Ear Mites in Cats: Annoying or Dangerous?

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This article explains what ear mites in cats are, which symptoms to look out for and how to get rid of them. 

Fleas and ticks are known to bother our cats, but they’re not the only pests that can make a cat uncomfortable. Ear mites can also make themselves right at home in your cat’s ear canals. 

What Are Ear Mites?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that feed off the oils and wax inside cats’ ears. Their entire life cycle, from egg to larva to nymph to adult, can take place on your cat’s skin, most likely in the ear canal. And because they can rarely be seen by the naked eye, their presence may go unnoticed until your cat shows other symptoms of an ear mite infestation.

How Do Cats Get Ear Mites?

Cats can catch ear mites from being outdoors or from interacting with other cats. They are most common in kittens, younger cats, strays and outdoor cats, although any cat is at risk of catching ear mites. Although ear mites don’t seem dangerous, their presence can be extremely harmful to your cat.

What Are the Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats?

If you think your cat has ear mites, look out for your cat exhibiting any of these symptoms   

  • Frequent scratching of their ears, causing scabbing or inflammation 
  • Repeated head shaking 
  • Swollen ears 
  • Ears oozing a greasy, black substance 
  • A strong odour coming from your cat’s ears 

If left unchecked and untreated, ear mites can lead to serious issues, including deafness, coordination or balance issues, and permanent ear scarring. Ear mites can also cause an ear infection, so treatment shouldn’t focus solely on getting rid of the mites — the ear infection should be treated, too.

What Do Ear Mites on a Cat Look Like?

Ear mites are tiny, so seeing one on its own is difficult. Instead, look for a brownish to black crumbly substance which resembles dirt or coffee grounds in your cat’s ears. If you have difficulty seeing inside your cat’s ears and suspect your cat may have ear mites, you would be best to contact your vet clinic for your veterinarian to check. Your veterinarian can use their otoscope to check your cat’s ears, or they can take a swab of the ear and examine the sample under a microscope. 

How Do You Get Rid of Ear Mites in Cats?

First make an appointment with your vet clinic to find out whether your cat has ear mites. If your cat has ear mites, your veterinarian will thoroughly cleanse the ear canal, removing wax and buildup. To avoid damaging your cat’s ear canals, it is not recommended for owners to attempt this. 

Ear mite treatment for cats also involves a topical solution, such as Advocate™ for cats, from your veterinary clinic or pet store. It will not only treat the ear mites, but regular treatment with Advocate™ for cats will prevent the ear mites from returning. 

Ear mites are highly contagious, so you should also treat your other cats or dogs with Advocate™.  

Ear mites are an annoyance for both cats and their owners, but early treatment will help prevent further damage to their ears and their overall health. 

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