Categories: ear mites

Can my cat give me ear mites?

Don’t be alarmed because it is appears to be infinitesimally rare but cats can give humans ear mites causing otitis externa. ‘Otitis externa’ means an inflammation or infection of the external part of the ear canal, the part from the ear drum to the outside.

Can cats give ear mites to humans? Yes but very, very rarely indeed.

It took me about 20 minutes to research this and track down this information. At first I could only find confirmation that humans can get ear mites of a different species, albeit very rarely. But a case study reported in the Annals of Clinical Case Reports concluded that a 58-year-old male had storage or dust mites (Chortoglyphus Arcuatus) in his ears.

These are not the same species of parasitic insect as the ear mite which is found in the ears of domestic cats which is Otodectes cynotis. For the sake of completeness the man’s ears were syringed with a warm saline solution followed by a topical acetic acid ear drop (2%) which resulted in a complete cure. DON’T try this on your cat – see a vet instead. This is important.

Therefore this rare case was not an example of transmission of mites from cat to human. However, there is a video on the website which indicates that a dog in an animal rescue center could give ear mites to a young woman who worked at the shelter (once again extreme rarity is notable).

Cat ear mite picture. Link to the clinic referred to in the picture. The picture is here with their express permission.

However, the best scientific evidence that I have that a cat COULD exceptionally pass ear mites to a person is from Elizabeth A. Mauldin and Jeanine Peters-Kennedy, in Jubb, Kennedy & Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals: Volume 1 (Sixth Edition), 2016.

They write:

Otodectes cynotis (Acarina: Psoroptidae) is an obligate parasite of the external skin surface of dogs, cats, and ferrets…..Mites can cause a transient papular dermatitis in humans or rarely otitis externa.

You can see the reference to otitis externa caused by the same species of ear mite that infects cats. Technically this does not mean that cats give humans the ear mites but it is possible. Ear mites are good crawlers. They craw outside the ear too. It seems feasible that in extremely rare circumstances that they could crawl on to a person’s hand and thence to their ear. Humans touch their faces 2,000 times a day.

Incidentally, ‘papular dermatitis’ is a skin condition the symptoms of which are itchy bumps on the skin.

Here is a video which shows us what mites in a human eat looks like.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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