Ear mites are something that many people associate with dogs more widely than cats, and some dog types in particular seem to be more afflicted with them than others. But cats too can catch ear mites, and they can be very irritating for them. Whilst not as hard to resolve in most cats as they are in dogs (with potential exceptions for cats with folded ears, like the Scottish Fold) cat ear mites can take some time to fully eradicate.
Ear mites can be really irritating for cats too, but they often need to have been present for quite some time before cat owners actually pick up on this. This is because cats are quite mysterious and often deliberately mask it when something is amiss; and because most cats tend to rub their heads against things and enjoy being scratched around the ears in general, not just because something is irritating their ears!
With this in mind, it is a good idea for cat owners to develop a basic understanding of ear mites in cats, how they catch them, and their symptoms, in order to identify an infestation in your own cat promptly, should one develop.
Read on to learn all of the basic essentials that you need to know about ear mites in cats.
Ear mites are a type of mite, a very common parasite that comes in many different species, and which can affect many different larger animal species in their turn.
They live within the cat’s ear canal and eat skin oils and ear wax; which might sound like a good thing, but is not! They burrow just under the surface of the skin, potentially causing extreme irritation to your cat, and produce a lot of waste too, which can clog up the ear canal.
Cat ear mites are really contagious, and pass easily between cats that come into physical contact with each other, or that live in close quarters. They can even be passed from cat to cat in a fight!
There’s some bad news here… Cat ear mites are highly contagious to other cats, but they are also contagious between dogs and cats. This means your cat could have caught ear mites from your dog, and/or passed them on to your dog too.
Further, in rare cases, ear mites from a cat or a dog can cause a skin sensitivity in people, resulting in a bad reaction and a rash. However, cat and dog ear mites cannot infect humans, or live on your skin.
Cat ear mites are virtually invisible to the naked eye, and so even if you looked really hard for them, you probably wouldn’t spot any. If you saw anything at all, it would probably be a collection of miniscule white dots, which could be more or less anything, and you probably won’t see them moving around.
They do, however, produce a black and generally dry discharge from your cat’s ears if there are enough of them, and they’ve been present for long enough, and this is distinct from regular ear wax.
The main symptom that your cat has ear mites is that they will make the cat’s ears really itchy, and your cat is apt to rub their head on things and scratch their heads to excess as a result. They may also twitch their ears a lot, shake their head a lot, and generally show signs that something is wrong around their head and ears.
Scratching and rubbing at their heads a lot can make their ears sore and inflamed, which might make your cat avoid being touched here. Mites can also cause the aforementioned black discharge, and also excessive production of regular ear wax; and these discharges may have a noticeable funky smell too.
There are a range of other things as well as ear mites that can produce symptoms like those outlined above in your cat, and so you will need to take them to the vet for a proper check up and to allow the vet to take some skin scrapings to look for the mites themselves under a microscope.
Once your vet has formally diagnosed ear mites in your cat, they will generally prescribe one of a handful of spot-on veterinary flea treatment products that also kill ear mites, and this is the simplest course of action, and one that is usually effective.
However, some cats may require repeated doses, and some cats may require ear drops as well or instead to resolve the issue, and treatment might need to take place over the course of three to four weeks, to kill all mites within their lifecycle.
If you have other pets, these will usually need to be treated as well!