How to Recognize and Treat Cat Mites
Recognizing cat mites and knowing how to treat them is important to the health of your feline friend.
If you've noticed your cat scratching more than usual or starting to lose hair, they may have become infested with cat mites. Recognizing and learning how to treat ear mites in cats is important to the wellbeing of your kitty friend. The mites themselves are a big problem; however, the real danger is your cat scratching itself in an attempt to relieve the itching. This repeated scratching can result in a number of deep wounds as the itching becomes much more relentless.
Along with the worry for your pet's health, there may also be serious health ramifications for other individuals living alongside your suffering kitty. Mites can only thrive when given a host to feed off, but this also means that they can travel from one host to another. You and other people or animals in your household may be prone to catching your cat's mites and suffering from the same problems as your cat.
Cat Ear Mites
The most common type of mites that can trigger problems tend to be cat ear mites, which are tiny parasites that live inside the ear canal of an infected animal. In the case of cats, the most likely organism is otodectes cynotis. The mites feed on the ear wax and other dirt inside a cat's ear. They are normally found in the ear canal and can bring about bleeding in your cat from their bites, as well as repeated scratching due to the itching. Whenever your cat suffers from these kinds of mites, the ideal solution is to visit your local pet store for wax removal eardrops. This simple solution works because the mites thrive off the ear wax, so by purging out the wax, you can also remove the mites.
Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites
So, how do you know if your cat's irritated ears are infested with ear mites?
- Your cat may scratch at his itchy ears or start shaking his head a lot. While the mites are microscopic, they can be quite pesky. Just imagine feeling hundreds of little crawly things in your ears!
- Feline ear mites on the insides of the ears will look dirty, usually with a dark brown or reddish-brown debris. Sometimes a black crust forms, as well. This crust can clog the ear canal over time.
Your veterinarian can easily diagnose feline ear mites. The ear mites can be seen in the ear with an otoscope. Sometimes your veterinarian will swab the ear and examine the debris under a microscope.
- Feline ear mites are highly contagious. In fact, cats can get them or share them with other animals as well. So, if any of your pets (including dogs, cats, or rabbits) have ear mites, you may want to treat all of them.
How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats
To treat feline ear mites, the first step is to clean out the ear. You need to remove the buildup that has accumulated. The best way to do this is by very gently flushing the ear with an ear cleaning solution that you can purchase from the pet store. Since there is a risk of damaging your cat's ear drum or pushing mites further into the ear canal, you may want to have your veterinarian do this.
Once the ears have been cleansed of residue from the mites, you can apply medication. Most of the effective ear mite treatments for cats contain insecticide that contains Milbemycin or a very low concentration of ear mite products that contain Pyrethrins. Make sure that any product that you use for your cat is specifically labeled for use in cats. Dog ear mite medication can be too strong and dangerous to give to your cat. The medication will usually be in the form of drops which you will put in the cat's ears, then massage so it gets good coverage. While you can buy over the counter treatments for mites, the medication provided by your veterinarian is generally stronger and may be more effective.
Medication is generally applied daily for several days in a row. Then, you usually wait a week, after which the cleansing and medication process is repeated. You may need to do this whole procedure for three or four cycles before ridding the ears completely of mites. Ear mites can actually live outside the ears. While they usually live in the ears, they can also survive in the surrounding fur. An ear mite will spend its whole life in a cat's ear, from hatching, breeding its own young, and finally through to its death. You may need to use medication outside of the ear area for this reason.
Burrowing Cat Mites
Another parasite that has a much more visible impact on your cat is the burrowing mite, which eats away at the surface of the skin. This can lead to severe hair loss in your cat and requires treatment immediately. The best thing to do if you see signs of skin irritation on your pet cat is to call a vet. They can recommend an over-the-counter cat mite treatment such as a shampoo or anti-parasitic cream to help eliminate the mites. Treating cat mites as soon as they become apparent is the best way to get them before the problem become more serious. One of the easiest methods of treating cat mites that cause hair loss is to bathe your cat in a homeopathic pet shampoo.
In more severe cases, you'll need to visit your veterinarian for a prescription medication rather than a milder over-the-counter product. If the mite problem has gotten to the stage where it has spread to other household animals or family members, then it's definitely time to make an appointment with the vet. The consequences of a mite colony flourishing on your cat could be lethal in the long run, so keep an eye out and monitor your cat's progress. The sooner you catch sign of those nasty mites, the sooner you can begin treating them and curing your cat.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM