Have you noticed that your cat seems to be scratching their ears a lot more than usual? Have you considered that the problem is that they are suffering from ear mites? While mites are a common and usually mild parasite infection, more complicated problems can occur if your pet has immune hypersensitivity, which can lead to an extremely high level of irritation to the external ear. So, this should tell you that it is highly important that you get this issue cleared up at the earliest possible opportunity.
Ear mites can also be extremely annoying for cats, and it is likely that you will notice them shaking their heads, scratching excessively, and even pulling out their own hair in an effort to get rid of them. You also need to be concerned if your cats scratch so much that they cause an injury to their ear canals or drum areas.
Let’s begin by looking at the symptoms that suggest that ear mites are a problem in your kitty in the first place.
What Do Ear Mites Look Like?
Though there are several different types of ear mites that can affect cats, the most common one is Otodectes cynotis, which essentially resembles an eight-legged crab. Of course, you will not be able to see them properly with the naked eye, but you should be able to see them under a microscope. On average, ear mites have a life cycle that lasts around three weeks. They will consume high quantities of wax and ear oil during this time, so if your cat has particularly unclean ears, it is more likely that they will get mites. If the mites are left untreated during this time, they will multiply significantly due to them having a stable source of food and plenty of shelter. The thing that many cat owners do notice when their cat has been infested with ear mites is a black or brown discharge around the area, which many people have reported looks strangely similar to coffee grounds. You may also like our article on cat ear cleaners.
Symptoms of Ear Mite Infestation
The symptoms of ear mite infestation range from the relatively mild to the comparatively more severe. Cats tend to scratch their ears a lot anyway, but if you notice that yours is doing so more than usual, this could be the first sign that there is some cause for concern. However, the itching could also be more generalized around their body as well. Couple this with your kitty putting their head on one sign for an extended period of time and this is a common sign that all is not well.
Other possible symptoms could be something as simple as some discharge and odors coming from the area. Also, if there is some redness and inflammation in the area, as well as sensitivity to the touch, ear mites may be present. If you give your cat’s ears a closer examination, you may notice too much wax in the area, as well as a powdery build-up that looks a bit like coffee grounds. Also, you may notice some crusting around their body – namely in the neck, rear, and tail areas.
You can check your cat’s ears by gently folding back the flaps. You should be able to see some tiny dots if the ear mites are present, but you may need the help of a magnifying glass to spot them properly. If you want to get a professional opinion, you should take your cat into the vet and they will be able to officially tell you one way or the other.
Where Did the Ear Mites Come From?
It can be extremely frustrating when you have absolutely no idea where the infestation came from in the first place. Not only will finding the source satisfy your natural curiosity, but it will also help to put you in a position where you can keep your cat away from these potentially problematic situations. If you have an outdoor cat, they could have got them from typical rural areas like barns, lawns, gardens, etc. They can also be passed between felines, so a mother may pass them onto their kittens as they are spending so much time in close proximity with one another. There is also a possibility that the mites have been passed along through close interaction with other animals. If your cat’s ears are generally unclean and there is a build-up of wax, this creates an environment where the ear mites are more likely to survive and thrive. However, one thing that should put your mind at ease is that cats rarely transmit their mites to humans as we are immune from them.
It can feel like a slightly daunting task to tackle your cat’s ear mite infestation, but it is something that you need to do as mites reproduce very quickly and the problem can get worse if it left untreated for an extended period of time. Bear in mind that there are many different types of mite out there. Bring your cat into the vet if you suspect that there is a problem as they will be able to give an official diagnosis. Although they fit into the parasite category, fleas and ear mites are not alike. This means that flea treatments should never be used in an attempt to treat ear mites. Not only will it not work, but it could also be harmful to your cat, so stick to the approved remedies that your vet recommends or check out some of the home remedies that we are going to discuss in the following section.
5 Home Remedies for Treating an Ear Mite Infestation
Now that you have identified that your cat is suffering from an ear mite infestation, you will want to set about dealing with it at the earliest possible opportunity. As well as all the over the counter treatments out there, you can also make your own home remedies which can help. Here, we are going to focus on five of these to help get your cat’s aural health back on track once again.
- Aloe Vera
The first home remedy substance that you can try is Aloe Vera. This is a plant that has been well known for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties for some time now. You can buy it in gel form and apply it to your cat’s ears along with giving them a gentle massage at the same time. Leave it to settle before your cat starts shaking their head and trying to get rid of it. If you don’t like the gel, it also comes in a lotion format – or you can even mash up the fresh plant if you so choose. How long you have to continue using this solution depends on how severely your cat has been infected. It could take a matter of weeks to see results, and it may well not be all that effective if your cat has a particularly serious outbreak of ear mites.
- Water and Apple Cider Vinegar Solution
The next possible ear mite solution that we want to discuss is a solution of water and apple cider vinegar, which can work to have a disinfecting and cleansing effect. While it may not clear the mites straight away, it can help to give them a less hospitable environment in which to live. When you are mixing up the solution to apply to your cat’s ears, you should make one which is equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Put it all in a spray bottle so that you can apply it easily. You should spray it directly into your cat’s ear canal once or twice a day for a period of 10 days. Towards the end of the treatment phase, you should start to notice some improvements in your cat’s situation.
- Olive Oil and Crushed Garlic
The next treatment option may seem a little strange, but it is one which some cat owners have reported to be effective. Garlic has natural medicinal properties, and olive oil too contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, which can help to reduce the level of irritation to the skin and ear areas that the mites naturally cause. Vitamin E has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. The two ingredients combined leads to a home remedy that has proven to be both safe and effective. You will need to crush a whole garlic head in the olive oil, allowing it to steep overnight. The next day, you can then put a couple of drops in your cat’s affected ear. You should notice some improvements within three weeks.
- Organic Honey
Another treatment that you may never have thought of using before is organic honey. You just need to massage this substance around your cat’s ears for around 30 minutes each day. However, it is worth mentioning that you need to specifically check that the honey used is organic as processed honey will not have the same positive effects.
The final home remedy treatment option that we are going to discuss is something that a lot of people have lying around the house anyway – Vaseline. Again, the treatment involves simply rubbing it around your cat’s ear area on a daily basis until everything has been properly absorbed. As well as treating the infestation, this should also help in reducing any irritation or redness that has built up in the area that is causing a nuisance to your feline companion.
Now that you have cleared your cat’s ears of those irritating mites, you will want to take steps to ensure that they never come back and cause a problem again. First, you can keep your kitty clear of those environments that we discussed earlier where the mites can thrive. If you know that a cat or other animal has them, you should keep your own feline well clear of them. Also, you may discover that a change of diet can help too. For kittens especially, diet plays such a big role in the development of their immune system. Therapeutic hypoallergenic cat food may well do the job that you are looking for. Boosting your kitty’s immune system can go a long way towards stopping these irritating pests from becoming a problem again.
Another important prevention tactic is to keep your cat’s ears clean in the future. These mites feed off wax and other oils, so if your cat’s ears are clean, they don’t have the type of environment that helps them to thrive. If you have never cleaned your cat’s ears before, don’t worry. It is not a job that is all that difficult to do well – as long as your cat is comfortable letting you touch their ear area. You can just use some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or q-tip and a gentle scrubbing action to remove most of the stuff in the vicinity of their ears. However, if you have a kitty that takes objection to being touched, this is going to make the job that little bit harder. You will need to choose a time when they are feeling particularly sleepy. You can then wrap them in a towel and get to work on the affected areas.
Ear mites are an irritation to cats, though usually one that is not too serious. However, you will still want to get rid of them to remove this source of irritation from your kitty cat. The home remedies that we have listed above are some possible solutions that have proven to be effective in the past. However, if none of them work, you will need to talk to your vet for a different treatment option. Finally, using the preventative steps that we have discussed can go a long way towards ensuring that these pests do not cause a problem in the future. As the old saying goes, prevention is always far better than the cure.
- Ear Mites: Tiny Critters that can Pose a Major Threat – Cornell Feline Health Center