Ear Mites and Your Cat

One of the most common diagnoses in 2014, ear mites affects roughly 1 in every 50 cats Banfield sees, with up to 6 percent of kittens under one year of age afflicted.1 Here is a handy guide on the identification and prevention of these pesky pests.

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Download our Ear Mites Handout for an in-depth look at this pet health condition

What Is an Ear Mite?

Ear mites are insects that live as parasites - an organism that lives on or within another living organism where it obtains nutrients and shelter - in the ears of your cat, kitten, or, more rarely, dog. They are most common in cats, however. Ear mites usually spend their entire life cycle living in and around your cat’s ear canal, feeding on earwax and skin oils.

Ear mites can infect a cat of any age, though they are especially common in kittens and outdoor cats. Highly contagious, these troublesome parasites are easily transmitted by physical contact with other, mite-infected cats. Even the personal items of an affected cat, such as bedding or toys, can cause potential contamination if they come into direct, physical contact with another cat. Keep your cat clear of any itchy-eared feline friends he or she might have, until the other cat has had a chance to be checked for ear mites by a local veterinarian.

Prevention

If your cat becomes infected, leave it to your local veterinarian to decide what treatment options might be best. As an owner, your best means of prevention is catching any budding infestation of ear mites early, before they can become a serious issue. Daily brushings are a great way to closely examine your cat’s ears for any foreign entities, as well as keep their coat lean, making it more difficult for parasites to burrow and hide in a dense, unkempt coat. Having a good idea of your cat’s body, what is new and what is normal, is essential in uncovering anything abnormal hiding in your cat’s fur.

To prevent re-infestation, your home should be thoroughly cleaned, and all of your cat’s bedding should be washed or replaced. Even if not infected, you cat’s bedding should be washed regularly to help prevent any potential parasitic outbreaks. Vacuum thoroughly under each nook and cranny of your home – couches, beds, rugs, and other uncommonly vacuumed areas – and throw the bag away. If the vacuum bag is left in place, parasites might be able to wander back into your home, reinfecting any unsuspecting cats in its path.

Your home can also be treated with an indoor fog or spray, but this is usually not necessary if your cat is properly treated. It is recommended that, if possible, you keep your cat indoors. Studies have shown that indoor cats live longer lives, and have a decreased chance of encountering parasites such as ear mites and fleas.

Need More Information?

Those products proven most safe and effective in the treatment of ear mites are purchased by prescription only, so you should consult with your local veterinarian before taking any steps toward medicating your pet. For more information on parasites and how they can affect your pet, review our parasite prevention page to learn more about these dangerous pests.

1: Banfield Pet Hospital data. Banfield Applied Research & Knowledge (BARK) team. Portland, Ore. To see more information gathered by our BARK team, visit our State of Pet Health™ Report