Cat Ear Mites
And Other Cat Ear Problems

Cat ear mites are very common, especially in kittens. They are highly infectious, so if one kitten or cat in a multi-cat household gets ear mites, there's a very high chance they'll pass them on to all the other kitties.


Cause, Signs And Treatment Of Cat Ear Mites

picture of cat with big ears

1) Cause

The disease is caused by a mite called Otodectes cyanotis. These mites have a life-cycle which takes 21 days to complete - i.e. to go from egg to adult. They feed off skin flakes and secretions in the cat's ear canal.


2) Signs

  • Large amounts of very dark wax in the ear, which may ooze out and form crusty deposits
  • Unpleasant smell from the ear
  • Kitty scratching at his ears much more than normal
  • Frequent shaking of the head
  • Frequent twitching of the ears
  • Rubbing ears along the ground

The vet will diagnose the disease by examining the ear using an otoscope, which combines a bright light and a magnifying glass. The mites can be seen as off-white dots moving against the dark wax.


3) Treatment

Your vet will give you a suitable liquid preparation to kill the mites. The vet will also show you how to safely clean Kitty's ears, as they are delicate and need to be handled gently.

sphynx cat

The main reason why treatment of cat ear mites fails is because it's not continued for long enough. It should be continued for at least 3 weeks, because of the 21-day life-cycle of the mites.

The mites can also live on your cat's body, so the vet may get you to treat Kitty's skin with an insecticidal preparation at the same time.

Kitty's bedding should be washed or renewed completely to remove any mites that may be lurking in there.


Other Cat Ear Problems

1) Ear infections

Kitty's ears can become infected not only by mites, but also by bacteria, yeast and fungus. The usual signs of these are a foul-smelling discharge from the ears, and excessive scratching and irritation.

Ear infections need to be treated by a vet promptly. If left, they can cause severe damage to the inner ear, which in the worst cases can affect the cat's balance and cause deafness.



2) Sunburn

Cats with white ears that live in hot, sunny climates are at risk of sunburn to their ears. At first, the rim of the ear will become red and flaky, then the ear will curl in at the tip. Small scales, then scabs appear in the area. In time, they may turn cancerous.

To avoid this, white eared kitties should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible. This isn't always possible or practical, so you can help protect your cat's ears by applying a sun block cream to them before she goes outside.

For advice on health insurance for your cat, click here.


3) Deafness

Most white blue eyed cats are born deaf. This is due to a genetic defect and can't be treated.

white cat blue eyes

White cats with different colored eyes (i.e. one blue eye, one eye another color) are usually only deaf in the ear nearest the blue eye.

Other causes of deafness include severe ear infections, adverse reactions to drugs and old age.

Any cat that's completely or partially deaf needs very close supervision if she goes outside for her own safety.


Cat ear mites and other cat ear problems can, for the most part, be treated successfully if dealt with swiftly.


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