Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a number of cats suffering from ear mites- an itchy and debilitating ear infection.


These small parasites { (Otodectes cynotis) } are spread by cat to cat contact and they then spend their entire life on the cat. The female lays her eggs in the ears and in the surrounding fur. The eggs hatch after a few days and the resultant larvae go through a few moults before becoming adult, and so the cycle continues.
Affected cats have irritated inflamed ears and an ear discharge which is often dark or black coloured and it will usually have a dry granular texture. You will see head shaking and ear scratching and sometimes the skin round the ear area is obviously infected. Ear mites are a fairly common condition in cats however there are various other ear diseases which can occur in cats. The condition can be relatively easily diagnosed using an “Otoscope” which is a special instrument for looking down the ear. The mites are very small but can usually be seen through the Otoscope and because they prefer the dark, they can often be seen moving away from the otoscope’s bright light.


Occasionally we see kittens with very heavy ear mite infections and the whole ear canal can become plugged with thick brown discharge. These kittens can be so miserable with their painful itchy ears that they stop eating and become very withdrawn.


Vets can prescribe ear drops to kill the ear mites though the mite eggs are resistant to treatment so it is very important to use drops to kill the adults, then wait for the eggs to hatch, and then use the drops again to kill the young adults after they hatch from the egg. Secondary bacterial infections are common so often antibiotics are required and drugs to reduce the self trauma caused by scratching and itching are useful to relieve the irritation.
An alternative to ear drops is a spot on product which is applied to the back of the neck. It will kill a number of parasites including ear mites and avoid the need for ear drops which can be a real challenge to apply to some cats