Ear problems in cats are fairly common and it’s likely your cat will suffer one or more in her lifetime. Some types of cat such as white with blue eyes can be born deaf.
In this article you’ll discover some of the more common ear problems in cats, what to look out for and available treatments. We’ll be looking at ear mites to find out what causes them, as well as otitis and ear canker.
If you own a white cat you’ll learn why she’s at risk of developing ear cancer and what you can do to help prevent it. You’ll also discover why solar dermatitis is also a risk with white or pale coloured cats.
It’s always best to take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice anything unusual before it gets chronic. Though you can treat many conditions yourself you still need to see a vet for advice.
What causes ear mites in cats, and does natural treatment work?
If you notice your cat constantly shaking her head and scratching her ears, take a look. If you see tiny little white dots inside her ears there is a high chance they’re ear mites.
These tiny organisms are highly contagious and easily passed on to other pets. If you have other cats or dogs in your household you’ll need to treat them as well.
Adult ear mites can live up to two months. They’ll feed off your cat’s ear wax and multiply very fast. Eggs only take four days to hatch and mites quickly become adults in around three weeks.
So you can see just how quickly an infestation can take hold. If your kitty goes outside she may catch ear mites from other cats in the area.
Close contact from fighting makes it easy for your cat to pick up ear mites. There’s not much you can do about that apart from follow your cat everywhere!
Natural treatments can work very well, but you need to be absolutely sure your cat has ear mites and not something else. It’s always best to check with your vet first before trying any of the following home remedies.
Using coconut oil to treat ear mites in cats
Coconut oil has long been renowned for its healing properties, but can you use it on your cat’s ears? The antibacterial properties in coconut oil have been found to effectively treat ear mites by some owners.
It’s completely safe and is unlikely to give side effects unlike some products with harsh chemicals. If you want to try coconut oil you will need a dropper and possibly a towel to wrap your cat in.
Some cats are more placid than others but you don’t want to risk being scratched to ribbons! Stroke your cat and talk to her gently so she’s calm and relaxed. You will need someone to hold her while you do this.
Heat the oil very gently. It should be just warm but not hot apply one drop of coconut oil inside the ear and gently massage.
Remove debris using a cotton ball. Brown crusty debris that look like coffee granules are a combination of dried blood, ear wax and dead ear mites. This should easily come away with a few gentle wipes.
Your cat’s ears are very delicate and you don’t want to risk injury. Be gentle and never poke cotton buds inside the ear!!
What is ear canker and how to tell if your cat has it
Ear canker is simply another term for ear disease. If left untreated your cat’s ear could become very sore and inflamed.
A cat’s ear canals join at a sharp right angle to the inner ear, making it easy for foreign bodies to get stuck. Grass seeds and mites are common culprits.
Your vet will take a swab to confirm it’s canker and prescribe drops. If you want a natural alternative with no harmful chemicals, try witch hazel.
You can buy witch hazel especially formulated for both cats and dogs. It’s advertised as healing ear infections within a couple of days.
It’s easily applied as it comes in a bottle with a dropper. A few customers found they needed to give the product a good shake as it contains boric powder.
If you don’t, you could end up with crystals when you reach the end of the bottle. It’s also been noted that it contains gentian violet which could stain clothing.
What is otitis in cats and what causes it?
Otitis is an inflammation that can affect both the outer and inner ear. You may notice your cat scratching at her ear flaps a lot. You may also notice her shaking her head excessively.
A foul odor is definitely a sign of infection, and if your cat seems to be in pain you must get her checked out by your vet. If left untreated it may spread into the inner ear.
Not only will your cat be in danger of a ruptured ear drum, but she may also suffer dizziness, and even vomiting. This may cause your cat to walk off balance as if she’s drunk!
Your vet will carry out a few tests and most probably prescribe a topical treatment. Depending on the severity otitis usually clears up within about three to four weeks.
Solar dermatitis and why white cats are prone to it
Solar dermatitis in cats is caused by exposure to strong sunlight. White cats in particular are prone to it in the same way as fair skinned humans.
You can protect your cat by keeping her indoors when the sun is at it’s strongest. During summer this is from 10 am to 4 pm
If you want to allow your cat to go outside, provide some some shady areas. Trees and shrubs are ideal, but a canopy can provide an excellent spot for your kitty to hang out.
Even if your cat is mostly black with a few white patches, she’s still at risk. Sun creams especially for pets are available, but most aren’t suitable for cats.
Toxic chemicals are easily ingested during grooming. Even applying to the tips of the ears isn’t safe as your cat will rub her ears when washing.
Ear cancer in cats and ways to prevent it
Solar dermatitis can cause cancer, so if your kitty is white or has white ears you must make sure she isn’t exposed to strong UVA rays. Following the above guidelines will help, but also be aware of where your cat sits indoors as well.
UVA rays can penetrate through glass, so if your kitty loves to sunbathe on a windowsill be aware. Draw the blinds during the hottest part of the day and encourage her to sit on the sofa or floor instead.
Crusty bits on the tips of the ears or sores are likely signs of ear cancer in your cat. Your vet will probably do a few tests to confirm this.
If caught early on the prognosis is usually good. It often means losing part of the ear, but could save your cat’s life.
It’s the outer flap that’s removed, but it won’t affect her hearing. It just means your kitty won’t look the same, but I doubt she’ll look in the mirror and hate you!!
What causes deafness in cats and how to check your cat’s hearing
There are many causes of deafness in cats, the most common being old age. Just like humans, elderly cats can suffer loss of hearing.
You may not be aware of gradual hearing loss until you realise your cat is no longer scared of the vacuum cleaner! Loud noises usually scare most cats, so this a definite giveaway!
Cats are really good at adapting, and will compensate by using other senses. Your cat may not hear you call her name, but she’ll feel the vibration of your footsteps as you approach.
Increased vocalisation is another sign your aging cat may be going deaf. This is exactly the same as your elderly aunt or uncle talking loudly!
There’s nothing you can do about hearing loss in old age, but you still need to keep an eye on her. If your cat goes outside she may not hear approaching traffic. Even if you live in a quiet road there is always a risk.
Sudden hearing loss could be due to a build up of wax, infection, injury, or even polyps. It’s extremely hard to test a cat’s hearing, but you could try this simple trick.
Approach your cat from behind and tear a piece of paper or clap your hands. She should respond instantly. If she doesn’t, your cat has a hearing problem.
A healthy cat’s hearing is very sensitive and far better than ours. My cat can hear me get up from the sofa and walk into the kitchen from another room! He always magically appears expecting food!
Are white cats with blue eyes deaf?
You may have heard the rumour that all white cats are deaf. This isn’t always the case, but if you have a white cat with blue eyes it’s far more likely.
Melanin determines the coat colour of a cat’s coat. If your cat is white she’ll have a masking gene that prevented melanin from forming.
This gene also affects the cochlea in the middle ear. Unfortunately, this causes it to degenerate soon after the kitten is born. In the wild, pure white cats with blue eyes aren’t favoured in natural selection.
Check your cat’s ears as part of your grooming routine
Checking your cat’s ears regularly as you groom her is a good way to pick up on anything. Your cat’s ears should look pink and clean on the inside. Any discharge or smell is a definite warning sign something’s wrong.
We’ve covered some of the more common problems your cat may develop with her ears, but there will be others I’ve not covered here.
You’ve learned to spot ear mites and how to treat it, plus, canker, and deafness. You’ve also learned why white cats are more prone to solar dematitis and ear cancer.
Please feel free to comment below and share any experiences you may have had with ear problems in cats. I’d love to hear from you
Wishing you a purrfect day 🙂