If your cat is shaking their head and frantically scratching their ear, you might be concerned that they have an ear infection or mites. An itchy ear is always a reason to visit your veterinarian.

Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, & treatment options for ear mites in cats!

Key Takeaways:

  • Ear mites are tiny parasites that infest a cat's ear canal, causing itchiness and discomfort.
  • Cats usually get ear mites through direct contact with infested animals, and outdoor cats are at higher risk.
  • Ear mites in cats can be easily treated and prevented with proper veterinary care.

What Are Ear Mites in Cats?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that infest a cat's ear canal, causing itchiness and discomfort. They are so small that they cannot be seen without magnification. These pesky creatures, scientifically known as Otodectes cynotis, have a lifespan of up to 2 months and constantly lay eggs that hatch within 4 days. Their presence can make your cat's ears itchy and bothersome.

What Causes Ear Mites in Cats?

Ear mites in cats usually spread from one animal to another through direct contact. So if your cat hangs out with other furry friends like dogs, rabbits, or ferrets, there's a chance they could catch it. Outdoor cats are especially at risk since these mites can survive in the environment for about a month.

Signs & Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats

Checking for ear mites in cats requires a thorough examination of the ears. Look out for signs like:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching ears
  • Rubbing the ears on the ground
  • Red, painful, or swollen ears
  • Smelly ears
  • Dry, dark waxy discharge from the ears that might look similar to ground coffee

It’s important to note that these symptoms are quite non-specific and can indicate several other ear problems, such as infections and allergies for cats. So it’s always best to get a diagnosis from your vet to ensure you treat your cat appropriately.

How Are Cat Ear Mites Diagnosed?

To diagnose ear mites in cats, a veterinarian will take a closer look at your furry friend's ears using a special tool called an otoscope. They'll check for any signs of mites, like inflammation or swelling in the ear canal. Sometimes, the vet will take a swab sample of the ear wax to examine it under a microscope and confirm their presence.

Related reading: How Often Do You Take a Cat to the Vet?

Ear Mite Treatment for Cats

Ear mites are easy to treat, although it can take up to 3 weeks to completely get rid of them due to the life cycle of the mites, which means sometimes more than one treatment is required. Ensure you speak to your vet about whether you need to treat other pets in your home.

Here are some steps your veterinarian may recommend:

  • Ear cleaner: The vet will likely prescribe a cleaner to help and show how to use it correctly.
  • Medicated ear treatments: topical ear treatments can be used to treat ear mites, as well as topical antibiotics and antifungals to treat infections. Always follow your vet's instructions on how to use these.
  • Anti–itching medication:  in severe cases, the vet might prescribe something to keep your cat more comfortable.
  • Household sprays: this help removes mites from the environment. Open all the windows when you spray it, and never spray it directly onto your pet.
  • Washing pet’s bedding: Wash all your pet's bedding to remove any mites or eggs
  • Topical parasiticides: those containing Selamectin, like Revolution, will also kill ear mites and prevent fleas and heartworms.

Home Remedies for Ear Mites in Cats

While some people suggest home remedies for ear mites, consulting with a veterinarian is essential. They have the expertise to provide the most effective and safe treatment for your cat. Relying solely on home remedies may not entirely eliminate the infestation or address underlying infections or complications.

Preventing Cat Ear Mites

To prevent ear mites in cats, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Use Anti-Parasitic Treatments: Talk to your vet about using regular flea and tick prevention products that can also help prevent ear mites.
  • Keep It Clean: Clean your cat's bedding and living areas regularly to reduce the chance of mites and prevent infestation.
  • Limit Contact: Minimize your cat's contact with animals known to have ear mites to lower the risk of spreading.
  • Check Ears Often: Check your cat's ears regularly for signs of ear mites, like scratching or redness, to catch them early.
  • Vet Check-ups: Take your cat for regular vet check-ups where they can examine the ears and provide preventive care if needed.


In conclusion, ear mites are tiny parasites that can live in the ear canal of cats and dogs, rabbits, and ferrets. They cause the ear to become very itchy and inflamed, and you might notice an increase in the wax in your cat’s ear. If you’re concerned your cat may have a problem with their ear, you should get them checked by a vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do ear mites look like in cats?

You won't be able to spot ear mites on your cat without some help. They're too tiny! However, you might notice some signs in your cat's ears. Look for a dry, dark waxy discharge that resembles ground coffee. That could be a sign that ear mites are present.

How do you clean ear mites in cats?

Cleaning your cat's ears if they have ear mites involves using an ear cleaner prescribed by your vet. Just follow their instructions on how to use it properly. The ear cleaner helps remove wax and debris, reducing the population of mites.

How do cats get ear mites?

Cats can get ear mites through close contact with other infested animals like cats, dogs, rabbits, or ferrets.

Are ear mites contagious in cats?

Yes, ear mites are highly contagious among cats, especially in multi-pet households or environments with a high population of cats.

Can dogs get ear mites from cats?

While it is less common, dogs can get ear mites from close contact with infested cats.

Can humans get ear mites from cats?

Humans cannot contract ear mites from cats; they are specific to feline hosts.

Can indoor cats get ear mites?

Even indoor cats can get ear mites if they come into contact with infested animals or if the mites are brought into the environment.

Can ear mites kill a cat?

While ear mites can cause discomfort and irritation to cats, they are unlikely to cause the death of a cat directly.

What’s the difference between ear mites and wax?

The difference between ear mites and wax is that ear mites are tiny parasitic organisms that cause itching and inflammation, while wax is a natural secretion produced by the ears.

What's the difference between ear mites and ear infections?

Ear mites and ear infections share similar symptoms, such as itching and head shaking, but they require different treatments. Ear mites are caused by parasitic infestation, while ear infections can be caused by bacteria or yeast.

What kills ear mites in cats instantly?

Prescription topical treatments, such as Revolution, can effectively and quickly kill ear mites in cats.