What are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are small invertebrate animals (also known as arthropods) that live in the ear canals and around the ears of animals like cats and dogs, but they can also be a pest in humans. They are frequently found near the eyelashes and eyebrows. Often referred to as parasites, they look like tiny white specks, and they feed off ear wax, oil and skin cells.
Different species or types of ear mites
There are three main types of mites: demodex, scabies and bird mites. But most commonly, the species that is seen by practicing vets is Otodectes cynotis, a scabies mite. This species is responsible for 90% of ear mite infections in cats and feline scabies. If your cat has ear mites, it is extremely likely this is the species causing the problems!
How do cats get ear mites?
Ear mites make up more than half of all feline ear infections, but they are most often seen in kittens. This is mainly because they haven’t built up their defense systems yet and they also like to explore more! Infestations can also be caused because of a lack of proper ear cleaning, especially after exposure to another infected pet. However, mites and other bugs are easily passed between cats, so don’t feel too bad! They can get infested either from direct contact or through sharing a bed with other animals. If one pet has mites, it is likely that your other pets do too, so it is important that you take action to get rid of ear mites as soon as you spot the symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of ear mites in cats
It is a common occurrence that people confuse cat mites symptoms with other cat ear problems like allergies and ear infections. If your cat keeps scratching its ears, head and neck with their paws or is shaking its head, it’s quite likely that they have ear mites. Cats with this infestation tend to hold their head to one side, so keep an eye out for strange posture. Ear mites can also produce wax and irritation, which can make your pet’s ears red and inflamed. Often, they bring an unusual odour and cause black ear discharge which is dry. The most obvious difference between ear mites and ear infections, however, is the texture - infections typically have a moist, goopy appearance.
How to identify that your cat has ear mites
Firstly, check your cat’s ears. Do they match any of the symptoms mentioned above? Have a look around and search for foreign bodies that look like coffee grounds. If you do find any, carefully remove a small amount, and then place on a dark surface. Using a magnifying glass, if you have one, identify the colour. Is it white? Does it seem to be moving? Live mites move in tiny, white dot form. They are not easy to see with the human eye, so we recommend that you take a sample for your vet to investigate under a microscope, and get your ear mite infestation diagnosis confirmed. In order to prevent ear mites, however, it is best to keep your cat’s ears clean.
What are the best ingredients to naturally clean cat ears?
When cleaning your pets ears, you don’t want to be using products that contain alcohol or harsh chemicals, as they can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Below we have summed up the best ingredients you can use to clean your cat’s ears naturally. Check out our article on how to clean cat ears for other handy tips.
Great for dealing with burns and dryness on the skin, Aloe Vera is also ideal for cleaning pet's ears. It can help with redness and itchy skin caused by debris, and even irritation from dirt or scratching.
Tea Tree Oil
An infamous essential oil, Tea Tree has a number of uses. Most people don’t know that it’s great for your pet's ears. It can act as a natural cleanser, and it even has the ability to protect from bacteria.
Known for providing irritated skin relief, Witch Hazel is known for soothing sensitive areas. This makes it great for calming itchy ears in cats. It can also protect against skin damage and ward off infection.
Echinacea is incredibly beneficial for your pet pal. It is widely regarded as an immunity booster, assisting with the body's internal strength. This is very useful for common and irritating ear issues.
How to get rid of ear mites in cats: Our recommended treatments and methods of prevention
When choosing an ear cleaner to help with mites, you should pick one with the best natural ingredients that are suitable for cats. The Ear Cleaner by Animigo can act as ear mite drops for cats. It is a natural, non-irritating cleanser that dissolves excess ear wax and removes debris from the ear. This cruelty-free and alcohol-free product is suitable for both cats and dogs, so you can help your other furry-friends too. Plus, it’s great for on-going, regular use.
Alternative ear mite treatment for cats and other ear drops can be purchased over the counter, however, you should always take advice from your vet - they know their stuff! They may even be able to flush out the ears for you, but this can come at an extra cost.
There are some free home remedies too, like using olive oil. It is suggested that you put the oil in the ears every other night for several weeks, and this drowns the ear mites. People have also used coconut oil and mineral oil instead of olive oil, achieving similar results. This, however, may be harder with certain cats, so it depends on how well behaved your pets are!
Getting rid of ear mites typically takes about 2 weeks, unless it reoccurs, at which point more aggressive action must be taken. To completely remove ear mites from your home and pets, ensure that all pets receive treatment. For the future, you should regularly clean your pet’s ears, that way, you’ll keep on top of any infection or ear mite outbreak.