The truth about treating cat ear mites

cat ear mite

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The truth is that treating cat ear mites is more difficult than people think. People search for ways of treating cat ear mites naturally, or treating cat ear mites at home, or treating cat ear mites with mineral oil. These are all home remedies demonstrating a cat owner’s wish to treat this feline health condition themselves. On this website I have a popular page on home remedies for ear mites but frankly speaking I don’t believe, in retrospect, that it is a good page as it encourages unrealistic behavior. It was written years ago.

I happen to believe that it is unwise and often impossible to treat cat ear mites at home. It may be worse than that. Trying to treat cat ear mites at home may result in harm being done to a cat. It should be said that an ear mite infection is one of the most common health problems seen in cats.

The truth is that ear mites are a serious health problem for a cat and they are very distressing and uncomfortable for a cat. This means that the problem should be tackled quickly and properly. It is the sort of problem that people can push to one side because sometimes the only symptom one can see in one’s cat is some scratching and headshaking. Cats do that anyway and people are reluctant to take their cat to their veterinarian. If this happens a cat can be left in acute discomfort for a long time.

Cat ear mite picture
Cat ear mite picture

Ear mites are tiny insects that live in the ear canal and they feed by piercing the skin. Not only does this nasty parasite cause a cat to be distressed through irritation it can also cause an allergic reaction, a complicating factor.

You may be aware that what you will see in the cat’s ear when this parasite is present is a dry, crumbly, dark brown, waxy substance when you look into the cat’s ear. There may be a foul smell. The initial problem may be compounded by the fact that the cat is scratching her ear so much that it causes a wound which becomes infected with bacteria.

The reason why this parasite is a serious problem is because they crawl deep into the canal where they can be difficult to get at and treat. I have already mentioned secondary infections of bacteria. Another problem is that during treatment mites can travel from the canal and move to other parts of the cat causing itching and scratching there.

Therefore, it is not only important to treat the whole cat with a safe, topical insecticide, the cat’s owner should also seek a veterinarian’s confirmation that the cat is, in fact, infested with the ear mite. It could be something else and if one tries to treat at home you may have zero success and at the same time you may create other health problems.

As a result, it seems clear to me that if one’s cat is scratching her ears and shaking her head and the other symptoms for a mite infestation are present, then without hesitation or delay the cat’s owner should take their cat to the vet to deal with this nasty problem properly.

There are other problems. Other ear ailments can be made more complicated when using the medication is that kill ear mites.

The recommendation, in the book that I have¹, is that the ear should be cleaned before applying medication. In fact, it is described as being essential to do that. This is because dirty ear canals contain wax and debris which shelters the parasite, which makes it difficult for the medication to kill them.

Personally, I would find cleaning my cat’s ears a problem. I don’t like sticking something down my cat’s ears. You can make things worse. Personally, I do not believe that a cat owner should try and clean her cat’s ears unless she/he is absolutely sure that she knows what she is doing and better still has some experience in doing this sort of thing. Remember that it won’t be enough to simply clean the top part of the canal, the bit that one can see easily. And if one is prodding and poking around deep into the ear canal damage is likely to be done.

If cleaning cat ears is potentially hazardous to the cat (when it is done by the cat’s owner), that in itself is enough to suggest that the only course of action is for the owner to take her cat to her veterinarian and for her veterinarian to carry out the entire treatment and/or supervise home treatment.

On the basis that the cat’s owner has the experience and skill then after cleaning the ears (as instructed by her veterinarian) the ears should be medicated with medicines chosen by her veterinarian. The dosage and frequency of application should be strictly followed and it is important to complete the entire treatment because if not this nasty parasite is likely to return.

To conclude, I would not recommend that a person tries to treat his or her cat based upon information on the Internet and neither should the treatment solely be based upon natural or home remedies. I do not believe that, in the case of this parasite, these are enough. Also great care should be exercised when applying any pesticide to a cat as they are poisonous. Pesticides can cause health problems unless applied very carefully. Veterinarian supervision is a necessity as far as I’m concerned.

17 thoughts on “The truth about treating cat ear mites”

  1. Treating ear mites in cats is something that should be done carefully for sure. So much of this article will benefit anyone that is experiencing infestation of these pesky creatures. What I disagree with though is the medicines prescribed for ear mites treatment. Most are very dangerous and can even cause hearing loss. They are pesticides, insecticides and poison. Ear mites can be successfully treated naturally and we do that with our cats that go outside all the time and end up needing ear mite treatment because of that. We found a treatment called Dr Dogs Ear Oil from which has been very helpful to soothe the irritated ears and gets rid of the ear mites just fine. More people should know that while seeing a vet is always a good idea, using the harsh ear mite medicines really isn’t a good idea, they can even cause hearing loss!
    Be safe and take care what is prescribed or used in your cat’s ears.

  2. When John and I first got Popsy she had ear mites, along with her litter tray and a brush her previous “owner” sent a half a bottle of some cheap and nasty ear drops from a pet shop which went straight into the bin. We took her to our vets the next day to start her vaccinations and have her looked at and microchipped (scary thinking of that now after reading the recent article about it, and the poor little thing did cry out when it was injected)and then the vet used a spot on treatment for the back of her neck which was for fleas and ear mites, can’t remember now what it was called but it cleared the ear mites up in a very short time and she never had the problem again. I think it’s pointless messing about at home, get to the vets and get something that is going to work then it’s sorted and cat and human are both happy.

  3. when they had earmites we had to put medication in their ears twice a day for TWO whole weeks – it was awful. And it seems cats always get them.

  4. No it isn’t a good idea to try to treat ear mites at home without a vet’s examination.
    When I worked for vets we sometimes had to anaesthetise cats to clean out their ears impacted with the black dirt from mites, it was too painful to do it while they were awake. If those cats had been seen and treated properly their ears would never have got so bad and the remedy wouldn’t have cost as much either.

    • Interesting comment, Ruth, because it shows how tricky it can be to treat ear mites and how cat owners can neglect it and underrate the severity of the condition. Thanks for your support.

      • Some cats had scratched at their ear so much they had a haematoma in the flap which caused it to swell up painfully, they had to be anaesthetised and a cut made inside the flap to let the blood drain out. One vet I worked for would stitch a tiny button over the wound to hold it together but also so that it would allow any more blood to drain until the wound healed up. I was aghast when I first saw him do it but it worked wonders, the ear always healed beautifully.
        I often wonder how much things have changed nowadays for things like that.

  5. Excellent advice as always, Michael.

    What is of great concern to me are veterinarians on the Internet who offer diagnostic and treatment suggestions (some free and some at a fee) without having examined the cat. I think this is extremely dangerous.

    • I agree. I think this has come about because of the Internet and because veterinarians are very keen to embrace the Internet and publicise their work and themselves but they jeopardise their integrity. You really can’t diagnose without seeing the cat, handling the cat, and talking to the cat’s caretaker.

      Regrettably, as far as I’m concerned, 99% of American vets have already jeopardised their integrity by declawing cats.


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