Understanding Ear Mites

Ear mite infections often plague cats, but can be prevented and treated at home.

Ear mites are tiny spider-like parasites that commonly infect cats. Ear mites are not specific to cats; they can be spread to or acquired from dogs and any other mammalian pets. They can cause irritation, infection and hair loss (from excessive scratching) if left untreated. Luckily, treatment is both easy and inexpensive.

Symptoms of an ear mite infection include:

  • A black, waxy discharge, or crust on the outer ear canal that resembles coffee grinds
  • Light bleeding
  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Frequent head shaking to dislodge the mites
  • Ears are sensitive to the touch
  • Head tilt to one side

Remember, ear mites are microscopic and not easily visible without a magnifying glass. If you are not sure if your cat has an ear mite infection, see your veterinarian. S/he can easily identify mites, and recommend the best treatment.
Once you have identified that your cat has ear mites, treatment requires a few simple steps. It is important to follow the treatment protocol precisely and to see the process through to the end. This will ensure that all of the mite eggs are eliminated and prevent re-infestation.

  • Step 1: Clean the ear. Use an ear cleaner designed for cats (vs. water) because the ear cleaner is designed to dry out completely and the water can stay in the ear and cause an ear infection. Be sure to follow the directions on the ear cleaner - if you are not confident doing this, consult a veterinarian.
  • Step 2: Medicate. Do not use home remedies to try and eliminate the infection which could cause harm to your cat’s ears. Ear mite medication is relatively inexpensive, effective and available over-the counter at most pet stores. Be sure to follow the package instructions carefully.
  • Step 3: Clean the ear again. This will remove any leftover eggs or resilient mites. Keep in mind that It only takes a few remaining mites to trigger a re-infestation.
  • For more information on Treating ear mites.

If, after one month your cat still has ear mites, or her ear is visibly raw or infected, you should consult your veterinarian.


Ear mites are highly contagious. If one of your pets shows evidence of ear mites, treat all of them immediately. Just a few errant eggs can cause a re-infestation. Don’t worry; humans cannot be infected with ear mites.

Cats gradually build up resistance to ear mite infections as they age. Young cats, outdoor cats, and cats acquired from animal shelters should be checked more often. Cats that are often sick or have poor nutrition are also more vulnerable.

One final note: Ear mites are very common in felines, but if the treatment is not working it may be that your cat is suffering from a different type of infection. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.