Q: How can I tell if my cat has ear mites?
A: Ear mites can be a real problem for cats and can easily transfer from one cat to another. Cat ear mites are very tiny and barely visible to the human eye. If they invade your cat, however, you will see persistent scratching of your cat’s ears and a lot of head-shaking. Look for a buildup of dark wax in your cat’s ear canal and the folds of your cat’s ear. You might also detect an unpleasant odor around your cat’s ears.
Cats’ ear mites can cause inflammatory ear diseases and, if not treated, lead to a serious infection of the cat’s inner ear. When I used to do cat rescue work, a sweet cat named Angel I met had an ear that looked like the “cauliflower ear” that prize fighters sometimes get. The cat vet we worked with said this was due to a severe case of the cat’s ear mites. The poor cat was so uncomfortable and had scratched her ears so vigorously for so long she broke the blood vessels in her ear, eventually causing it to shrivel. Fortunately, we treated the cat and she finally got some relief. I ended up adopting her and Angel lived for another 12 years.
If you suspect ear mites, do not try to treat them yourself please. Take your cat to the vet right away. With the proper medication, ear mites can be eliminated without too much effort. Your cat’s vet will clean the outer ear canal with special medication. You will then need to continue the medication at home, giving drops to your cat’s ear daily. In no time, your cat should be “mite-free” and much more comfortable. To prevent new infestations, ask your cat vet about a topical solution given at the base of the neck once a month. As always I welcome your comments and stories.