Ear Mites in Cats

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    Life Cycle of Mites

    • Ear mites spend their life cycle from incubation to death on a host, laying eggs in the cat's ears and fur surrounding the ears. The eggs of ear mites hatch after four days of incubation, and the larva then feeds on the oils and wax found within the animal's ear canals. After about a week, larva molt into protonymph mites, or adolescent mites, which then grow into deutonymphs, or young-adult mites. Adult mites do not develop gender characteristics until mating occurs, at which time the less-developed mite will take on female characteristics and produce fertilized eggs.

    Source and Cause

    • The presence of ear mites in cats is commonplace, and only becomes a problem when the environment provides the right conditions for fast reproduction. Ear mites are very contagious, passing from animal to animal, and are the most common cause of ear infections in cats. Ear mites can spread quickly between pets, including cats, dogs, hamsters, mice, gerbils, ferrets and rabbits.

    Signs and Symptoms

    • A thick, dark, crusty residue found in the ears of cats accompanied by excessive scratching and head shaking are the most common signs that your cat may be suffering from a mite infestation. In severe cases, you cat may develop an ear infection, there may be increased production of ear wax as your cat's body attempts to expel the pest and sores may form around the ears from excessive scratching.


    • To verify the presence of mites, a vet must examine the material under a microscope. This is to exclude the possibly of infection caused by yeast or bacteria, conditions that may have similar symptoms. Your vet can also see mites with an otoscope, a small instrument that can be used to see within the cat's ear canal to the eardrum. This procedure can be stressful and painful, and may require mild sedation for your cat.


    • Because ear mite treatments can aggravate infections caused by yeast or bacterial infections, it is important to seek proper diagnosis from a veterinarian before administering treatment. It is generally recommended that you clean your cat's ears before putting medications directly into the ear canal. If you are uncomfortable cleaning your cat's ears, the vet can do this for you or instruct you how to safely do it yourself. In addition to medicated ear drops, you should use a medicated shampoo or other topical treatment to rid your cat of mites found on other parts of the body. Two to four weeks of treatment is usually enough to clear up the problem; however, you should have a follow-up visit with your vet.


    • To prevent the infestation and spread of ear mites, it is important to protect your cat from exposure to other affected animals. If one pet is suffering from ear mites, it is a good idea to treat other pets as well, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Finally, your veterinarian can recommend various types of heartworm prevention treatments that also work to prevent ear mites.


    • Ear mites will not infest humans; however, they can occasionally cause a skin rash. Skin rash caused by ear mites will clear up without treatment once the infestation on your pet is under control.

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