I am going on record to state, “I hate ear mites!” More than fleas, worms or other pestilence, ear mites are the scourge of stray cats. The dark build-up of blackened crud seen inside your cat’s ear and canal is the wasteland of an ear mite invasion. Taking a bit of cotton dampened with warmed olive oil, if you roll this gently around the ear and pull out sediment resembling burnt coffee grounds, then your cat has ear mites. Plop that bit of cotton into a jar of water, the water will turn red like blood. This sediment is a combination of blood, oils, ear wax, ear mites and waste products (from the mites).
Mattie doesn’t have ear mites. Her ears look oily and glassy. One vet said it was wax (he was wrong). It is an infection and a bad one. She fights me daily because I have to put ointment in her ear and rub them gently. Her paws draw up to my fingers claws extended…touching her ears is a prelude to war.
Trump on the other hand has ear mites. He has kept them even though he underwent several “one time” treatments by vets to clear them up! Ear mites cannot be seen easily by the naked eye. Even though these tick-like mites are white, you need a microscope to see them. They live inside the ear, but they also travel. They can end up on the tip of your cat’s tail if he curls his tail around him when he sleeps. Ear mites can crawl out of the ear and move on to the head or the face of the cat. Ear mites are also contagious among animals, especially when they mutually groom each other. If one cat has ear mites, it is a sure bet that all the rest of the pets in the home are invested. Trump isn’t selfish, he shares his mites gladly with the rest of the group.
When an ear mite lands in a cat’s ear canal, it will live inside the canal devouring ear wax, oil and loose tissue. The mites have three stages of life…larvae, nymphs, adult. This life cycle only lasts for a period of three weeks. Once hatched, the larvae (six legged) will feed on the oil, tissue and wax for a period of four days. In a period ranging from three to ten days, the larvae molts into an eight legged protonymph. During a 5 day stage the protonymph molts into a deutonymph. Three to five days later, the deutonymph becomes attached to an existing adult mite. If two males are attached, the union is meaningless. If the adult hooks up with a female, she is fertilized so she has the ability to produce eggs.
Ear mites can drive my cats crazy. I am not far behind this craziness! Infested with ear mites, my cats will shake their head frequently, rub their head along any hard surface (carpet is the best choice so far) and scratch their ears till they bleed or the hair falls out. In advance stages, ear mite infections give off a distinct odor. To me it smells like rotten gym socks left inside a locker for a week during a heat wave! Since I work with strays, it is an almost endless battle here to stop all this ear mite invasion.
Treatment of Ear Mites:
Over-the-counter products for ear mite prevention should be avoided at all costs. Generally, though they may kill the adult mites, they don’t affect the eggs and the larvae. There are injectables, topical and oral meds available that will work against the ear mites. Make a vet appointment for the proper treatment.
Before any treatment is given, it is important to clean the ears out of the sediment that has already collected there. Use cotton balls, not Q-Tips. Q-Tips have the capability of pushing the crud deeper into the ear canal. Plus one wrong jerk of the cat’s head (even a scruffed kitty) could mean another vet visit for a punctured ear drum. Keeping the cotton ball moistened with warmed olive oil or mineral oil will help clean out the ears.
Treatment of ear mites is a repeatable treatment sometimes, even when a one-time only ear mite medicine is used. Topical treatments should be used once every three days. Wait for one week, repeat application. Wait another week and repeat the process. One time treatments are easier on the cat and on you.
Revolution: Revolution flea treatment by Pfizer is effective against fleas, ear mites, heartworm, ticks, roundworms and hookworms. Follow the package directions carefully when applying this product.
Ivomec 1% – This is NOT to be confused with the Ivomectrin paste available over–the-counter for livestock. Ivomec solution is available at your vets. Over-medicating with Ivomec can place your cat into toxic shock.
Ivermectin is an injectible solution used for ear mite invasion. According to Dr. Susan Little DVM, DAVBP of Bytown Cat Hospital, Ivermectin can be used both orally and topically.
Acarexx Otic Suspension- This is a one-time application for ear mites. The tip of the container is designed to get deep into the ear canal. There is no stinging sensation so the cat is less likely to shake goop all over you or your vet.
In Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, he offers the following suggestion: “A mixture of ½ ounce of almond or olive oil and 400 IU Vitamin E (capsule) makes a mild healing treatment for cats or dogs. Blend them in a dropper bottle and warm the mixture to body temperature by immersing the bottle into hot water. Put about ½ dropper full in each ear and massage gently. Then clean out the opening gently….apply this oil every other day for 6 days.” This will heal the ear, smother some of the mites but not kill the mites.
Be diligent when you are on the prowl for ear mites. Untreated, ear mites can cause damage to the ear canal and change your cat’s behavior from pussy cat to tiger. They can if severe enough and not tended to also cause deafness. Be careful when bringing in new cats to the home. Quarantine the new arrival until a vet check has been done. Ear mites are not contagious to people just to other pets. Once they gain a ear-hold on your group, it is tough for them to let go.
The only way I have found to stop earmites in an outdoor or indoor colony is to have the ears cleaned thoroughly during the spay and then have the vet follow up with injectible Ivermectin a cattle dewormer. This medication should not be given without a vet’s say-so and intervention, but it has shown effective in stopping ear mite invasion.