeast Or Bacterial Infection

    Although ear mite infections are the most common ear infection seen in cats, its possible for your cat to develop a yeast or bacterial infection in her ears. However, it can be difficult to differentiate ear mite infections vs yeast infections vs bacterial infections.

    The signs of ear mite infections and other types of ear infections are very similar . Also, cats can have both an ear mite infection and bacterial and/or yeast ear infection all at the same time.

    What Are The Clinical Signs Of Ear Mites

    Ear mites are a common cause of ear disease and infection, although other ear conditions may cause similar clinical signs. They are the second most common ectoparasite found on pets; the most common is the flea.

    Infestations are a very common problem in puppies and kittens, although pets of any age can be affected. Clinical signs of infestation vary in severity from one pet to another, and may include combinations of:

  • Ear irritation, leading to scratching at the ears or head shaking.
  • A dark waxy or crusty discharge from the ear.
  • Areas of hair loss resulting from self-trauma caused by the dogs scratching or excessive grooming.
  • A crusted rash around or in the ear.
  • An aural hematoma ; this occurs due to the dog scratching at their ears.
  • Skin lesions most frequently affect the ear and surrounding skin but occasionally other areas of the body may be affected.

    Treating A Cat With Ear Mites

    Treating your cat’s case of ear mites is a three-step process. The first step is to get as many mites out of the ear canal as possible using an ear cleaning solution for cats. Put several drops of the solution into the ear canal and massage gently. Massaging will help bring debris up to the outer part of the ear where you can wipe it away with a cotton ball or tissue. Do not use cotton swabs because you could inadvertently damage the eardrum. Repeat the cleaning procedure until the debris is gone.

    Ear mites can be killed using over-the-counter medicines, but be sure you choose one that is safe to be used on cats. Pyrethrin is the active ingredient in most ear mite medications, and it’s toxic to cats. Most vets recommend using a topical solution that contains ivermectin as the primary ingredient instead. You can find one at most pet supply stores.

    Follow the directions on the topical carefully, making sure to massage the drops in well and wipe away any excess. A single cleaning and treatment with ear drops won’t do the trick, because just one surviving female mite with eggs will reproduce. You must kill the living mites as well as the eggs.

    If your home remedies clear up the infestation, or the skin in or around your cat’s ears become raw or inflamed, you should take your cat to the vet. She can prescribe medications that work faster than over-the-counter meds. Untreated ear mites can lead to a skin disease or to a serious ear infection.

    Originally Published: May 20, 2011

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