A study from Italy published in 2013 found a very high prevalence of otitis externa in stray cats. What is this? “Otitis” refers to inflammation of the ear. “Externa” refers to the external apparatus of the ear which means the ear canal and ear flap. So were talking about infections in the part of the ear that you can see including the ear canal going down to the eardrum.
“Ear mites are deeply distressing and uncomfortable for your cat” – four vets who wrote the premier book on cat health for laypeople.
They surveyed 187 cats that were randomly selected under a TNR program. They found that 55.1% suffered from otitis externa. They found no particular risk factors in terms of age, gender and habitat. The primary cause of these infections was the ear mite (Otodectes cynotis). It was either the only parasitical infestation in the ear or it was in combination with other issues such as a secondary bacterial and/or fungal infection.
In fact, the ear mite was the primary cause of otitis in 53.3% of the cats. Cocci and rods (bacteria) added to the problem in 71.8% of the cats suffering from ear mites. This is no surprise because when cats have ear mites in their ear canals, they suffer great distress and irritation. They scratch vigorously to try and get at the irritation but all they achieve is damage to their ear flap and the outer parts of their ears. This allows an infection to take hold which compounds the problem and causes more irritation.
RELATED: Do ear mites cause pain in cats?
And further as expected, fungal infections compounded the problem in 50.5% of cats with otitis. The species of fungus identified was Malassezia.
In short, and to quote the research scientists, “The result of this study shows a high prevalence of otitis externa in stray colony cats and provides information on causal factors for feline otitis externa”.
Are we happy to accept this? The fact is that because of human carelessness millions of cats living in the urban environment are suffering great distress. Stray cats shouldn’t be there. They are only there because we put them there.
But how many people realise or think about the pain and distress that this form of human carelessness causes? We don’t think about it do we? Humans like to forget about these sorts of things. If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. The same problem exists with global warming.
Veterinarians will tell you that the most frequent signs of otitis externa caused by ear mites is intense itching characterised by scratching and violent headshaking. Sometimes there is an allergic reaction to the mites which makes things even worse.
And sadly, this sort of health condition is very curable provided the cat is taken to a veterinarian. Of course, that doesn’t happen. Personally, I am unhappy to understand that such a high percentage of stray cats suffer with this highly uncomfortable disease.
Study referred to: Prevalence of otitis externa in stray cats in northern Italy. Book referred to: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.
Below are some more pages on ear mites.