With around 86 million cats being kept as domestic pets in the U.S, there is no doubt that feline ownership is a popular and rewarding pastime. Nevertheless, it does come with its own set of challenges, one of which is dealing with parasite infestations.
Ear mites are an extremely common type of parasite affecting the domestic and wild feline population. Also known as Otodectes cynotis, these tiny, contagious creatures survive by ingesting nutrition from the ear tissues and blood of their host. Thankfully, there are preventative treatments available which can help you to catch an outbreak of mites early and before the infestation spreads throughout your home.
What causes cat ear mites?
Ear mites are tiny, spider-like creatures that are normally contracted from the outdoor environment that your feline friend comes into contact with. This can include wooded or grassy areas, or animal shelters or veterinary offices with poor hygiene.
Although any type of cat can be affected, ear mites usually infect kittens, or pets that have been abandoned/live on the street. Therefore, if your feline comes in to contact with an infected cat living wild, there is a good chance that the ear mites may be passed on to her.
You will be pleased to know that ear mites cannot be transferred to humans, and do not live for long without a host. Therefore, treating your home is not necessary – just any cats, dogs or ferrets that form a part of your family.
Symptoms of an ear mite infestation
As a responsible owner, you will want to be aware of the signs that your feline might have an ear mite infestation so that you can get her the necessary treatment as soon as possible and prevent symptoms from worsening.
Some of the key symptoms of an ear mite infestation include:
- Black or brown waxy secretions from the ear
- Excessive rubbing or scratching of the ears
- Hair loss around the ears
- Head shaking
- Inflammation of the ear – this could include redness and swelling
- Obstruction of the ear canal with a debris that looks similar to coffee grounds
- Scratches or scabs around the ear
- Skin problems such as dermatitis
- Strong odor coming from the ear
Although ear mites are very small, they are not microscopic. If you wipe your pet’s ears and look closely at the residue, you may spot tiny white dots moving around – these are ear mites!
How to treat ear mites
Luckily, treating ear mites is usually pretty straightforward and able to be carried out in the comfort of your own home. Topical medications such as gels, creams or eardrops will be prescribed by our veterinarian, and these should be administered exactly as directed to help your feline get rid of the infestation as quickly as possible.
In some instances, your cat may have damaged her ears. This is normally due to excessive scratching, which can cause wounds and infections to develop. If this is the case, your cat may also be prescribed a course of antibiotics and recommended to wear an Elizabethan collar, which should help prevent further damage.
If you are concerned that your kitty may be suffering from ear mites, contact and arrange an appointment with our veterinarian as soon as possible.