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Cats and Ear Mites - A Common Yet Annoying Medical Condition

Updated on January 25, 2010

Mites are tiny (microscopic, in fact) spiderlike creepy crawlies that live either on your cat's skin or in their ear canals. Ear mites are very common…especially if you own a cat that you allow outdoors (which, in my opinion, is a big no-no!). Mites that live on the skin of your feline can cause several different types of skin conditions including dandruff, hair loss, or worse yet, open sores. If your cat has skin mites…then he has what is technically known as…mange. Caring for your kitten or cat is easy…especially if you educate yourself when it comes to different types of common feline medical problems. So let's learn a little about the common ear mite…shall we!? After all, knowledge is power…and the more you know about your four-legged friend, the better care you can provide!

Please don't confuse ear mites with mange (skin mites). They are two different conditions entirely. As I mentioned before, ear mites are one of the MOST COMMON conditions that veterinarians deal with on a daily basis. Also known as Otodectes Cynotis…for those of you that like complicated medical terms, ear mites are tiny insects that live in the ear canal and feed off of your cat's skin (and other debris they find in the canal). Kittens often get ear mites from their mother because they are in such close contact with her (think nursing). If you have a kitten…and BOTH ears are infected or bothersome…ear mites are most likely the culprit.


Scratching a common symptom of ear mites!
Scratching a common symptom of ear mites!

Signs and Symptoms

So what are the signs of an ear mite infestation? First of all, your cat or kitten will constantly paw at and scratch their ears. Itching, is in fact, the most common and frequent sign. They may also shake their head constantly. If your cat is allergic to the bite of the ear mite, you will most likely see a dry, dark brown, waxy discharge coming from your cat's ears (it may look like coffee grounds and may also smell foul). As mentioned before, your cat may constantly scratch his ears if he has ear mites. This may cause raw, painful areas that can become scabbed over and cause hair loss.


So if you suspect that your kitten or cat has ear mites…what do you do? For obvious reasons, you can't treat the ear mites on your own (you probably don't have the proper medications necessary to do so). For that reason alone, you will need to take your cat to the veterinarian so that they can swab your pet's ears and examine their findings under a microscope. Once the vet has diagnosed ear mites as the problem he or she will give your cat's ears a thorough cleaning. It is important that this be done so that the ear medication can do its job. If you put medication on top of old wax and cellular debris…the medication will not absorb and combat the problem. Common medications that are used to treat ear mites include Nolvamite, Mitaclear and Tresaderm. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you follow all instructions and complete the recommended course of treatment. If you do not give all the medication as instructed, there is a VERY GOOD possibility of the mites returning. Once you have begun treating your cat (with the proper medication) it is important that you keep an eye on your furry friend as it is possible for the mites to leave the ear canal and take up residence on your cat's body. If your cat begins to itch elsewhere (other than the ears) it is important that you call the vet. Most likely, the veterinarian will prescribe another medication that is used to treat mites on the body.

Though a common condition, if not treated, ear mites can become a big problem (due to bacterial infection). If you think that your cat or kitten has ear mites, make an appointment with the veterinarian. Though not an extreme emergency, ear mites are VERY uncomfortable and can be quite painful (if the constant scratching results in open wounds or infection). Remember, caring for your kitten or cat is very important…so be pro-active when it comes to their care! Regular ear cleanings (whether at home or done by a professional) can help keep ear mites at bay. Good luck and here's to your cat's health! Meow!

Outdoor cats often get ear mites! Keep your cat safe...INDOORS!!
Outdoor cats often get ear mites! Keep your cat safe...INDOORS!!


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