How to Tell if My Cat Has Ear Mites? [common symptoms and treatments]
Ear mites are an unfortunate but widespread parasite that affects cats of all ages. In this article, we are going to outline the clinical signs of ear mites and what you can do about getting your feline friend rid of these pesky parasites.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about ear mites and cats!
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are a very common parasitic infection that affects a cat’s ears. The scientific name of the most common type of ear mite your cat may experience is Otodectes cynotis.
The lifecycle of ear mites is generally about two months and these tiny parasites can live entirely inside of your cat’s ear canal.
These infections can be very upsetting and irritating for your cat, causing them to want to constantly scratch its ears.
Where Do Ear Mites Live?
Ear mites mainly live within the cat’s ear canal, but symptoms may be seen on the outside of the ears if you are checking for fleas or ticks.
These ear mites feed on the wax and skin oils that your cat’s body creates and cause inflammation.
Due to the additional inflammation within your cat’s ear, ear mites can lead to secondary ear infections, which can be very dangerous for your cat.
What Causes Ear Mite Infestations?
Eternal parasites like ear mites are extremely common and infectious in cats. Cats can get ear mites from a variety of causes but the most common is contact with an infected animal.
Where Do Ear Mites Come From in Cats?
Just coming into close contact with an infected cat can be enough for your cat to get mites. They also can pick them up from the woods or the grass if your cat goes outside to play.
Symptoms of Ear Mites
Symptoms of an ear mite infestation are usually pretty easy to see in your cat. However, one thing that can be tricky is that ear mites are too small to see with our naked eye.
Here is a list of common symptoms associated with ear mite infestations.
- Scratching of the ears or face
- Head shaking
- Ear discharge
- Your cat may scratch all over their body and be restless or exhibit unusual behavior
Scratching of the Ears or Face
If you notice that your cat seems to be constantly itching, scratchings, or rubbing its ears or face, it may very well have ear mites.
Check inside their ears for any discharge, and if present it is advisable to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Head shaking can, at times, be the main symptom you will see with a cat who has ear mites.
Often there will be profuse discharge from your cat’s ears if they have mites. This will usually look darker in color and may be crusty.
The discharge can resemble coffee grounds due to the mites’ excrement.
Scratching All Over the Body
If you notice your cat scratching all over that is another symptom of ear mites. Ear mites generally stay in the ears but they can cause scratching elsewhere too.
Excessive scratching over a prolonged period of time can cause serious skin infections so make sure to contact your vet right away if you are unsure what is going on.
How Does a Vet Diagnose Ear Mites?
It is relatively simple for your vet to diagnose ear mites. They will collect a sample from your cat’s ear and take a look at the sample underneath a microscope.
What Do Ear Mites Look Like?
Occasionally the mites may even be able to be seen within the ear using an otoscope. They appear as tiny, white, moving specks or dots.
It is important to have your vet make a diagnosis of ear mites instead of immediately trying to solve the issue at home.
There are different infections that can look similar to an ear mite infection and they need to each be treated differently.
How to Treat Your Cat for Ear Mites?
Your vet has several options to treat your cat that range from cleaning your cat’s ears with a cotton swab, topical treatments, oral medications, and ear drops.
Having your vet clean your cat’s ear with an ear cleaner to remove wax buildup on a regular basis is an important aspect of preventing severe cases and possible infections.
Proven Treatments Options for Ear Mites
- Single-use, one-time topical solution to the ear canal can be successful. A topical treatment is often the preferred initial treatment for ear mites.
- Single-use, one-time treatments applied directly to the skin are typically used as monthly control instead of getting rid of a current infestation.
These treatments may be used as a backup if you live in an area where ear mites and other parasites thrive.
- Ivermectin via injectable form may be used for ear mites by your vet.
- A few drops of baby oil placed in the ear each day help.
You want to ensure you treat any and all other animals in the house at the same time for ear mites even if they don’t have any symptoms of an infestation.
Making sure that your animals all receive treatment at the same time will help prevent recurring infestations, secondary infections, bacterial or fungal infections, ear problems, and other complications.
The good news is that the treatment of ear mites is relatively simple and most cats will recover fully and without any lasting health problems such as hearing loss.
Home Remedies for Ear Mites
There are many over-the-counter topical medications and do-it-yourself-type treatments you could use for ear mites.
Pet supply stores and websites can be a good source for ear mite treatments but always check with your vet before implementing any medical treatment on your cat.
One thing to keep in mind is that if your cat is severely affected, your vet may urge you to follow their treatment for the best and quickest results.
How to Prevent My Cat From Getting Ear Mites?
One possible way to prevent ear mites is to keep your cat indoors all the time. Outdoor cats are much more susceptible to getting ear mites.
Indoor cats are much less likely to get ear mites. However, while this may be ok for some cats, other cats could really miss being outside and suffer temperament issues.
If you do not wish to keep them inside all the time, maintaining basic hygiene and cleanliness around your home will keep the risk of ear mites much lower.
Make sure to wash begging and toys at least once a week and keep your floors clean and dry.
Related Ear Mite Questions
Can I Catch Ear Mites From My Cat?
Thankfully, ear mites don’t live long on people. That’s great news for us, but there is a chance that if your cat has ear mites you may end up with a rash on your arm, leg, or other parts.
Ear mites have been known to hang out on people for a short period of time while finding a host.
What is the Main Cause of Ear Mites in Cats?
There are many reasons a cat may get ear mites but the most prominent is social contact or close contact with a previously infected cat.
Ear mites are extremely common and contagious. If possible you should limit your cat’s exposure to other cats who may be contaminated with ear mites.
NOTE: Remember, you probably won’t be able to tell if another cat has ear mites or not.
What Causes My Cat to Keep Getting Ear Mites?
Direct contact with another animal that has ear mites is probably the number one reason.
Also, your cat may be getting recurrent ear mite infections because they are in the same area constantly (where ear mites are infested) or due to an infection that was never cleared up the first time.
Sometimes it can be hard to eradicate ear mites the first time. Make sure you discuss this with your vet.
Can Ear Mites Lead to Other Health Issues?
Yes, constant scratching due to ear mites can definitely cause other serious health issues with your cat such as a bacterial infection.
This is why it is very important to have your veterinarian check your cat if you suspect they have ear mites.
Ear mites can be an awful situation to deal with, but thankfully there are many treatment options.
Regular checkups with your vet and paying attention to your cat on a daily basis is the best way to prevent serious cases of ear mites from occurring.
If you have a cat it is likely you will have to deal with ear mites at some point.