5 Common ear problems in cats


Is your cat scratching at her ears and shaking her head a little too much? Cats are susceptible to certain kinds of ear problems, especially if they are allowed to go outside.

What are the most common ear issues your cat can experience, and what can you do to help him find some relief from a very annoying problem?

Here’s a quick rundown (be sure to see your vet for a proper diagnosis and ear medications).


5 Common Ear Infections in Cats: 


  1. Ear mites


One of the most common ear issues or ear infections experienced by cats and kittens (especially if they’re allowed outside or encounter other cats) is ear mite infestation. Outer ear infections in cats are called otitis externa.

Mites are a tiny parasite that live in the ear canal. Lots of scratching and head shaking is common with ear mites.

You probably will also see a build-up of brown wax from your cat's ear flap to the inner part of the ear if your cat has contracted ear mites. Your vet can easily diagnose mites and can give ear drops for your cat's ears. It’s also important to treat all animals in the house because mites can quickly spread to other cats.


  1. Ear injury


Cat fights are a common cause a cat's ear to have injuries because the ears are so delicate and exposed. Bites, scratches, and tears can occur during fights. These wounds can become infected.

Your cat can also get blood blisters on the ears from fighting…and from excessive scratching. These can lead to other ear infections, so it is best to see your vet for antibiotics for infected wounds.

Blood blisters should be drained. Left untreated, they can deform the ear over time. The best prevention for ear injuries is to neuter cats and keep them indoors to prevent fighting.


  1. Deafness


Cats can become deaf from old age, ear infections, head injuries, and even when the ears become blocked with too much wax. It’s also true that certain cats are genetically predisposed to deafness.

The gene associated with white fur and blue eyes can also cause deterioration of the inner ear. See your vet if you suspect hearing loss in your cat. Bad infections can lead to permanent hearing loss.


  1. Ear infections


Your cat’s ears can become infected when a foreign body gets stuck in the ear, or from fungus or bacteria. Your cat will scratch the ear and you may see swelling, redness and discharge.

Infections can be in the ear canal or also go deeper into the inner part of the ear. Inner ear infections can lead to hearing loss, a tilted head, and even a loss of balance.  See your vet for treatment, which can range from ear drops to oral antibiotics for more serious infections.


  1. Sunburn and frostbite


The ear area can be a common site of skin cancer in cats, especially those with light coloured fur who spend a lot of time out in the sun. Keeping your cat indoors will protect him from direct sun exposure and from getting an ear infection.

You can also apply a pet sunscreen to your cat’s ears. Growths and sores that do not heal can be a sign of skin cancer.  See your vet to discuss treatment.  Ears (along with paws and tails) can also be affected by frostbite. Keep your cat indoors during cold weather. 

It is advisable to visit a veterinarian if your cat has chronic ear infections so that the doctor can provide treatment and the right medication immediately.


Can cat ear infections be prevented?

Regularly inspecting the ear to ensure there is no redness, build-up, or odour is the best approach to prevent another unpleasant ear infection.

Healthy ears are light pink, with little to no visible earwax and no odour. You may detect a possible ear infection early by frequently testing and get it treated before it becomes worse.

It is ideal if the vet either does the ear cleaning themself or shows you how to do it. Never put a cleaning tool inside the ear canal itself unless your veterinarian has told you to.

What is the most common cat ear infection?

The most common ear infection in cats are ear mites.

Are ear infections in cats contagious?

Ear infections in cats are generally not contagious to humans or other pets except those that are caused by parasites. Parasites like mites can be contagious to other cats, so if one cat is infected, it is best to consult a veterinarian for treatment options for all cats in the household.

Can cats get polyps in their ear canal?

Cats cat sometimes get polyps or what we call "growths" within their ear canal. Occasionally, they are non-cancerous. They may not result to an ear infection but can be a cause for pain and discomfort for your cats. Consult your veterinarian if you notice your cats are experiencing discomfort.

What is otitis externa?

Otitis externa means outer ear infections.

What is otitis media?

It is middle ear infections or inflammations.

What happens if outer ear infections are not treated?

If outer ear infections are not treated, the ear infection can go to the middle ear, where it gets the term "otitis media," and when it goes further from the middle ear to the inner ear, it gets termed "otitis interna." In severe cases, the inner ear and ear drum can get damaged or affected and this can lead to deafness.

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