Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Ear Mites in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

While ear mites are a fairly common external parasite, they are extremely contagious. They can cause severe itchiness and scratching in cats' ears and skin, as well as infection and eventual health problems. They are more prevalent in cats than dogs and are relatively straightforward to treat. Our Scottsdale veterinarians discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of ear mites in cats in this post.

What are ear mites in cats?

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

They are tiny, but you may be able to notice them as quickly moving white spots if you've got good eyesight. They have eight legs, with a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs (ear mites in cats pictures can be found by using your favorite online search engine, and the thumbnail image for this post shows a buildup of black wax inside the ear of a cat with ear mites).

They can irritate our feline companions severely. While ear mites are relatively easy to treat, they can cause severe skin and ear infections if left untreated. When we see cats with suspected ear infections, we frequently find that the underlying cause is ear mites. Human ear mite infections are uncommon and are not generally regarded as a health risk.

Ear mites can occasionally affect humans. However, human infestations are rare and usually result in temporary irritation rather than a serious health concern. 

What causes ear mites in cats?

You may start reading about ear mites and wonder how these parasites get into your cat's ears and cause so much misery. Ear mites are highly contagious and can easily spread between infected animals. Ear mites are most common in cats, but they also live in dogs and other wild animals. If your cat spends time in boarding facilities or outside and comes into contact with another animal or a contaminated surface, such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can easily be transmitted.

Shelter cats are also prone to ear mites, so check your newly adopted cat for them and schedule a routine exam with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Ear Mites

The most common signs of ear mites in cats include: 

  • 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 
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Pus 
  • Inflammation 

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

Many a pet owner who has dealt with ear mites in their furry friend has likely frantically typed 'How to get rid of ear mites in cats' into their favorite search engine, looking for solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your vet diagnoses your cat with ear mites, an anti-parasitic medication will be prescribed. These medications are available in oral or topical form. The veterinarian may also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection. Usually, treatment will take several weeks.

In addition, your veterinarian will check for and treat any secondary infections that may have resulted from the infestation. Your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend that you return in a week or two to ensure that the mites have been removed and that no additional treatment is required.

Because ear mites are highly contagious, your veterinarian will almost certainly prescribe medication to prevent the infestation from spreading to other household pets.

It is not recommended to use homemade remedies for cat ear mites. While some methods work against mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the mite eggs. Thus, even if the mites appear to be gone, the infestation will return once the eggs hatch.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

By scheduling a monthly checkup and ear cleaning with your veterinarian, you can help prevent ear mites from establishing a foothold. Establish a biweekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and house to minimize the risk of an infection occurring at your residence. Your veterinarian at Scottsdale Ranch Animal Hospital can make parasite prevention products recommendations for your cat.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think your cat may have ear mites? Contact our experienced Scottsdale vets today to book an appointment.

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Book Online (480) 391-3699