Ear mites in cats

Ear mites are a common, highly contagious, tiny parasite. Cats become infested through direct contact with another infested animal or from the environment. Any cat can catch ear mites, but kittens are more susceptible. Ear mites are usually easy to treat.

The ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) is a surface mite that lives on cats and dogs. Ear mites can cause intense ear irritation and discomfort. These tiny parasites are rarely seen by the naked eye and diagnosis needs confirmation by a vet.


What are ear mites in cats?

Ear mites are parasites similar to ticks but much smaller in size.

They are best seen under a microscope, as they are barely visible to the naked eye.

They are usually found in the ear canal but can also live on the skin’s surface.

Ear mites are extremely contagious, hopping from cat to cat or cat to dog.

These parasites can survive in the environment for months, so your cat can catch them from your home, garden, or environment.

Most ear infections in cats are caused by ear mites.


What are the symptoms of ear mites in cats?

You might see one to more of the following symptoms in your cat:

  • Scratching ears, head and neck
  • Rubbing face or head
  • Ear wax (which is often dark brown)
  • Unpleasant smell from the ears
  • Red, painful, swollen ears
  • Skin crusting and scaling on the neck, rump, and tail
  • Generalised itching and scratching
  • Overgrooming

A cat with ear mites can have the same symptoms as a cat with an ear infection. That’s why it’s important to speak to a vet for help with diagnosis and treatment.


Are some cats more likely to have ear mites?

Any breed or age of cat can develop ear mites. However, some cats are more prone to it than others.

  • Kittens aged 3 to 6 months are more prone to infestation than older animals, possibly due to a lack of immunity.
  • Outdoor cats who hunt.
  • Cats in multi-pet households.


Can humans catch ear mites from cats?

Only in rare cases have cat owners developed skin rashes.

The ear mites that infect cats are different from the parasite affecting humans.


How are ear mites diagnosed?

The diagnosis of ear mites infection is made by identification of the mite. The following methods can be used:

  • Otoscope exam (a medical device used to look into the ears)
  • Microscopic examination of the discharge from the ear
  • Skin scrape will, sometimes, also reveal the mite

Vet treatment

How are ear mites treated in cats?

Treatment for ear mites in cats involves cleaning the ears and giving medication.


Ear mite treatment

  • A tablet or spot-on will be prescribed by a vet to kill your cat’s ear mites.
  • Treatment may need to be repeated to successfully get rid of all the mites.
  • If you have other cats or dogs in your household, you will need to treat them for ear mites as well.


Ear cleaner

  • Cleaning the ears will help remove excess wax and debris.
  • Follow your vet’s recommendations on how frequently you need to clean your cat’s ears.


Medicated ear drops or tablets

  • To treat inflammation, pain, and infection.
  • Finish the treatment even if your cat’s ears seem better before the end of the course.


Treat your home

  • Ear mites can survive in the environment for months. You’ll need to spray your home and wash bedding and grooming equipment in hot water (ideally at 90॰C to kill all the mites).
  • Household flea spray is effective against ear mites in the home, but never use it directly on an animal. Purchase this product with professional advice.

Home treatment

Home treatment for ear mites in cats

There is no homemade treatment that is safe and effective for ear mites.

There are many products on the market that claim to kill ear mites, but those available without a prescription are usually less effective than a licensed product from a vet.

Ear drops will not kill the eggs of ear mites. Once the ear drops stop, eggs hatch and reinfest your cat within a week or two.

If you suspect your cat has ear mites, we recommend seeking professional advice.


How to prevent ear mites in cats?

Ear mites can also be easily prevented by regularly treating your cat for surface parasites. Many of the products we use to kill fleas also kill ear mites.

If your cat has been treated for mites, ensure their living area is thoroughly cleaned to prevent future reinfections.


Ear mites vs ear wax in cats

It is normal for cats to have a small amount of earwax. However, excessive ear wax can be a sign of ear mites or other ear conditions.

Consult a vet if you notice excessive:

  • Wax build-up
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Itchiness
  • Head shaking


Ear mites vs ear infection in cats

Ear infections are common in cats and can have many different causes. These include:

  • Yeast or bacterial infection
  • Secondary to an allergic skin disease

It’s best to consult with a vet and rule out other potential causes.

When to worry

When should you call a vet for your cat with ear mites?

If your cat shows any of the following signs, call your local vet :

  • Pain when touching or scratching ears
  • Failure to improve despite treatment
  • Puffy ears

Call us at Joii and speak to us vets if your cat has one or more of the following:

  • Scratching ears, head and neck
  • Rubbing face/head
  • Ear wax (which is often dark brown)
  • Unpleasant smell from the ears
  • Red ears
  • Skin crusting and scaling on the neck, rump, and tail
  • Generalised itching and scratching
  • Overgrooming


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