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If your cat’s scratching their ears a lot more than normal, or shaking their head around a lot, then it’s possible that they might have ear mites. These nasty little bugs can feed on your cat’s ear wax and the oils in the ear, and can have a serious effect on your cat’s well-being. While there are several vet-prescribed remedies for ear mites, there are some home remedies too, which you can try. Please note that if your cat has any bleeding in the ear, then you should consult with a veterinarian, as bleeding could indicate serious and potentially permanent damage. If you notice ear mites in your cat soon after infection, then employing home remedies may be a good bet for getting your cat back to its playful self!
What Are Ear Mites?
The technical term for an ear mite infection is “otodectic mange”, on account of the fact that ear mites’ scientific name is Otodectes cynotis. They’re tiny insects that feed on wax and oils in the ear canal (yuck! 🤢). Your cat can get ear mites from other cats or dogs. It’s uncommon for ear mites to be present on people, but still possible. If your cat got ear mites, it’s likely that they came from another cat, especially if your cat spends any time unsupervised outside.
What Are the Signs My Cat Has Ear Mites?
Besides scratching in the ear, cats will sometimes scratch behind their ears because they don’t know where the unpleasant itching feeling is coming from. They will also frequently shake their heads in an attempt to ‘dislodge’ what’s making them uncomfortable, or tilt their heads to one side. Lesions may form around the ears, and even on the face. When cats continually scratch at their ears, it will often lead to fur loss at the base of their ears on their head.
Ear mites can cause inflammation directly or as a result of the cat further agitating their ears. Look for swelling or redness near the cat’s ears to see if your cat has inflammation caused by ear mites.
Are Ear Mites Dangerous?
Ear mites will cause your cat’s ears to be in a constant state of irritation. They can be a real nuisance, and affect your cat’s sleep, mood, and appetite. The constant scratching that accompanies ear mites can also lead your cat to cutting the surface of the insides of their ears, and those cuts can become infected, leading to more inflammation and pus discharge.
Prolonged and severe irritation can also lead your cat to potentially rupturing their own eardrum, a serious complication that will require emergency veterinary care. So it’s best to deal with ear mites early and effectively.
What do Ear Mites Look Like?
Ear mites are microscopic, so you can’t actually see them with the naked eye, but in case you’re curious, here’s a photo of one under a microscope:
Here’s what a somewhat heavy ear mites infection looks like:
A bit like espresso grounds got in your cat’s ears. Like I said before, the ear mites themselves are invisible to the naked eye, but their debris and waste is what you can see in the above picture.
What to Do if Your Cat has Ear Mites
One of the first things you need to do if you realize that your cat has ear mites is to separate them from any other animals in the house. Ear mites are easily transferable between cats, and even dogs, so keeping them apart is essential to stopping the little buggers from spreading.
Home Remedies for Ear Mites in Cats
The most important thing to keep in mind when using home remedies for ear mites is that even if an active infestation is cleared out by any remedy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the eggs were neutralized. That means that it’s critical to continue administration as long as it takes. Since ear mites have several life cycles, fully getting rid of them may take as long as 3 weeks.
If your cat’s ear mite infection is severe, or causing a lot of distress, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. They can prescribe drugs which are effective at treating ear mites more quickly than any home remedy or over-the-counter solution can.
Using Mineral Oil for Your Cat’s Ear Mites
Mineral oil is your best bet for a home remedy to ear mites. Mineral oil is inert, and used in many applications like baby lotions, cold creams, ointments, cosmetics, and more.
To use mineral oil for your cat’s ear mites, it would be best to use a syringe (without a needle) or anything that you can accurately squeeze the liquid out of, like an empty and cleaned soap bottle or a water bottle that’s been punctured.
Here are the steps to using mineral oil for your cat’s ear mites:
Put some mineral oil in your cat’s ear (using whatever applicator you have handy)
Gently fold your cat’s ear flap down over itself to trap the oil in the ear
Rub the base of your cat’s ear to move the oil around
Release and let your cat remove the oil by shaking their head (this will make a mess so be prepared with a splash guard or do this outside)
Perform the above steps on the other ear within an hour
Mineral oil is effective for smothering the ear mites, but it does nothing against the eggs that the mites lay (which are fastened to your cat’s skin and difficult to dislodge). This means that repeated applications will be necessary to remediate your cat’s infection. Repeat the steps outlined above once daily until you see no more signs of infection. If the irritation your cat is experiencing does not subside and you see no progress after three days, consult with a veterinarian to see if more advanced measures are necessary.
Using an Over the Counter Medicine for Your Cat’s Ear Mites
There are many over-the-counter medications that are designed to address a variety of insect-based infections, such as mites, fleas, and other creepy crawlers that might make your cat their home. Generally they are made up of ointments or carriers like mineral oil, but with the added benefit of natural insecticides. Pyrethrins are a kind of natural insecticide made from plants in the sunflower family. They are widely used in organic agriculture because of how effective they are, and can kill insects on contact.
If you feel you need a stronger remedy than plain mineral oil, the added mite-treating power of natural insecticides may be able to seal the deal. Look for a topical treatment that uses pyrethrins as the active ingredient.
Vet Prescribed Medicine for Your Cat’s Ear Mites
The only non-topical solutions to ear mites in cats are prescription-only, so you’ll have to bring your cat to the vet in order to get them. Your vet will determine which medication would work best for your cat’s specific situation, and will give you advice on how to use it correctly.
While ear mites can be a very pesky problem and a major irritant to your cat, home remedies like mineral oil offer an effective solution to the problem. And if that doesn’t work then an over-the-counter solution may be the ticket, and past that you can always consult with your veterinarian for prescription options when dealing with ear mites for your cat. Ear mites are a pervasive problem, and highly contagious to your entire fur family, so when you spot them it’s extremely important to begin treatment as fast as possible, and always be ready to consult with your veterinarian if your cat’s discomfort doesn’t decrease or the problem persists. Afterall, your kitty’s wellbeing is always the top priority.