How do cats get ear mites?

Ear mites are very small crab-like parasites that live on the cat’s ear canal, on the outer ears and if the infestation is severe can also be found on the head and on the other parts of the body. Ear mites can affect about 90% of cats. An owner would be puzzled why an indoor pet would be infested by this parasite. Ear mite infestation is highly contagious. The parasite can be easily transferred by an infested cat to another. A mother cat infested with ear mites can transfer the parasites to the kittens. An ear mite infestation can easily spread to all the pets in the household as an infested cat would transfer these little buggers not only to other cats but also to other animals. Just like a cat, the dog, the hamster or the rabbit would be inclined to scratch the ears and shake the head. Fortunately, humans are not affected by ear mites.

Otodectes cynotis is the type of ear mites that commonly infest cats and dogs. Unlike other parasites that bite to feed on the blood of the host, ear mites would feed on ear wax and ear oils. However, ear mites that crawl in the cat’s ear canal would cause immense discomfort. A cat infested with ear mites would do a lot of scratching and head shaking. In cases of severe infestation, the scratching and the head shaking will cause aural hematoma, a condition where severe scratching and head shaking will cause the blood vessels to rupture. Severe ear mite infestation can cause the eardrums to rupture. The cat can have seizures and suffer permanent hearing disabilities. The cat’s incessant scratching would result to raw skin that can get bacterial and yeast infected. Preventing ear mite infestation is therefore very necessary.

An ear mite infestation though is highly contagious. A cat owner can never be sure that the pet would not get infested because it is an indoor cat. The parasite can be easily transferred through close contact. As cats have the inclination to wander, there will always be a chance that the indoor cat would mingle with another pet that is ear mite infested. Ear mite can be transferred by the cat to other animals and vice versa. Once a pet is infested, other household pets can be infected as well. A mother cat would transmit the parasites to the kittens.

The scratching and the head shaking can be man infestations of other health concerns. Ear mites are microscopic parasites. Conclusive diagnosis will be done by a vet using an otoscope that will magnify the ear mites. Cat owners though would be able to recognize the infestation if the cat’s ears have black and waxy discharge that resembles coffee grounds. The ears would also have an unpleasant odor. Due to the scratching and the head shaking, the ears will be swollen as well.

Ear mite infestation spreads easily. Fortunately, this parasite infestation can be easily managed as well. Once the treatment is started, the cat would find relief from discomfort at once. Over the counter preparations that would kill ear mites are readily available. These products contain insecticides but they can be safely used on the cats. To totally eradicate the infestation, the life cycle of the ear mites must be understood. To interrupt the life cycle of the parasite, the treatment must be repeated several times. To ensure treatment success, the ears must be cleaned with all the exudates removed. This is very necessary given that the treatment may not fully kill the ear mites that are covered by the exudates. Severe ear mite infestation will cause the parasites to migrate to the other parts of the cat’s body. The cat has to be treated with flea and tick sprays or dips to totally eradicate the ear mite infestation.