How Do Cats Get Ear Mites?

Outdoor kitties are more likely to suffer from ear mites.
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Ear mites cause uncomfortable itching for your kitty and will affect at least 90 percent of cats during their lifetimes, according to VetInfo. These highly-contagious parasites are easily passed among both canine and feline furbabies, so treat everyone on four legs in your home to get rid of these pests.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny little white insects that live in both the external and internal canal of your cat's ears. The most common type of mite that infests a cat's ears is the otodectes cynotis. These eight-legged pests feed off of the oils and skin of the ears, causing inflammation and irritation. While the mites typically live in your cat's ears, they may also spread to the cat's face, tail, back and neck, according to PetPlace. Physical contact with another animal allows the mites to crawl onto a new pet, which is the main way these parasites are spread. Outdoor cats who come into contact with many animals outdoors, including other cats, dogs, rabbits and rodents, tend to become infested with ear mites more than indoor-only kitties.


Cats of all ages can become infested with ear mites, although they are more common in kittens than older cats. Newborn kittens can get the mites from their mother if she is infested. The main signs of an ear mite infestation in your cat include incessant scratching and shaking of the head, along with an unpleasant odor coming from inside the ears. The ears may also produce a discharge that looks similar to coffee grounds. This dark discharge consists of wax, blood, mites and other debris caused by inflammation, according to Veterinary Partner. While it's easy to assume that your cat has ear mites if he is displaying some or all of these symptoms, a proper diagnosis with a veterinarian is necessary to rule out other types of ear infections.


Consult with your veterinarian when treating a cat diagnosed with ear mites. Depending on the extent of the infestation, your cat may need special baths in shampoos containing pyrethrin to combat the mites that have migrated onto other parts of your cat, according to Catster. Your vet may clean your furbaby's ears of the mites and the debris that they cause and direct you to do so as well using a special ear-cleaning solution. In addition, a topical flea preventative, such as selemectin, will also kill mites and prevent them from reinfecting your cat. These types of medications are rubbed between your cat's shoulder blades and provide month-long protection against parasites. You may also be instructed to apply medicated ear drops to the cat's ears, which help kill the mites and contain ingredients to treat any secondary infections present in the ears.

Contagious Pets

Once infected, your cat is contagious to any other animals he comes into contact with, even during treatment, and should be isolated from them. Because the mites can also infect dogs, you must treat your canine companions as well. Even if none of your other pets show signs of an ear mite infestation, it's best to treat them anyway, to prevent them from getting the pests. A quick application of a topical flea medication that also prevents mites is usually all it will take to ensure that all of your pets are healthy and mite-free. If you plan on having pet play-dates for your cat, ask that any animals he comes into contact with be treated with a mite-preventative medication. Isolate any new pets and quarantine them in a room away from your existing pets until they are treated as well.


The best method of dealing with ear mites is to prevent them from affecting your cat in the first place. Mites live primarily on their host and spread to other animals through direct contact, but they can survive for short amounts of time on your cat's bedding or carpeting in your home. Vacuum thoroughly and wash pet beds, blankets or other removable items in hot water to prevent the mites from spreading to other animals or reinfecting your cat. Treat all furry residents of your home regularly with a prescription topical medication to prevent fleas and mites from infecting them. Keep your cat indoors to prevent contact with other animals outside.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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