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The What, Why, and How of Ear Mites in Cats

Licensed Vet Tech

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

If you've noticed your cat's ears looking irritated, or your cat has been excessively itching, you may wonder if they are suffering from ear mites.

It's important to know the ins and outs of ear mites in cats to help you choose a treatment plan. And, how to prevent ear mites from biting our feline friends in the first place.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • What are ear mites in cats
  • Signs of cat ear mites
  • How to prevent ear mites in cats
  • How to treat ear mites
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What are ear mites in cats

What are ear mites in cats

Ear mites (also known as otodectes cynotis mites) are found on cats and other household pets. This extremely contagious external parasite typically nests in your cat's ear canal.

Otodectes cynotis mites prefer to nest in your kitty's ears because of the nature of the area. The mites absorb nutrients from blood and skin oils while attached to your cat.

While ear mites in cats are difficult to see with the naked eye, you may be able to see little white dots moving quickly on your cat's outer ear or ear canal. Ear mites have eight limbs, with a pair of smaller hind legs.

Ear mites in cats go through five life stages in roughly three weeks:

  • Eggs
  • Larvae
  • Protonymphs
  • Duetonymphs
  • Adult mites

While nesting in your cat's fur and ear canal, the mites may breed and lay eggs. A female mite can lay five or more eggs per day. The reproduction of mites causes an infestation in your cat's ears.

Are ear mites contagious

While ear mites in cats are not life-threatening, they are highly contagious. And, they can cause severe skin irritation and ear infections.

Cats can commonly contract ear mites from another infected animal. Dogs and other wild animals can suffer from mites. If you have outdoor cats — or your cat spends time in boarding environments — be on the lookout for this highly contagious external parasite.

Shelter cats also easily transmit mites from one infected animal to the next. If you have a newly adopted cat, schedule a check-up with your vet to check for ear mite infections.

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Signs of cat ear mites in cats

Signs of cat ear mites in cats

Ear mites in cats have a contagious nature, so it's important to identify suspected ear infections quickly. Here are some common symptoms of ear mites in cats:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Inflamed ears
  • Pus
  • Inflammation
  • Mite debris
  • Hair loss
  • Secondary infections

Itching, scratching, and ear irritation aside — mites can cause serious infections in your cat's ears. Dark, crusty, or waxy discharge is a sign of an ear mite infestation. The mite debris in your cat's ear may look like coffee grounds.

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3 ways to prevent ear mites in cats

Ear mites in cats are highly contagious, but they are preventable. Here are three ways to prevent pesky ear mites from causing health issues for your cat.

1. Use monthly flea and tick prevention.

Flea and tick medication in oral or topical form may also protect your cat from ear mites. When choosing the best flea treatment for your pet, consider choosing a flea prevention that also covers ear mites.

2. Visit your vet for routine check-ups.

Visiting your vet regularly for a cat check-up can help you catch health problems or parasitic infections before they become a big issue. At a minimum, you should take your cat to the vet once every 12 months.

3. Clean your home regularly.

Use a safe-for-pets cleaning solution to disinfect a contaminated surface like floors and countertops. Pet parents should also clean their cat's kennel, bedding, and toys in warm, soapy water to get rid of ear mites.

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How to treat ear mites

While getting rid of an infestation of ear mites in cats can be tricky, it's possible. If you suspect your cat is suffering from ear mites, talk to your veterinarian right away.

Here are three ways to treat your cat's ear mites.

Prescription medication

If your cat is diagnosed with ear mites, your veterinarian may prescribe medication. The most common types of medication for treating ear mites are anti-parasitic medication and antibiotics.

Prescription medication can get rid of a mite infestation, and heal any skin or ear infections your cat has. Consult with your vet to decide which treatment is best for your cat.

Itch creams

Cats that have scratched or licked excessively because of ear mites may benefit from an antibiotic cream to treat their skin. Antibiotic creams can soothe itchy, irritated skin and reduce swelling and inflammation.


Cats with severe irritation or a secondary infection occurring on their skin may need to visit the vet more than once to determine if further treatment is necessary.

At home treatments

While at-home remedies may get rid of ear mites temporarily, they are typically not a great long-term solution. However, at-home remedies can be a good initial treatment before you visit your veterinarian.

For example, using a grooming tool to remove adult ear mites may help. But, when the ear mite eggs hatch, the infestation will start again.

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Knowing the ins and outs, risks, and symptoms of ear mites will help you keep your cat healthy. And, help you choose the best treatment plan for your cat.


Meet Tracy Isenberg, LVT

Tracy Isenberg, LVT is a member of PetFriendly’s in-house vet team. Tracy has over 25 years of experience working in the pet space as a veterinarian technician. She received her degree from Omaha College of Health Careers. Tracy has two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Bruno and a Yellow Lab Mix named Libby.