Detecting and Dealing with Ear Mites in Cats (A Full Guide)

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Imagine your cat incessantly scratching its ears, seemingly in constant distress, and you’re left feeling helpless, unsure of how to alleviate their discomfort.

Or, perhaps you’ve noticed a dark, crumbly substance in your feline friend’s ears and worry about the implications of such a discovery. Fear not, for we’ve got the answers you seek in this comprehensive guide to tackling ear mites in cats.

I remember the day I found my cat shaking her head vigorously and scratching her ears non-stop. The desperation in her eyes told me something was seriously wrong. Little did I know, ear mites were the culprits causing her so much distress.

Join me as we delve into the world of ear mites, arming ourselves with the knowledge needed to identify, treat, and prevent these pesky parasites from bothering our beloved feline companions.

selective focus of a white cat's ears from the back

What Are Ear Mites and How Do Cats Get Them?

Ear mites are tiny parasites known as Otodectes cynotis that thrive in the ears of cats, causing irritation and inflammation.

These microscopic creatures feed on the wax and oils in your cat’s ear canal, and they’re highly contagious, spreading easily from one pet to another through direct contact.

Cats, especially those with outdoor access or living in multi-pet households, are at a higher risk of contracting ear mites.

How Can You Recognize the Signs of Ear Mites in Your Cat?

Identifying ear mites in your cat early on is crucial for prompt treatment.

Watch for signs such as excessive scratching or rubbing of the ears, head shaking, and a dark, crumbly discharge that resembles coffee grounds in their ears. You might also notice an unpleasant odor, redness, or inflammation in your cat’s ears.

These symptoms can cause significant discomfort for your furry friend, so if you spot any of these signs, it’s time to investigate further and seek veterinary advice.

Left ImageRight Image

The picture above shows a comparison of two images. When you drag the slider, you can see what the ear mites look like (left image), and compare them with dirt (right image). However, visually it’s hard to tell for sure, so only a vet can determine this.

Health Risks of Ear Mites in Cats

While ear mites themselves may seem like a minor inconvenience, they can lead to more severe health issues if left untreated.

Constant scratching and head shaking can cause painful sores, inflammation, and even damage to the eardrum or ear canal. In severe cases, untreated ear mite infestations can result in secondary bacterial or fungal infections, which may require more intensive treatment.

I remember when a friend’s cat suffered from an untreated ear mite infestation. The poor kitty ended up with a hematoma – a swollen, fluid-filled pocket – on her ear flap that required surgical intervention.

This experience made me realize how addressing ear mites promptly is important, and that we shouldn’t underestimate their potential impact on a cat’s well-being.

How Can You Treat Your Cat for Ear Mites?

If you suspect your cat has ear mites, it’s important to seek appropriate treatment as soon as possible to prevent complications. Various treatment options are available, including over-the-counter treatments, prescription medications, and proper ear cleaning.

Each method has its advantages and specific applications, so let’s explore them in more detail.

Over-The-Counter Treatments

Many over-the-counter ear mite treatments are available at pet stores or online.

These solutions typically contain pyrethrins or other active ingredients that help kill the mites and alleviate your cat’s discomfort.

For over-the-counter treatments, you might consider using “Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution” a non-toxic, easy-to-use solution that provides relief by targeting mites and reducing inflammation. Another option is “EarRite Insecticidal Ear Wash”, which effectively kills mites and helps soothe your cat’s irritated ears.

For the best treatment, consult your vet. Always follow the instructions on the packaging, and consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure about the proper dosage or application.

Prescription Medications

In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe a stronger medication to combat ear mites. These prescription treatments often come in the form of drops, ointments, or even oral medications.

Some of the common prescription medications is Revolution (selamectin). This topical treatment not only tackles ear mites but also prevents heartworm disease and controls fleas. Revolution has been quite effective among many cat owners.

Alternatively, Advantage Multi (imidacloprid + moxidectin) is a comprehensive treatment that addresses ear mites, heartworms, and various types of worms, providing your cat with broad protection.

Remember that these are merely some typical suggestions. Always follow your vet’s directions for use and dosage to ensure the best results.

The Importance of Proper Ear Cleaning

Regular ear cleaning is crucial in managing ear mites and preventing future infestations.

Using a gentle ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls, carefully clean your cat’s ears to remove any debris, wax, or dead mites. Be sure not to insert anything deep into the ear canal, as this may cause damage.

My friend once treated their cat for ear mites and noticed that despite using over-the-counter treatments, her condition didn’t improve much. After consulting with the vet, they recommended a thorough ear cleaning before applying the medication. This small change made a significant difference, and my friend’s cat’s ears were finally mite-free and healthy.

A gentle ear-cleaning solution like Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser or Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution can be used with cotton balls to carefully clean your cat’s ears.

By exploring these various treatment options and incorporating regular ear cleaning, you can effectively help your cat overcome ear mite infestations and prevent future occurrences.

Reach out to your trusted veterinarian, who will happily offer customized advice and recommendations to ensure your furry friend gets the best care tailored to their individual needs.

brown and white tabby cat lying on white bed

How To Prevent Ear Mite Infestations in Your Cat?

Preventing ear mite infestations in your cat is just as important as treating them. By following a few simple steps and being proactive, you can keep your feline friend’s ears mite-free and healthy. 

Let’s take a look at some practical measures you can implement to minimize the risk of ear mite infestations.

  1. Regular Ear Checks and Cleanings. Incorporate routine ear checks and cleanings into your cat’s grooming schedule. This practice will not only help you detect early signs of ear mites but also maintain overall ear health.
  2. Monitor Interaction with Other Pets. Ear mites can easily spread from one pet to another. Keep an eye on your cat’s interactions with other animals, especially those with a history of ear mites. If you have multiple pets, ensure that they all receive regular ear care.
  3. Maintain a Clean Environment. Keeping your cat’s living area clean can contribute to reducing the risk of ear mite infestations. Wash their bedding frequently and vacuum your home regularly to minimize potential hiding places for ear mites.
  4. Use Preventive Medications. Talk to your veterinarian about using preventive medications or treatments to safeguard your cat against ear mites. These products can help reduce the chances of an infestation and provide peace of mind.

Going back to that story about my friend’s cat, she really had a severe ear mite infestation. Instead of isolating her cat, she allowed her to mingle with other cats in the neighborhood, including mine. I soon discovered that my cat had also contracted ear mites, but luckily, it wasn’t as severe.

This experience taught me the importance of monitoring my cat’s interactions and taking preventive measures to protect her from future infestations.

By consistently applying these preventive strategies, you’re fostering a secure and healthy space for your beloved feline. Prevention trumps treatment, so don’t be shy about asking your vet for specialized guidance on keeping your cat’s ears in top shape and free from ear mite infestations.


Can ear mites spread between cats and dogs?

Ear mites can indeed spread between cats and dogs, as they are highly contagious among animals. If you suspect your dog might have contracted ear mites, there are solutions and treatment you can try.

How long does it take to treat ear mites in cats?

Treating ear mites in cats typically takes a few weeks, depending on the severity of the infestation and the treatment used.

Are there any home remedies for treating ear mites?

Olive oil, baby oil, and mineral oil can be used as home remedies to help smother ear mites, but it’s essential to consult a veterinarian before using any home remedies.

Here are some of these remedies suggested by Dr. Johnson at Veterinary Secrets:

Is it possible for humans to get ear mites from their pets?

Although rare, humans can contract ear mites from their pets, but they usually don’t persist and will resolve on their own.

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