Ear Mites in Cats

Leigh Burkett, DVM
By Leigh Burkett, DVM on Nov. 23, 2021

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Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites (Otodectes cyanotis) are a common and generally mild parasitic infection in cats. Despite their name, ear mites can affect other parts of your cat’s body besides their ears, and they are very contagious. 

Cats with ear mites usually scratch their ears excessively and shake their heads. Some cats will shake their heads so much that a hematoma will form in the ear. This is when blood pools in the ear due to a broken blood vessel, causing the ear flap to swell. 

Ear mites are common in young cats but can occur in cats of any age. 

Hypersensitivity reactions can occur in cats with ear mites. This will result in severe irritation of your cat’s ears. 

Causes of Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites are highly contagious, so your cat can get them from being in close contact with other animals that have ear mites. They can pass from parent cat to newborn kitten and between animals of different species. However, this mite does not affect humans. 

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats

Cats with ear mites commonly display these symptoms, usually due to uncomfortable itching: 

  • Scratching the ears, head, and neck 

  • Frequent headshaking

  • Dry, crumbly, black or red-brown discharge in the ear canal 

If ear mites spread to other areas of your cat’s body, you may see:

  • Skin crusting and scaling on the neck, rump, and tail

  • Generalized itching and scratching

Treatment for Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites are typically treated with eardrops that are FDA-approved for this purpose, such as Acarexx®, MilbeMite®, or Otomite Plus®. 

Before starting treatment, your cat’s ears should be thoroughly cleaned with an ear cleaner designed for cats. This will remove any debris and make the treatment more effective.  

If other areas of the body are affected, a flea medication that also works against mites may be prescribed. These include Advantage Multi® and Revolution®Bravecto® is also effective at treating ear mites but is not labeled for this purpose.  

If a cat, dog, or ferret in your household is diagnosed with ear mites, you should treat all cats, dogs, and ferrets in your home. Fortunately, ear mites do not survive well off animals and in the environment, so household treatment should not be needed. 

Your veterinarian will prescribe a product best suited for your pets. 

Recovery and Management of Ear Mites in Cats

Recovery from ear mites generally takes 7-10 days. Routine use of Advantage Multi®, Revolution®, or Bravecto® will reduce the possibility of recurrences. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best product for your pets. 

Leigh Burkett, DVM


Leigh Burkett, DVM


Dr. Leigh Burkett was born and raised in Northeast Tennessee. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Wake Forest University...

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