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.

6 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 @ comcast.net

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