Ear mites are tiny parasitic insects that live on the skin of a cat’s ear canal. The most common species that affects cats is called Otodectes cynotis. These microscopic bugs feed on skin debris, oils, and wax inside the ear. Cat owners must be intentional about dealing with ear mites because these parasites can greatly impair the health and well-being of the cat over time.
How Ear Mites Infest Cats
Ear mites spread rapidly between cats through close direct contact. All it takes is a brief interaction, like cats touching noses. So, the parasites easily pass between cats sharing the same household. Infestations can also spread indirectly through shared bedding.
Signs of Ear Mites Infestation in Cats
Some signs that indicate your cats have ear mites are:
- Severe head shaking, scratching, or irritation
- Crusty, ulcerated, or bleeding ears
- Hearing loss or impairment
- Loss of balance or disorientation
- Hair loss around the ears
- Red, swollen, or painful areas on the ears or face
- Discharge that is foul-smelling, thick, or discolored
- Presence of additional parasites like fleas or ticks
- Weight loss or reduced appetite
- Lethargy, weakness, or depression
How Ear Mites Cause Pains to Cats
An ear mite infestation causes intense itchiness in the cat ears. As the mites move and feed, they irritate the sensitive skin lining the ear canal. This causes the cat to shake their head and scratch intensely at their ears. They may rub their head along the ground or furniture to get relief. You may see them pawing aggressively at the ear area.
This irritation leads to Inflammation and a dark crumbly reddish-brown discharge that resembles coffee grounds. This discharge is composed of dried blood, dead skin cells, and dried wax. The inflammation can become severe enough to narrow the ear canal. You may also notice an unpleasant odor coming from the cat ears.
If left untreated, the itching and discomfort lead the afflicted cats to cause trauma trying to get relief. They may scratch so aggressively that their nails break the skin, causing sores and bleeding. Vigorous head shaking can cause blood vessels in the ear flaps to rupture.
There are several medication options for treating ear mites in cats. The most common treatments are oral medications, topical ear drops, or medications that contain ingredients aimed at killing ear mites. Some of the active ingredients in ear mite medications include:
– Pyrethrins: Pyrethrins are chemicals found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers. They work by attacking the nervous system of insects. Pyrethrins can kill ear mites quickly but may not kill all the eggs, so treatment needs to be repeated.
– Imidacloprid: Imidacloprid is an insecticide that works by interfering with the transmission of stimuli in the insect’s nervous system. It can kill ear mites and their eggs. Brands with imidacloprid include Advantage, Seresto, and many flea collars.
– Selamectin: Selamectin is a parasiticide, meaning it kills parasites. It works by paralyzing and killing ear mites. Selamectin is the active ingredient in products like Revolution and Paradyne.
– Fipronil: Fipronil is another common insecticide used to kill ear mites. It disrupts the parasite’s central nervous system. Fipronil is found in medications like Frontline.
There are also natural solutions like mineral oil, almond oil, and olive oil that can help smother ear mites in cats. However, these may need to be used in combination with other medications to fully eliminate an infestation. Always talk to your vet about the best treatment plan for your cat’s ear mites.
Related: Ear Mite Medicines For Cats
Ways to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats
Ear mites are highly contagious parasites that can quickly spread between cats living in close quarters. While treatment is important for getting rid of an active infestation, prevention is key to protecting your cat’s health and comfort in the long run. Here are some tips for keeping ear mites away from your cats:
– Check and gently wipe your cats’ ears weekly with a soft cloth or cotton ball dampened with a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner. This helps remove debris and excess wax where mites like to hide and breed.
– Apply preventative medication. Ask your vet about prescription medications that can be applied monthly to repel and kill ear mites. These are much easier to use than trying to treat an active infestation.
– Isolate infected cats. If one of your cats has ear mites, assume they have spread to other cats in your home. Isolate the infected cat during treatment to avoid re-infestation. Wash bedding and disinfect living areas.
– Avoid contact with stray cats. A stray cat is a primary carrier of ear mites. Limit exposure to potentially infected animals until their health status is confirmed.
– Check new cats immediately. Inspect and treat any new cats’ ears for mites as soon as they arrive home. Even cats from pet stores or breeders can carry ear mites.
– Practice routine grooming and exams. Get cats accustomed to having you look in their ears regularly. This allows you to spot early signs of irritation and treat mites before they get out of control. You can use this cat grooming kit.
With vigilance and proactive care, ear mites don’t have to pose an ongoing nuisance. Protect your cats by making prevention part of your routine. Visit your vet regularly for a thorough examination and prescription medications, ear flushes, or injections that can help treat and prevent your cats from ear mites.