How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

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By Pet Expert Team
Updated: 7/16/20242-4 minutes
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Cat ear mites are a common cause of feline ear problems. These tiny parasites can be extremely itchy and lead to long-term damage if left untreated. Learn more about what they are and how to treat them successfully. 

Is your feline friend scratching their ears more than usual? One of the most common causes for a cat’s ear problems are microscopic parasites known as ear mites. Read on to find out how ear mites affect your cat’s health and what ear mite treatment for cats to use in order to get rid of them. 

What Are Cat Ear Mites? 

The most common type of ear mite in cats is Otodectes cynotis. These are barely visible to the naked eye but may show up as very small white dots. As such, diagnosis usually requires looking for the mites under a microscope. They get inside your cat’s ear canal, where they feed on the ear wax and skin debris, causing significant itching, inflammation, and swelling in the ear canal. It’s important to know that cats of all ages and breeds can be affected, with outdoor cats being the most susceptible to an ear mite infection. 

What Are the Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats? 

Your cat will start scratching at their ears and shaking their head to relieve the itching from these tiny parasites. Here are the most common symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Scratching at their ears
  • Shaking their head
  • Dark, dry discharge from the affected ear
  • Red, inflamed appearance of ears
  • Scratch marks on the pinna (outer ear)
  • Skin lesions around the ear

These symptoms are non-specific and can indicate various causes of ear problems including other parasite infections, skin allergies, ear infections. It’s best to rule out other conditions by asking for a vet’s opinion before attempting any ear mite treatment for cats. 

How Do Cats Get Ear Mites? 

Your cat can pick up ear mites from almost anywhere, including from other cats. Getting in contact with another pet carrying them is the perfect opportunity for the troublemaking mites to change hosts and move onto your cat’s fur. From there, they crawl their way to the ears. They can also affect dogs, although less commonly than in cats. 

Ear mites can also live in the environment for a limited amount of time, during which they could transfer on to any cat that passes by. This is why outdoor cats are at higher risk of being affected by this particular parasite infection. 

How Are Cat Ear Mites Diagnosed? 

The vet will examine your cat’s ear canal for any signs of mites using an otoscope. They will look for signs of inflammation, swelling, and discharge. The vet will also be looking for other causes of the ear problem, which could include a foreign body like a grass seed. 

Sometimes your cat’s ears are too sore for them to sit still during the examination, and they may need to be sedated for the diagnosis and initial treatment. A microscopic examination of the ear discharge is commonly performed to look for mites and to check for other types of infection. 

Ear Mite Treatment for Cats 

The vet will then advise what treatment is most appropriate for your cat. They may clean the cat’s ears to remove build up of wax, particularly if your cat is already sedated. 

Many spot-on flea products are suitable for the prevention and treatment of ear mites, and this may be recommended by your vet. If your cat is particularly itchy, a vet may prescribe additional medication to relieve the symptoms while the mite treatment takes effect. Make sure you speak to your vet about whether it is necessary to treat other pets in the household, but never use treatment prescribed for one pet on another animal. You should also never give medication to the wrong species as this can have severe side-effects and even be fatal. 

Another ear mite treatment for cats is to apply ear drops. These are anti-parasitic and will usually require regular use for a few weeks. It is important to stick to the recommended treatment length. Some of these medications are aimed at getting rid of the mites, not their eggs, whereas other products tackle both. This means you may need to continue the treatment to target the various stages of mite development. 

Don’t forget that there may be ear mites still living in the house, which can be easily picked up again. Avoid having to start the process from scratch by cleaning carpets and cat bedding thoroughly and be sure to follow veterinary recommended parasite prevention. 

How Long Do Ear Mites Last in Cats? 

The life cycle of an ear mite usually lasts three weeks which means that you should wait at least that long for your cat to be rid of the microscopic insects. The itchiness should start to subside as the mite treatment for your cat takes effect, but you should contact your vet if your cat’s symptoms don’t improve. 

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats 

Cat ear mites can be prevented by appropriate anti-parasitic mite treatment for cats. You should speak to your vet about which product they recommend and whether your cat’s usual flea treatment covers ear mites. It’s necessary to keep your cat’s indoor environment as clean as possible, especially if they have been treated for mites in the past. 

Ask your vet whether they recommend cleaning your cat’s ears. This is not a requirement for most of them but may be appropriate if they have a history of regular ear problems. If you’re not sure how to clean a cat’s ears, check out our easy guide, and make sure a vet or vet nurse has shown you what to do. For more expert tips on keeping your cat healthy, explore our other cat health articles.


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