Cats are curious creatures prone to getting into all sorts of situations they should avoid. One common situation, though unintentional and undeserved, is ear mites! These contagious pests are a common complication for your cat’s health, and knowing the signs to watch for to treat them properly is essential. Here’s what you should know!

How common are ear mites?

While you may not have heard of them as often as other pests, ear mites are very common, especially in Alberta. Kittens are particularly at high risk of having an ear mite infestation. If you have a kitten of any age, you’ll want to strongly consider taking a trip to your vet if you notice any of the lised symptoms of ear mites.

What do ear mites do to cats?

Ear mites cause very, very itchy ears, leading to your cat’s extreme discomfort and even self-mutilation. Their ears become so itchy that they scratch, and scratch, and scratch. They can even rip their ears open with deep cuts and lesions. In cases where your cat is allergic to ear mites, this severe itchiness is likely to be even stronger.

Cats aren’t self-traumatizing their ears just to be difficult. Humans understand that scratching an itch won’t work; cats don’t. If they are itchy, they’ll scratch until they aren’t. Don’t punish your cat or kitten for scratching at their ear mites!

Signs my cat has ear mites

Now that you know how potentially serious and uncomfortable kittens and cats can become with an ear mite infestation, let’s take time to recognize just what those ear mite infestation symptoms are! The top ones reported by kitten or cat owners, and veterinarians, include the following:


  • Crusty debris in or near the ear canal: This crusty debris will most commonly be brown or black. It could be in the ear canal, along the ridge of your cat’s ear, or nearby your cat’s ear on its head.

  • Inflamed or irritated ears: You may notice that your kitten or cat’s ears are inflamed (red) and visibly irritated. If you inspect your cat’s ears closely, you’ll find they are slightly warm to the touch, too, from the inflammation.

  • Discoloured waxy debris in the ears: Sometimes, it will be waxy before it goes crusty. Or, it could be waxy and crusty at the same time. This debris will also be brown or black. You’ll notice that your kitten or cat has much of it or more than usual.

  • Hair loss around the ears: If your kitten or cat is scratching a lot, you may notice hair loss around their ears. This could be a few tufts missing or even a bald spot. This is a moderate infestation, so you’ll want to pursue treatment soon! The hair will grow back after ear mites are treated.

  • A blood blister around or in the ear: In more severe infestations, cats will scratch so hard that they create blood blisters or skin lesions. In this case, you’ll want to get your kitten or cat to the vet as soon as possible since your cat is most likely in a lot of pain. They may even be allergic to ear mites, making them even more uncomfortable. 

While not an exhaustive list, this gives you a good idea of what symptoms to watch for in your cat. The more of these you notice, and the more severe the symptoms appear to be, the more likely your cat is dealing with this parasite. The sooner you get them to the vet for a confirmed diagnosis, the sooner you can treat them and give your feline some much-needed relief!

How contagious are ear mites?

Unfortunately, ear mites are very contagious between kittens, cats, and dogs. They can be “caught” as simply as one animal coming into contact with an infected animal. If you notice one pet in your household has an ear mite infestation, you’ll also want to consider checking your other pets! Some vets will even recommend treating all household pets if one has an infestation. 

While you can isolate the infested one, it’s common for an ear mite infestation to already be brewing in your other household pets by the time you have diagnosed it in the first one!

Are ear mites treatable?

The good news is that ear mites are very easily treatable. When your vet formally diagnoses an ear mite infestation, they can provide a topical, oral, or injectable medication to kill the ear mites on your cat. 

The actual medication given will depend on a variety of factors. Those factors include your comfort in delivering medication, your cat’s reaction to each medication, and your vet’s professional recommendation.

All you have to do is follow the instructions for giving this medication to your cat, including the dosage and the recommended treatment period. It may take a few rounds of treatment in severe cases of ear mites. This is especially likely if you have other household pets infected, who can reinfect your treated pet. 

In cases with multiple pets who have noticeable ear mite infestations, some vets will even recommend your home be treated so that your recently treated pets don’t all become infested again.

Of course, this is in a very severe situation (such as a pet abandonment or hoarding situation,) and it’s unlikely for most responsible and attentive pet parents!

Is vet care required for ear mites?

You can technically get over-the-counter treatments for ear mites. That being said, there is a lot of concern about supposedly “safe” treatments sold in traditional stores not being safe after all. For your pet’s best protection and safety, only use the treatment choices that your vet prescribes.

After treatment, you’ll also want to keep your cats and dogs vaccinated regularly to help them prevent future infestations from ear mites and other parasites like ticks and fleas. Your vet will know the best vaccinations and vaccination schedule for your household.

Ear mites can cause much discomfort in your kitten or cat, so understanding how to spot and treat them will help you prioritize their comfort and safety. This article will help you know when to tag your vet in for the best care!


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