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Do You Hear What I Hear!? Common Cat Ear Disorders Including Mites, Inner Ear Infections and Even Sunburn!

Updated on February 11, 2010

According to the veterinarian that I take my dogs and cats to, ear infections and other ear disorders are the number one reason people take their pets to the vet. Dogs (especially those with floppy, long ears) are especially prone to ear infections…but what about cats? Yes, unfortunately, cats have ear troubles too. I was curious as to what ear disorders are most common among cats so I did a little research and here's what I found.

A cat's ears not only control its hearing, but its sense of balance as well. When a cat develops an inner ear infection not only do their ears hurt…they may also begin to have mobility problems. The most common causes of infection are certain microorganisms, foreign bodies lodged in the ear, and ear mites (to learn more about ear mites, please read my HUB Page: Cats and Ear Mites – A Common Yet Annoying Problem). If you witness your cat doing any of the following, they probably have an ear infection and a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary. It is very important that you let your vet inspect your cat's ear canal (they will use an instrument called an otoscope). YOU SHOULD NOT play doctor! DO NOT poke anything into your cat's ears as you can cause serious damage (not to mention pain).

  • Persistent Scratching
  • Constant Shaking of the Head
  • Constant Twitching of the Ears
  • Discharge (a presence of a dark, wax like substance)


A cat's ear basically has two main parts…the inner ear and the outer ear. The job of the outer ear is to gather sound waves and then channel them into the eardrum. The ear drum then begins to vibrate, moving the ossicles in the middle ear.  The sound waves are then translated into electrical impulses and sent to the brain.

Great Ear Cleaning Products!

It's hard to believe that a tiny piece of grass seed can cause such big problems!
It's hard to believe that a tiny piece of grass seed can cause such big problems!

Common Ear Disorders

  • Foreign Bodies: If you own a cat then you probably already know that they are very curious animals. Cats explore and get in to just about anything that interests them. It's no wonder that foreign bodies occasionally work their way into a cat's ear canal. If a foreign body such as a tiny pebble or even a seed of grass works their way into your cat's ear, problems can arise. When something gets stuck inside of a cat's ear it may cause irritation which will then cause them to scratch, shake their head and twitch their ears. If the object that is causing the irritation is not removed the possibility of infection is great. If the object that is lodged in the ear is not visible and cannot be easily removed a trip to the vet is a must.

If your bald cat must go outside...make sure he wears his sunblock!
If your bald cat must go outside...make sure he wears his sunblock!
  • Sunburn: Yes, it is possible for your kitty to suffer from sunburn! Pale colored and bald cats (such as the sphinx) are especially at risk. When a bald or pale colored cat is left outside on a hot, sunny day, the tips of their ears can, in fact, become sunburned. Why? Well, bald and pale colored cats lack protective pigment in their skin. In time, sunburned ears can lead to bigger problems such as cancerous growths and painful inflammation. If you own a Sphinx or a cat that is pale in color it is VERY IMPORTANT that you keep your cat indoors during the sunniest part of the day. If your cat MUST go outside…then it is important that you apply sun-block to the tips of your cat's ears. Personally, I feel that all cats (no matter what breed or color) should STAY INDOORS as the outside dangers are simply too great. For more information about outdoor dangers please read my HUB Page: The Dangers Outside – Turn Your Cat into an Indoor Only Pet!


  • Ear Mites: Mite infestation is VERY common not only in cats…but kittens as well. When mites are present (especially in large numbers) they can cause a cat to scratch, shake their head and twitch their ears. A sign that a mite infestation has turned into an infection is the presence of a dark, waxy discharge coming from the ear. If you suspect that your cat has ear mites it is very important that you take them to the vet so that a thorough exam can be performed. Thankfully, medications are available that will kill mites as well as treat any infections they may have caused. Mites are contagious…therefore, if you have other pets, they will probably need to be treated as well.
  • Basic Ear Infection: Cats develop ear infections for any number of reasons (the presence of fungus and bacteria are main culprits). When a cat has an ear infection their ears will become inflamed and painful. They will scratch at their ears constantly which can lead to infection and sometimes discharge. If your cat has an ear infection they will need to be treated by a veterinarian. The vet will not only clean your cat's ears he or she will also prescribe antibiotics.


Some white cats are born deaf.
Some white cats are born deaf.
  • Deafness: The leading cause of deafness in cats is simply old age. If you have an older cat who no longer responds when called…it is important that you get their hearing checked as soon as possible. The sooner you know that your cat is deaf, the better! Other causes of deafness include middle ear infections, head injuries and severe wax blockage. Obviously, if your cat is deaf, they should be an INDOOR ONLY pet! Some cats are born deaf…especially cats that are all white with blue eyes. Why? Well, white cat deafness can be associated with the gene that gives a white cat its coat color. This particular gene causes a degeneration of the inner ear.
  • Blood Blisters: Unfortunately, cats with inner ear infections can develop blood blisters on the flaps of their ears. This is because of the constant head shaking and scratching that accompanies this particular ear disorder. Though blood blisters are not painful, they can be irritating which will cause your cat to continue scratching and shaking. Though not an emergency situation, it is important that you take your cat to the vet so that the blister can be drained. Blisters that are not drained can cause scarring and eventually a condition called "cauliflower ear."

Play it safe and keep your cat INSIDE at all times!
Play it safe and keep your cat INSIDE at all times!

So there you have it….five common ear disorders that affect cats. Caring for your cat or kitten does not have to be difficult! If you are pro-active when it comes to your cat's health care…many of the disorders listed above can be avoided. One way to avoid ear infections is to keep your cat's ears healthy and clean. Next time you visit the vet's office, ask a vet tech to show you how to properly clean your pet's ears. Knowing how to clean your cat's ears properly can help to prevent future infections. Ear cleaning solutions, cotton balls and gauze can be purchased on-line or at pet supply stores. Good luck!! Meow!

If you have a few minutes to spare, please visit my other pet related HUB pages! Thank you!

Help! My Dog Has Been Stung by a Bee!

Help! My Dog Has Been Bitten by a Snake!

Stages of Grief You May Experience When Your Pet Dies

The Border Collie – Energetic, Fun and Extremely Smart!

What Type of Owner is Best for a Great Dane?

Bloat – A Deadly Condition that Usually Strikes Large Breed Dogs

Cat Fences – Keep Your Cat Safe Outside!



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    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 5 years ago from Maryland

      Thank you for your comment. Glad your cat is doing better!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 years ago from USA

      Great hub. I have a cat with cauliflower ear due to a burst blood blister. Overnight, one layer of of his ear seemed to peel apart from the other until the vet surgically repaired him. He's doing great now. Good basic tips for cat parents.