Occasionally, cats can pick up external pests who love to make themselves at home in the folds of your cat's ears. Here, our Columbia vets talk about how cats contract ear mites, what the common symptoms are, and how your vet will treat this parasitic infection.

Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites (also known as otodectes cynotis mites) are commonly found in cats and are part of the arachnid class of animals. This highly contagious external parasite makes its home on the surface of the ear canal, and sometimes on the skin's surface. 

Ear mites are tiny, but you may be able to notice them as quickly moving white spots if you have good eyesight. They have eight legs and a smaller set of thing legs. If you are curious about what ear mites in cats look like you could search the internet for pictures.

These parasites cause significant irritation in our feline friends and, while ear mites are quite easy to treat, they can lead to severe skin and ear infections if they aren't caught early. When we see cats with ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Ear mites very rarely infect humans and are generally not considered a risk to people's health.

How do cats contract ear mites?

If you are concerned that your cat is showing the signs of ear mites then you may be curious about how they may have picked them up and when? What is the cause of their infection and how are they transmitted from one pet to another?

Ear mites are highly contagious and will easily travel from one animal to another. Cats may be the animal most commonly affected by ear mites but can affect several other animals including dogs. Suppose your cat spends time in boarding environments or outdoors and gets too close to another animal or touches a contaminated surface such as a grooming tool or bedding. In that case, ear mites can easily be transmitted. 

If you brought your cat home from a shelter you should examine them right away from any potential ear mite infestation.

What are the symptoms of ear mites in cats?

If a cat develops an ear mite infestation, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Inflammation 
  • Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears 
  • Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds 
  • Pus 

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

While the first thought when you find out that your cat has ear mites will be 'How do I get rid of ear mites in cats?', you can relax knowing that the treatment is pretty simple.

Once ear mites are diagnosed in cats, the vet will offer treatment options such as prescribing an antiparasitic medication as well as antibiotics if needed. Your veterinarian will also likely clear your cat's ears out of the characteristic wax and discharge associated with these parasites and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on how severe your cat's specific case is. 

If your cat has been scratching or licking excessively resulting in a secondary infection then your vet will prescribe an antibiotic or cream to treat the affected area. Your vet will probably suggest you return to the office in a week or two to ensure the mites are gone and that further treatment is unnecessary. 

Due to the contagious nature of ear mites, your vet will probably also prescribe medication for any other household pets to ensure the infestation doesn't continue. We do not advise using home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods are capable of killing mites, many at-home treatments don't kill the eggs of these parasites. So, while it appears that the mites are gone. The infestation will begin again when the eggs hatch.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

By bringing your cat in for routine checkups you can help ensure that any potential conditions or parasitic infections are treated before they become too serious. You should also clean your cat's bedding and toys often to help kill any pests that may be trying to make a home out of your cat. Parasite prevention is readily available and should be administered routinely throughout the year. Speak with your vet to learn more.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Is your cat itching and scratching at their ears or showing any other signs of ear mites? Contact Maury County Veterinary Hospital today to schedule an examination.