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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

The hair has come off both of my cat’s ears and he is scratching them with his hind feet until they start to bleed. What’s going on?

~ Marilyn

Siouxsie: It could be one of several things, Marilyn, so we’d definitely recommend you get your kitty to a vet for an examination.

Thomas: The two most common causes of cat ear problems are ear mites and sunburn. If your cat has pale ears and spends a lot of time outdoors, he could have gotten overexposed to the sun.

Ear mites in a cat

A cat with ear mites has black or brown gunk in its ears. Photo (CC-BY-SA) by Uwe Gille

Kissy: Sunburns feel the same way for cats as they do for humans. They hurt! And I should know — I’ve gotten sunburned ears before.

Siouxsie: Ear mites are usually pretty obvious. When you look in your cat’s ears, you’ll see black gunk if he has a mite infestation.

Thomas: Ear mites require immediate treatment. First of all, they’re really uncomfortable! The itch they produce is just about unbearable, which is why cats with mites scratch so much.

Kissy: And then you add in that constant “skritchy, skritch, skritch” sound as they crawl around, and I swear it’s about enough to drive any cat insane!

Siouxsie: Not only that, but the ear mite infestation can lead to secondary bacterial or yeast infections because of the buildup of matter in the ear canal and the constant scratching.

Thomas: The scratching and constant head-shaking from the mites can also lead to a hematoma, or blood clot, which can deform your cat’s ear.

Kissy: The other thing about mites is they don’t go away just because you clean your cat’s ears. Because your cat spends so much time scratching, the nasty little things get on his claws and paws, too, so if you don’t take care of that he could reinfect himself.

Silver Bengal kitten. Photo by JaneA Kelley

Cats’ ears are a crucial part of their sensory system and ear care is very important to your cat’s health and well-being. Photo: Silver Bengal kitten by JaneA Kelley

Siouxsie: There’s a lot of information about home “cures” for ear mites, and most of those don’t work. Seriously.

Thomas: And if your cat doesn’t have ear mites and you treat for ear mites, you’re not only not solving the problem — you could create new problems!

Kissy: Our ears are very important to us. We have incredible hearing, and we’d like to keep that hearing.

Siouxsie: So, Marilyn, our advice to you is to take your cat to the vet as soon as you can. Once you find out why your cat’s ears are driving him crazy, you can treat the problem before it becomes even worse.

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