Ear Mites In Cats And Kittens | Symptoms And Treatment

When it comes to cats, there are a number of diseases which are only species-specific. Meaning, they can’t be transmitted among humans, canines and other species. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with ear mites – cats and kittens can contract them literally from anywhere.

A common skin problem for feline furballs, the ear mite infestation is actually more dangerous than it may sound. These pests can severely damage a cat’s external and internal ear canal.

In other words, if your kitty is indeed having an ear mite problem, you should aim at resolving it asap. Fortunately, there are ways to spot the symptoms before they cause tremendous damage. And there are ways to cope with ear mites even at home. I do recommend you consult with your vet, though, even if the infestation is at an early stage.

What are ear mites?

Pesky little parasites, almost impossible to spot with the naked eye, capable of surviving for up to two months – ear mites sound dreadful and their microscopic size is yet another reason why you should fear them. These pests feed off the ear wax and natural oils in your pet’s ears. Basically this means that there’s no way to cut off their sustenance source and fix the problem with little to no intervention.

Ear mites are extremely contagious for humans, cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals, be they pets or wild outdoor creatures.

So yes, cats can indeed contract them from anywhere and from anything. What’s even worse, if your cat has them, then you and the rest of the people residing in your house or apartment can also contract them. Needless to say, the parasites can cause the same ear canal damage to you and your relatives as they can to your furball.

Ear mite infestations usually occur in multi-pet households or among felines that are allowed to roam the outdoors freely where they can possibly mingle with infected feral cats. They’re also common for domestic cats of all breeds and ages. So even if your cat has never been outside, your vet won’t be baffled if you call him or her with ear mite suspicions.

Does your cat or kitten have ear mites?

Due to the fact that ear mites are microscopic in size, it’s nearly impossible to spot them right away. Long-haired kitties will make it even trickier for their owners to see the infestation.

For the naked eye a bunch of ear mites will look like extremely tiny dark dots. The only 100% efficient way to positively diagnose a cat with ear mites is to examine the pests under a microscope. Vet fees can sometimes be sky rocketing, but when it comes to ear mites, it’s better to pay the doc and be safe than sorry.

Once the adult ear mites start laying down their eggs it will take only 4 days for the new mites to hatch. In other words, the sooner you take measures, the better chances you have at treating the problem.

Can you find the ear mites on your own?

Sadly, that’s almost impossible. If you’re the owner of a calm, tolerant and patient kitty that will allow you to inspect its ears without struggling to run away, you may be able to see signs of ear mites. Unfortunately, these pests tend to nestle themselves deep inside the ear canals, which also complicates the search. Fortunately, there are some telltale signs your cat will start showing if it has contracted ear mites.

Symptoms of ear mites in cats and kittens

Here are the most common signs of ear mites in young, adult and senior cats.

  • Ear pawing/ scratching
  • Skin irritation/ redness/ inflammation
  • Brownish or even black waxy secretion
  • Nasty odor coming from the ears
  • Head shaking

All of these signs can also mean that your cat has a yeast infection, allergies, bacterial ear infection or some other problem that’s causing symptoms similar to the ones of ear mite infestations. That’s why it’s essential to have a reputable veterinarian examine the kitty and pinpoint the symptoms’ origin.

How to treat ear mites in cats and kittens

As I mentioned before, you can treat mild ear mite problems in cats with homemade remedies. The easiest way is to use coconut, almond or olive oil. You can swap the oil for a pet-safe cleansing solution. Gently apply some of the oil or the cleansing solution at the kitty’s ear canal entrance and carefully massage the area for a few minutes.

This method can help draw out any wax, debris and mites that aren’t stuck deep inside the canal. Use a soft cloth or cotton pad to clean the ear afterwards. Just remember that you mustn’t use cotton swabs because you can easily damage your cat’s eardrums.

Many pet parents swear by the efficiency of this technique, although some cleansing solutions pose health complications for cats. On top of that even if a single mite manages to hide in the furball’s ear, it can still cause a new infestation after a few weeks. Home treatments won’t always work, which is why it’s better to stick to vet prescribed medications.

Drops or ointments?

Various miticides are commercially available due to the widespread commonness of ear mites in cats and other pets. Vets usually prescribe ear drops or spot-on ointments, which pet parents can easily apply at home.

Both options are purrfectly safe for your fluffy friend. And both options are effective in coping with the infestation.

Spot-on ointments are easier to use than ear drops. Moreover, they’re far more pleasant for your kitty. Massaging the ointment into the cat’s ear canal entrance can even be a bonding experience. Ear drops can be stressful to overexcited, impatient and easily annoyed cats. If you’re treating a young kitten or a not so lazy and mildly tolerant cat, I’d suggest opting for ointments instead of drops.

In some cases you may need additional medication, such as when the ear mites have caused an infection.

Call your veterinarian as soon as you spot any telltale symptoms of ear mite infestations. The doc will examine your kitty and will come up with the safest and most efficient treatment plan depending on the cat’s current health condition and the infestation’s severity.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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