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?
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.
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.
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.
I would like to add a couple of possibilities from personal experience. However, none of this advice should be considered a substitute for taking a cat who has scratched his/her ears bloody to the vet! It’s important to do that asap.
I have seen cats’ ears become infested with chiggers, which I learned (to my great dismay!) actually live in more places than just the south. I actually encountered them in northern California, and was told that they had just arrived a couple of years ago. Apparently the warming climate has allowed them to expand their range. They like to live in ivy.
Chiggers are nearly invisible. On humans, they cause red sores, welts or blisters that can be as large as a quarter and itch unbearably. Of course they also cause itching in cats too. They can be killed with over-the-counter ear mite medication.
I have also seen something resembling tiny, minuscule ticks congregate along the edges of cats’ ears. Those are tricky to deal with but I found that squeezing them dead with a pair of needle-nose pliers seemed to work well enough.
Cats’ ears are a sensitive and vulnerable spot because they have so little fur covering and make a great target for hurtful critters. Leaving those critters to do their dirty work can result in permanent damage, as mentioned by the wise kitties above. I have seen the results in neglected cats, and it’s not pretty!
My cat was doing the same thing and I took her to the vet. He did a swab of her ears and found that she has a staff infection in her ears. Very easy to treat though…. we have ear ointment going in twice a day to take care of the problem. After the first treatment, Misty stopped scratching her ears so hard.
Definitely see the vet. Mites would have been my first guess, but could be a fungal infection, or maybe even fleas. And a food allergy is another idea.
My cat is constantly scratching her ears. If I take her to the vet, they says she has ear mites, I pay $60 for treatment, and they just come back two weeks later!
Hi, Kieran. Like we mentioned, sometimes the ear mites spread to the outsides of the ears and even to the paws the cats use to scratch the ear mites. That said, it’s possible that Revolution, as Anita recommended, would be a good way to treat the mites that are living outside your cat’s ears. The other thing is that you really need to give the medication for the ear mites for as long as the vet says you should. We know this is easier said than done because cats really hate having their ears medicated. :-(
However, there might be something else going on like a secondary bacterial or fungal infection as well. Hopefully between a second culture to ensure there are no other nasties present, treatment for the mites inside your ears, and treatment for the mites living outside her ears, you can get rid of the nasty things altogether.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash all her bedding and anything else she sleeps on — in hot water.
Thanks for the advice.
Well, considering that this has been going on for about two years total and hasn’t spread to my other cat, I’m guessing it’s not ear mites. I’ll try going to the vet and checking for a fungal infection.
Kieran, you can get ear mite medication over the counter for a lot cheaper than a vet visit. Revolution for fleas also helps take care of ear mites. It could be something more than that. Either see another vet or try to lubricate the itchy part of the ear. If she’s constantly rubbing against something that she’s allergic to it might be causing a problem.
If it is none of that, it could be food or contact allergies.
There should be a confirmed diagnosis for earmites, especially if this keeps repeating. A vet can, and should, confirm earmites by taking a sample and checking under the microscope. In case of such a long term recurrent problem, it’s really important to get a proper diagnosis, and as was said here, it could involve a secondary infection as well.
My pet also faced same problem,I took it to veterinary doctor,Now its better.
My Alfie used to scratch his ears until they were raw and scabby, until the vet said he was allergic to the chicken in his food. She put him on Natural Balance L.I.D. food with green pea & salmon in it, his ears got better in a few days.
The cat depicted has light fur. It may be sunburn. I am looking for a cat safe sunblock, but most have zinc oxide. I’m looking for an Edible paint that just has titanium dioxide. Kids face paint has ingredients listed and some might not have the aspirin like cat Pokemon.
i can not afford to go to the vet. I hate seeing my cat suffer.
My cat will not let me help. I have tried to wth. Peroxide. Vaseline. And neosporin. I can not afford the vet. Help
Hi everyone, I just wanted to share what worked for my cat!
My cat was itching her ears until they were bleeding. She had a dark discharge in her ears and cuts all inside and on the outside of her ears (one was about the size of a nickel) and then she began scratching the sides of her face, which also took off some skin and fur. Needless to say, I was very worried!!!
We just moved into a new house, and it is winter. It is really dry in the house because of the radiator. I noticed that she hadn’t been peeing as much as she used to. So I thought she might be dehydrated.
I bought a room humidifier and tried to get her to drink more, but it didn’t really change much. I thought she might have mites, but it didn’t seem like that was what was actually wrong. It just felt like her skin was dry.
Also, her claws have been much sharper than normal for some reason (maybe she doesn’t have a way to get them to file down a bit because she isn’t walking outside much because it is winter?). She cut me on accident and left a pretty large wound, so we were both injured, lol.
So, anyway, I decided to:
1) cut her claws — I had to wait until she was sleeping to do it because it was far too stressful for both of us otherwise. And, I did a paw at a time.
2) switch her from dry food to wet food. This was HUGE. She had been eating an organic dry food which contained wheat (second ingredient) and now I switched her to a wet food which has no grains and no added fillers.
WOW! As soon as I switched her to the wet food, she started healing (literally within 24 hours), and now she has almost stopped scratching entirely! Since her claws are trimmed back, she also doesn’t damage her skin right away if she does scratch a bit (her wounds are healing and I think it is itching her).
Anyway, dry skin and dehydration seems to have been the problem for my cat. It was just as simple as switching her food! I hope this helps you guys!