Ear Mites in Cats: Camping on Mount EarVerest

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What are Ear Mites?

Ear mites are parasites that fester in the ears of cat’s and other creatures (who would’ve guessed?). They survive off of ear wax and oils from the skin. Their life span can be up to two months. They rapidly multiply through laying eggs that take a few weeks to develop fully. If untreated, they can lead to severe damage of the ear canals and eardrums. In the worst scenarios, they can lead to permanent hearing loss.

These parasitic mites are often unnoticed by the eye but can be detected through magnification. There are many different species of these mites, the main one being Otodectes cynotis – present in around 90% of cases.

You’ll be pleased to know that ear mites in cats do not affect humans (phew!)

How do Cats Contract Ear Mites?

Ear mites are very contagious. Cats of all ages can be infected by ear mites. There are two main ways they are contracted:

  • Direct contact with other animals who are infected (e.g., adult cats to kittens, or dogs)
  • Infested environments (they can survive in the environment for several months)

What are the Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats?

The most common symptoms of ear mites in cats are:

  • Frequent shaking of the head (irritated)
  • Twitching ear
  • Pawing at the ear
  • Irritated skin in or around the ear (this can appear in shades of red, from light to dark)
  • Bleeding of the ear
  • Hair loss (from scratching/irritation)
  • Brown discharge of the ear

How are Ear Mites in Cats Diagnosed?

If you have noticed any of the above symptoms, you should take your cat to see a veterinarian. Here, they will examine the ear and complete either one of these diagnostic methods:

  • Examining the ear with an otoscope (magnification tool)
  • Collect a sample of earwax or discharge with a swap (which will then be examined under a microscope)

What are the Treatments for Ear Mites in Cats?

Once it is confirmed that ear mites are present, there are many treatments available. These are:

  • Professional cleaning of the ear (can also be done later at home by yourself)
  • Medications (you are advised to follow the complete program even if it seems symptoms have stopped)
  • Flea treatment (ear mites can often be avoided by treating your cats with flea treatment)

Since ear mites are highly contagious, you should apply treatment to all of your cats. As well as this, ear mites may be residing in your house. For this reason, you should also complete deep cleaning of your home, such as the carpets and areas that your cat normally rests. There are many commercial spray products available to you.

To decrease the chances of future incidences, you should regularly apply flea treatment to all of your cats. You never know when another cat, or animal, will pass off their ear mites to your cat.

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