The Ear Mite Fight

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.

29 thoughts on “The Ear Mite Fight

  1. Julie, I answered you in the last part of my posting. For the indoor guys, you just have to keep at it with the medicine and cleanings. My vet has developed his own formula that you give orally- but it tastes so bad that once I start giving it, the cats will run and hide when they see it coming. And they know right away, the minute the bottle is uncapped they become Harry Potter’s in invisible cloaks!

  2. I did not realize what a big job it is to stay on top of an ear mite infection and that it can spread. I also didn’t realize that regular cleanings were needed. I have a cat at home that was initially showing signs of trouble so I used a prescribed medicine – ZYMOX – that I was using on a stray I just adopted. I looked in his ears but did see anything. This was going on for a few weeks. Yesterday, he refused to eat. I was up with him all night and started surfing online to see why the prescribed medicine didn’t work for him and found out that you need to wipe it out daily. Also, one good piece of info I picked up was to use a small square of gauze instead of cotton. You wrap it around your finger and put a few drops of oil on it and gently rub inside the ear. I am going to buy some after work today and get on it. 🙁

  3. The mites can travel and when the cats rub their faces together, the mites can hop off and into another’s cat ear. Yes, you need to clean the ears daily which doesn’t make you your cat’s best friend for awhile. But you need to be careful, because if you don’t see the small red/black specks then your cat could have a yeast infection which needs totally different meds to handle. I use cotton pads the square ones and tear them apart to help clean the ears. Gauze would be way to rough for the sensitive lining of the ears.

  4. Hello. I just found your site. Could you tell us what is a good way to capture an indoor feral cat? We have several indoor feral cats that we are unable to approach. They have lived with us for several years and still have not come around. We paid for a multitude of feral cats to be spayed and neutered and to have their shots, including these non approachable ones. It seems like it was a one time deal to get them in a carrier. We have a humane trap but these cats are crafty. (Even the loving cats will bolt and hide if they suspect we are up to no good like applying flea preventative.). Thanks for suggestions. One person said to use a net but I hate putting these cats through more trauma.

  5. An indoor feral cat? Sounds like an oxymoron, but I have several of those here. The best thing to do is to isolate them one at a time, but one in a room and work with that cat on his/her terms. If you look in my blog for the date-3/12/2008 the heading would be “Room Service” there, I give away all my tips on how to gain a cat’s trust. It is a slow process AND not always 100% successful (as my Ms. Dash can attest to) but in most cases it works.

    Cats are sort of like people in a way when they are in a group (or clowder) The leader or Alpha will act a certain way and the cats will follow suit. Determine who the Alpha cat is- he/she always eats first, sleeps on the highest level possible and other cats give the alpha his/her way. Herd that cat into the room first and work with the alpha. Once they understand that you are not a threat- they cease hiding and fleeing from you in terror. Most of these cats you are working with aren’t true ferals (or your house would be a wreck and smell worse!) They are just cats who as kittens couldn’t or didn’t get any human interaction. Instead of being your friend, they look at you like you are predator. That’s how they survive- whether they are inside or outside- that is how they process our presence.

    I will be glad to help you all I can- you can reach me at the email cats at risk @

  6. Hi, my neighbor and I recently spayed and neutered 11 cats including 4 kittens. The kittens about 4 months old now are a bit more trusting as I walk by but absolutely will not let me come real close to touch yet. I work 2 jobs to keep them fed but I am at a hearts loss on how to treat the ear mites and fleas as I just cannot touch them. Is there any other alternative for treatment, like a additive to their food? My heart breaks when I see them scratching at their ears and as I said, working the 2 jobs I haven’t the time to try to get their trust. Any advise you would have would be sooo appreciated. Part 2, one of the ferals will let me pet him so what can I get to treat the ear mites and treat his “owies” from his scratching? thank you!

  7. If you can give them revolution- it will kill earmites and fleas. My suggestion is to load the ointment in a feeding syringe and shoot the ointment directly on the body whatever you can reach. You have to act fast because it will melt the little plastic ball inside the syringe. You will have to do more than one treatment but in two months the earmites will be gone as will the fleas.

  8. Hi! I have a feral cat that I feed. I cannot touch him. He has been holding his head tilted to the left for the past two days. I think he has ear mites. Is there something that I can put in his can food that he can eat, that will kill these mites? Help!

  9. The only thing you can do is put revolution on him. Load it into a feeding syringe that you can get from the vet- get the largest you can and shoot it on him. Try for the neck, but with ear mites and ferals, I have even managed to put it on their tail with good results.

  10. My smokee had suffered from Ear Mites forever coming from a Feral colony of 30 cats.
    I used a Hartz brand at first and it literally burned the fur off her neck. So I was fearful to apply anything again. (Hartz gave me a cat play toy as compensation)
    For six months now I have applied Revolution, no problems, but the Vet said the mite investation was now a chronic condition.
    I am no sissy so I spent time cleaning her ears ot. The left one was the worst.
    A few weeks ago she’d started stumbling, I thought she broke a back leg. Then it seemed neurologically related.
    When I got a hold of her the infestation was severe and I noticed she had no teeth.
    She died the other day from lack of eating. She did keep herself hydrated.
    Do you think the investation could have caused her decline?

  11. The only way to find out what caused her death would be a necropsy being done. But sometimes, those give you more questions than answers. I would have to say that the stumbling was an inner ear infection caused by the mite invasion. Sometimes when they get a hold of an ear, it isn’t easy to let go. Is it a brand of the Hartz product used that caused her death? Again, a necropsy would be invaluable to tell you how Smokee died. I am sorry for your loss. I hope you might find out what happened to her (if it isn’t to late) but only if she has been kept in almost a frozen condition- you might be out of luck. There are countless websites that exist about the horrors of over-the-counter products used on cats and what happens in the aftermath. I don’t trust anything anymore unless it comes from my vet. I don’t even buy Advantage at a pet supply store anymore. It’s to risky.

  12. i have a yard full of feral cats about 14 i feed and give them sheter i have one that join about a year ago friendly he has ear mites i think but now he is tearing his ears off bleeding really he has nibs left ,and his head always full of blood he wont let me get him any help with this will help me i fear if i trap him and take him to a free center they will put him down thats how bad it is, anyone ever see such a thing?

  13. I would definitely get this kitty into a vet. Yes, you risk him being put down, but the other option is he dies a horrible lingering death especially once the warm weather starts and fly strikes begin. Trap him, take him in and tell them you want him saved if at all possible.

  14. Thank you for all you do! I have 3 feral cats in the colony. They are now neutered/spayed. One of them has a skin condition- perhaps mites? I found your web through a search. The info was helpful!

  15. Not generally. Even with bad ear mites the only surface destruction is to the pina of the ears and the base of the ear flaps as the cat scratches itself crazy. I would suggest you get a vet to see your cat and get a professional opinion as to what is going on.

  16. The local Trap and Release charity gave us Advange Multi. we managed to drop a drop or two on his head before he ran away and we are very optimistic that it worked. He stopped shaking his head and his ears look perky again.

  17. When it comes to some of the old-timers, you just gotta do what you need to do. I know that we feed organic catnip to the outside colonies because it helps them to pass hair and waste out their back-end. It also passes parasites but doesn’t kill the internal ones.

  18. Thank you for the information on Revolution to treat fleas and ear mites. But with squirting it on their fur dont they digest it by licking it off. ?? Certainly and ideally I would aim for back of neck which is unreachable but if I get it on an area they can lick…isnt it dangerous. Id be worried about stomach cancer.
    Thank you for your help.

  19. You always apply it to the back of the neck just as it says on the instructions.

  20. Fortunately there’s now Revolution, Stronghold, and Multi Advantage. Kills ear mites 1st and only treatment.
    Now if there was something to slip into wet food for untrappable feral cats…

  21. Hey, I’m not sure if this site is still active, but I have a feral cat that I feed at my work place, she has been constantly shaking her head and scratching her right ear. I never noticed any blood or serious injuries in the ear, but right now the ear is swollen and she seems less playful these days. I do notice brownish colors inside, but it’s not as bad as in the google pictures I keep seeing, it looks like it’s a natural color of her ear, although I did read that the cat’s ear should be ping inside. She keeps eating food and drinking water, but I feel like she has become more aggressive ever since her ear has become swollen. She doesn’t let me touch her much, she likes to scratch my jeans and I can pet her a little, but only for a short amount of time before she starts telling me to back off. I was wondering if there’s anything I can do, is revolution going to help kill the existing mites in her ear ? And is there anything I can do about the swollen ear ?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. I would definitely put Revolution on the cat, it won’t hurt. If the mites go untreated it can get pretty hazardous to the cat’s health. Is there any way that you can get a trap and get the cat in the trap and to a vet? Swollen ear indicates a wound not mites- probably got into a fight or altercation of some type and needs a vet to look at her/him and some sort of antibiotic. Hard to do when they are feral but always worth it to try.

  23. Thank you for posting this. One of the best and most informative article about ear mites I have ever read. I didn’t realise my cat had earmites until the poor thing really started shaking and scratching. I will now be more attentive when she rubs hear head alot too. There wasn’t much discharge at first but when I started treatment with olive oil, apple vinegar and water I saw a lot more coming to the surface but I’m worried I won’t kill all the eggs this way? How do I get rid of the eggs too? Many thanks

  24. I would not use a homemade remedy for earmites (they never work) I would call a vet and get a tube of Revolution which also kills mites and eggs. I would use this medicine faithfully every month to keep the mites under control and pray they don’t come back. If you don’t use the proper medicine the mites can get so bad the cat can become really sick or even deaf from the destruction going on deep in the inner ear

  25. I have put the ivermectin in some tuna. .1 ml of the strong kind. That is how i got the feral to eat it. THen i did it again 21 days later. Both times he ate the adulterated tuna, he started moving and scratching his ears – so i know it went to his ears even though he was given it orally. I read about a stray cat with mange and this is how the man combatted mange in the stray cat. All the cat’s fur grew back and the cat was lovely. Unfortunatley the cat died about 1.5 yr’s later- due to the damage the ear mites caused to his brain. THe mites had alreay eaten their way to his brain before the good samaratian found him and started giving him treatment. But the cat lived happily for 1,5 yr’s eating, etc. That is all i remember.

  26. Where do you get ivermectin? I have a feral cat I’ve kept in a room for 2 years. I let her daughter come in to visit but even though I had her ears treated for mites when spayed she still has them. I treat the daughter with revolution. I can’t get close to the mom she smells the revolution. I’ve tried dumping it over her when she isn’t looking but it ends up on the floor. I can’t afford $15 a tiny vial to waste. If I could put something in food I’d let her out of the room.

  27. You can get Ivormec from your vet and add it to either cat replacement milk or even kitten replacement milk. Because it is considered a benign med ( similar to Strongid) you can overdose the cat without worrying about harmful side effects- you can look up the dosage online but you need to know the cat’s weight first. You also will have to retreat for a period of three to five days (depending on the severity of the parasite problem) It kills all the mites, eggs and adults as well as roundworms. You can also put it in organic catnip just leave a bit of the catnip on the ground and the smell of the nip overpowers the smell of the meds. you can also add it to turkey or chicken baby food as it also overpowers the smell of the med

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