Monday, September 28, 2009 10:22 AM

Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites cause cats untold misery. These nasty little parasites burrow deep inside the ear canal, feeding off of the blood supply and laying their eggs in the delicate skin lining. If you have ever had an ear infection, especially something such as swimmer's ear, you can imagine the itching, discomfort and pain this causes. Chances are that at some point in his life, each and every outdoor cat will have ear mites. The itching sets up a cycle of scratching that often leads to infection, scarring and "ear hematoma", a blood blister that forms between the layers of skin in the ear flap and, if left untreated, causes severe ear deformity.

If your relatively young cat suddenly starts digging in his ears with his rear paws, scratching the outside of the ear and violently shaking his head, chances are that he has ear mites. (Older cats also get ear mites; I want to point out, however, that ear tumors can cause the same symptoms as mites and are more common in older cats). Gently look inside the ear. If you see what looks like sticky dirt, the problem is most likely ear mites.

I wish I could tell you that there is an all-natural remedy for this problem, but that has not been my experience. I've tried mineral oil, mullein oil, as well as garlic/olive oil, all to no avail. It alleviated the problem a bit, but didn't really "drown" the mites, as the articles had claimed. Also, just like with fleas, once the eggs hatch you'll have the whole problem back in spades.

This is one of those times when only a prescription from the veterinarian will do the trick. These drops contain an insecticide to kill the mites, usually Sevin, and an antibiotic to treat secondary bacterial infection in a soothing, oily base. You will have to scrupulously follow the directions for treatment or the problem will come right back. You will also have to treat all other animals in the household, as mites spread like wildfire. Sweet Pea managed to get mites from the kittens when I first brought them home, even though they were separated from her in another room and she never even saw them!

Remember: When instilling drops in the ears and (gently) cleaning them before doing so, be sure to set up in a room where it will be easy to clean up the mess!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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