Ear mites are a common parasite. They affect kittens more than adult cats because kittens' developing immune systems leave them vulnerable to the tiny pests. Ear mites can cause your furbaby to itch and to lose hair, and he'll need to visit the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Ear mites are tiny arthropods that crawl around inside your kitten's ears, feeding on the wax inside, along with bits of debris. They live in your little one's ear canals and cause inflammation and itching. You'll notice a foul odor, dark waxy buildup and matter like coffee grounds inside his ears. These little pests are easily transmitted from kitten to kitten or from his mom if she is infested. If your kitten is suffering from an infestation, you'll notice him fervently shaking his head or scratching at his ears. Left untreated, a mite infestation won’t resolve on its own and can cause permanent damage to the ear canal, which is why a visit to the vet is important.
Ear mites cause a lot of itching for your little guy, which may cause him to scratch at his ears and other parts of his body where the mites take up residence. These mites can migrate to his tail or face. Continued scratching can lead to scabby skin, skin lesions, infections and hair loss, especially around the ears, face or tail. If you notice that your furry friend's coat is looking a bit shabby, it's time to take him to the vet. Don't try to diagnose this yourself or clean out his ears; you can actually make things worse, especially if something other than mites is causing the inflammation and itching.
Time for the Vet
Your vet will be able to properly diagnose your kitten's ear condition with a physical exam and a look in his ears with a lighted tool called an otoscope. The light attracts the mites to the surface of the skin and debris for the vet to see. He may also take a sample of the discharge from the ear to examine under a microscope. He'll be sure to see the mites and note if any infections have formed because of them. During the visit he may clean out the ears and prescribe your kitty some medicine to treat any infections and kill the mites. Be sure to write everything down and have him show you how to administer any medications, especially in the little one's ears.
Your vet will give you a treatment plan, possibly including ear drops or an ear cleanser to rid your little guy of the mites that are plaguing him. Follow the directions carefully, giving him the full dose of any medications prescribed. Sometimes an antibiotic is prescribed to treat secondary infections caused by the mites. These should sooth your kitty's itchy skin, giving him some relief until the infestation is cured. Don't hesitate to call back your vet after your initial visit if you have any questions about the length of treatment. Once gone, the mites won't cause your kitty further irritation and his hair should grow back over the course of a few months.
Mites are contagious to other animals in your home, so it's best to bring all of your four-legged residents to the vet for exams and possible treatment. Wash all of your kitten's bedding and any other removable items in hot water to kill any remaining mites or their eggs. Although these pests don't last long outside of their host, namely your kitty, they can survive for short periods of time, during which they could come across their host again. Vacuum all of your carpets and mop your floors to remove any trace of them. Keep your kitten indoors to prevent him from catching mites from outside strays and other critters.
- kitten image by Vasily Smirnov from Fotolia.com