Ear mites in cats are quite common for cats that spend time outside. Since most of our kitties adopted us after living outside or in a barn, they still want outside time. They are also working cats, patrolling the garden and orchards for rodents. There are commercial earmite control products available, or you can get your vet to clean kitty's ears. Because cats put everything they groom/lick into their mouths, I wanted to use a non-toxic ear mite control instead of a pesticide. I cleared this technique with our vet. She said that coconut oil or olive oil are both safe to use.
How Do Cats Get Ear Mites?
Cats typically pick up ear mites from contact with other animals, including other cats, dogs, rabbits and rodents. Mother cats may pass them on to their kittens. There are several species of mites, with the most common being Otodectes cynotis. Mites can survive for a short time off of the animals, so they may be spread through bedding, carpets and other soft surfaces. Some species of mites may also spread outside the ears, causing patches of skin irritation.
When you treat you pet for ear mites, try to clean their primary areas at the same time. I cover our kitties' favorite hang out spots in old blankets that I can throw in the wash. You can also thoroughly vacuum and wipe down items that can't go in the washer (like cat trees), and set them out in the sun for a day or so to help kill off the mites.
How Do I Know if My Cat Has Ear Mites?
Mites are tiny, barely visible to the naked eye. They chow down on the wax and oils in kitty's ears. Though the mites themselves are hard to see, what you can see is, well… mite poop. They leave behind dark debris that looks something like sticky coffee grounds. If it gets bad enough, the mite infestation may completely clog the ear canal with debris, and/or lead to ear inflammation or infection. With some cats, you may notice excessive exterior ear grooming, leading to hair loss on the back of the ears.
- Smelly ears
- Head shaking
- Dark, waxy ear goobers
- Pink and swollen interior of ear
- Scratches or scabs near the ear
Can Humans Get Ear Mites from Their Cats?
Thankfully, ear mite infestations in humans are very rare. It's still a good idea to keep your ears clean, and don't encourage kitty to lick you due to risk of cat scratch fever transmission. Cat scratch fever, unlike the name implies, does not need to be spread by scratching. It can also be spread by licking. Learn more at Cat Scratch Fever – Why You Should Never Let Your Cat Lick Your Face.
Dogs and other pets may be susceptible to mites, so make sure to check all furry pets and thoroughly clean surfaces.
Ear Mites in Cats – Easy Treatment with Coconut Oil
To use coconut oil to clean and remove ear mites in cats, first make sure your oil is in liquid form. The melting point of coconut oil is around 75°F, so in summer your oil may be liquid without heating. You can also use fractionated coconut oil, or gently heat the oil. I heat up less than a tablespoon, and that's more than enough to do 3-4 cats. Make sure the oil is warm, not hot. Kitty's safety is a priority.
To make it easier to handle your cat, you may wrap the kitty tightly in an old towel, tucking in paws and claws. We call this the “kitty burrito”.
Use a small syringe to squirt a little oil into the ear canal. Never force anything deep into the canal. Gently massage the ear area to work the coconut oil into the mites and debris. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab to wipe the debris and mites from the ear. Again, never force anything into the ear. Be extra careful if using swabs, because the cat may get annoyed at having their ears touched and shake their heads aggressively. You don't want the swab to poke too deep into the ear.
Once visible debris is removed, make sure to give kitty lots of love before releasing. Repeat in 5-7 days for bad infestations, or any time you notice your cat grooming their ears excessively. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and and antifungal, so it will also help to heal and soothe any scratches in the ear.
If Your Cat's Ears Look Very Sore or the Mites Don't Respond to Treatment
If your cats ears are very red or sore, please take them to a vet, as there are some other conditions with symptoms similar to ear mite infestation. With a typical ear mite infestation, there is usually some debris, and the ears may be a little pink. If kitty appears to be in significant pain, seek professional help.
You may also find useful: