Cat Health

Ear Mite Treatment for Cats: What You Need to Know

ear mite treatment in cats

Does your feline friend seem to be scratching their ears incessantly, shaking their head more than usual, or have a dark, crumbly discharge coming from their ears? These could all be signs of ear mites, tiny parasites that can cause major discomfort for your cat.

If you suspect your kitty might have ear mites, don’t worry! Ear mites are a common feline foe, and luckily, they’re treatable. This blog post will guide you through everything you need to know about ear mite treatment for cats, from identifying the symptoms to choosing the right medication and ensuring a speedy recovery for your cat.

What Are Ear Mites?

Ear mites are microscopic parasites that live in the ear canals of cats and other animals. The most common type of ear mite in cats is Otodectes cynotis. These mites feed on ear wax and oils in the ear, causing significant irritation.

ear mite treatment in cats
Otodectes cynotis

Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites

Cats with ear mites often show signs of discomfort, including:

Frequent Scratching: Your cat may scratch their ears excessively.

Head Shaking: Shaking the head is a common reaction to the irritation.

Ear Discharge: You might notice dark, crumbly discharge that looks like coffee grounds.

Red and Inflamed Ears: The ear canals may appear red and swollen.

Hair Loss: Persistent scratching can lead to hair loss around the ears.

Restlessness: Your cat might seem unusually restless or irritable.

Causes of Ear Mites In Cats

Cats contract ear mites through close contact with infected animals, and they spread rapidly within households, affecting both cats and dogs. Kittens often acquire ear mites from their mother.

Cats without regular monthly preventatives are particularly vulnerable to ear mite infestation when exposed. While indoor cats can also be affected, those allowed outdoors face a higher risk due to increased contact with infected animals and environments.

How Ear Mites are Diagnosed

If you suspect your cat has ear mites, it’s important to visit the vet. The veterinarian will examine your cat’s ears with an otoscope and may take a sample of the ear discharge to look at under a microscope.

This helps confirm the presence of ear mites and rule out other potential issues like bacterial or fungal infections.

Treating Ear Mites

Effective treatment for ear mites involves a combination of cleaning the ears and applying medication. Here’s a step-by-step guide to treating ear mites in cats:

  1. Clean the Ears:
    • Gently clean your cat’s ears to remove debris and discharge. Use a vet-approved ear cleaner such as Epi-Otic Advanced ear cleanser and follow the instructions carefully. Avoid using cotton swabs as they can push debris further into the ear canal.
  2. Apply Medication:
    • Your vet will prescribe an ear mite treatment, which is usually:
      •  Ear drops administered directly into the ear canal to kill mites. Examples of effective medications are milbemycin and ivermectin.
      •  A topical medication  -These medications are applied to the cat’s skin in between the shoulder blades and are effective in killing ear mites after a single dose. Examples include  Revolution Plus®
    • Follow the dosage and application instructions provided by your vet.
  3. Repeat Treatment:
    • Ear mites can be stubborn, so multiple treatments may be necessary. Follow your vet’s guidance on how often to apply the medication and for how long.
  4. Treat All Pets:
    • If you have multiple pets, it’s important to treat them all, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. Ear mites can easily spread between animals.
  5. Clean the Environment:
    • Wash your cat’s bedding, toys, and any other items they frequently use to prevent re-infestation.

Preventing Ear Mites

Ears mites are not always preventable. Cats can get ear mites from other cats and dogs that have ear mites. Here are a few tips to help prevent ear mite infestations:

  • Limit Exposure – If possible, limit your cat’s contact with other animals that might have ear mites.
  • Use Preventative Treatments – Your vet can recommend monthly preventative treatments that help protect against ear mites and other parasites. An important way to prevent ear mites in cats is to apply topical flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives each month year-round. 

Summing It Up – Ear Mite Treatment For Cats

Ear mites can cause significant discomfort for your cat, but with prompt and effective treatment, they can be eradicated. Regular ear checks and good hygiene practices can help prevent infestations. If you suspect your cat has ear mites, consult your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. By staying vigilant, you can ensure your cat stays healthy and mite-free.

signs of ear mites in cats

Ear Mites in Cats – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are cat ear mites contagious to humans?

Ear mites do not typically spread from cat to human. However, in rare instances, people living in a house with a cat who has ear mites can develop a rash if the mites jump onto their skin and bite it.

Do indoor cats get ear mites?

Indoor cats can get ear mites, especially if they have been in close contact with an infested animal.

How long does it take for ear mite treatment to work?

The effectiveness of treatment can vary depending on the type of medication used and the severity of the infestation. In many cases, improvement is noticeable within a few days to a week after starting treatment.

Are there any side effects associated with ear mite medications?

Side effects are rare but can occur. Some cats may experience mild irritation or sensitivity at the application site. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian or on the medication packaging to minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

Should I treat all pets in the household if one has ear mites?

Yes, it’s recommended to treat all pets in the household if one is diagnosed with ear mites. Even if other pets aren’t showing symptoms, they may still be carriers or at risk of developing an infestation. Treating all pets simultaneously helps prevent the spread and recurrence of ear mites.


Dr. Georgina Ushi is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctorate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. She currently works in the Tampa Bay area, providing compassionate care to dogs and cats. Alongside her clinical work, Dr. Ushi consults for pet well-being brands and writes health articles for her blog, Pet Health Love. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge to educate and inspire fellow pet owners. Dr. Ushi’s professional interests include emergency and critical care, wildlife medicine, nutrition, and hospice and palliative care.

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