Ear mites are tiny parasites that live on the surface of the skin lining in the ear canal. The presence of mites results in dry black ear discharge inside of the cats ear. Ear mites thrive on ear canal secretions and tissue debris multiplied by thousands (of mites). They can also spread to your cat’s head, skin, back, neck and tail while living their life cycle on their host. Ear Mites are highly contagious and as common as fleas in cats. They can lead to bacterial and fungal infections if untreated. In extreme cases, untreated ear mites can cause a ruptured eardrum or permanent hearing loss. While cats of any age are susceptible to ear mites, they are most often found in young cats and kittens.
Ear mites pierce the skin surface and feed off ear wax, blood, loose tissue and anything else they find appetizing. This causes inflammation, discomfort, blockage and leads to ear infections. Your cat may itch and scratch his ears constantly or shake his head to relieve the irritation of the mites. In time this can lead to injuries and secondary infections.
Additional symptoms include black ear discharge made up of wax, blood, mites and oils in the inside of the ear, brown crust on the outside of the ear and scratches around the outer ear. Mites themselves are pinpoint in size, white in color and hard to see without the assistance of a microscope.
Once you or your vet have properly recognized mites as being the problem, your first step in handling this condition is to clean out your cat’s ear canal. Many types of oils can be used for this procedure from mineral oil to olive or corn oils and even jojoba oil, which is often available at health food stores. Using cotton swabs and warm oil (to soften the debris), you will want to carefully clean your cat’s ear and remove as much of the dark discharge as possible.
Anti-mite or Miticide ear drops can be purchased at most pet stores such as SentryHC. Some people who are fond of natural home remedies for cat ear mites recommend using infusions of yellow root extract every other day to treat the mites, although this method may not be as immediately effective. It is important to focus on the most effective means of mite elimination since these pests come back quickly and lead to infections.
Ear mites lay eggs that hatch within about four days. This means a single application of ear drops is not enough and continued use is necessary for several weeks. Since mites can travel all over your cat’s body bathing several times with a flea treatment shampoo over the course of about six weeks in necessary.
It is also a good idea to treat any other pets in your household with the same treatment protocol since mites are highly communicable. Chances are your other pets are also harboring these rapidly proliferating creatures.
Mites are very similar to fleas in that they can house themselves temporarily in your carpets and upholstery. You’ll need to vacuum your home repeatedly to remove the mite eggs. Although mites can only survive long term on a host organism, they can easily lay eggs around your house. Since mite eggs hatch after only a few days, you’ll want to cleanse habitually for several weeks along with your pet treatments.
It is important to take your cat to a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis if the above treatments are not effective. Your vet will take a swab sample of ear discharge and evaluate it under a microscope.
Keeping your cat indoors and away from other animals in the best prevention method. This may involve a difficult transition period, but worth it to avoid mites, fleas and many other threats that exist for your cat outdoors. Routine cleaning of your cat’s ears can prevent and help catch mites early on.
Be sure to keep your cat comfortable and cozy with toys, water, litter and healthy food while in treatment. And continue giving him love and affection. Remember, mites are treatable with minimal damage when caught early. Always wash your hands thoroughly after treatments.