Cat Ear Mites vs Yeast Infections: How to Treat?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

cat ear mites vs yeast infection

Is your feline friend shaking their head and scratching their head frequently? Do you see debris building up on its external ear canal?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, there are two culprits to why it is happening – cat ear mites or yeast infection. Both ear issues irritate your cat, so it needs immediate care and medication as soon as it shows symptoms.

This article will discuss the differences between cat ear mites vs. yeast infections. We’ll also tackle the treatment your pet needs when it contracts any of these ear issues.

Ear Mites and Yeast Infection in Cat Ears


Knowing how to differentiate mites and yeast infections in cat ears is crucial in finding the proper treatments for your pet.

1. What are ear mites?


Ear mites (octodectes cynotis mites) are common parasites that primarily infect cats and dogs. They are tiny animals that somewhat resemble fleas.

These parasites are so tiny that they are barely visible to the naked eye. While they have a short lifespan – about two months once they reach adulthood – ear mites multiply fast.

Adult ear mites can lay up to five eggs daily. These eggs will only take four days to hatch and 21 days to grow into adult mites.

Ear mites can grow and multiply in your feline friend’s external ear canal as they feed on skin oils and ear wax.

Read more: 6 Signs to Know Your Cat Has Ear Mites.

2. What is cat ear yeast infection?


Yeast infection is one of the most common cat ear fungal infections that may infect your cat’s ears. Sometimes, yeast infection happens in cats as a secondary infection caused by ear mites.

As the ear mites live in your feline friend’s ear canal, they can create an environment ideal for yeast development. The effects of yeast on the cat’s ears can range from itching to unbearable pain.

The infection will also cause a strong, pungent odor from your pet’s ear. Redness and inflammation inside the ear canal also indicate cat ear yeast infection.

Ear Mites Vs. Ear Infection: Distinguishing the Differences

1. Cause


Felines usually get infected with ear mites as a result of direct contact with other infected animals. Ear mites are among the most contagious parasites due to how fast they grow and multiply.

So, if your pet contracted a couple of ear mites from other cats in your neighborhood, those mites will create a colony in its ears in no time.

Meanwhile, there are various reasons why your cat may develop an ear yeast infection. Apart from being a secondary infection to ear mites, a yeast infection may also occur when your cat has too much moisture in its ear canal.

Wax buildup, foreign bodies entering your pet’s ears, and environmental irritants may also cause yeast infection.

2. Symptoms


If you ask a veterinarian the difference between the symptoms of cat ear infection vs. mites, they will tell you that they show similar symptoms. This fact makes it challenging to distinguish which health issue affects your pet.

Ear mites and ear infections both cause your feline friend to:

  • Excessive head shaking and ear scratching
  • Redness and inflammation around the ear canal
  • Itchiness or pain depending on the severity of the infection
  • Ear discharge

The major difference between the symptoms of ear mites and ear infections in cats is the color and appearance of the ear discharge.

Felines with ear mites produce an almost black discharge resembling coffee grounds. This discharge consists of dried blood, debris, wax, and even the mites themselves.

On the other hand, yeast infection causes cats to produce a thick brown or black discharge. The discharge has a strong unpleasant odor caused by the yeast growing and feeding off your pet’s ear wax.

While infection discharge consists of wax, it is worth noting that it differs from normal wax buildup. If you look at the pictures of ear discharges above and compare healthy discharge vs. wax infected with mites or fungi, the latter has a darker color and irregular pigmentation.

3. Diagnosis


The best way to diagnose whether your feline friend has ear mites or yeast infection is to bring it to a veterinarian. Redness and swelling around your pet’s ear canal are telltale signs that it needs medical attention.

Your vet will examine the cat’s ears to identify whether the inflammation is caused by ear mites or yeast. If the inflammation is causing a lot of pain for your pet, the vet may need to sedate it to examine it properly.

You may also diagnose ear mites and yeast infections at home. If your cat never goes out of the house, there is a great chance that yeast is causing its ear infection.

As mentioned, ear mites are contracted by cats through direct contact with infected animals. Mites do not live in human ears, so your feline friend can only get infected if it regularly goes out of the house and plays with neighborhood animals.

But a vet visit is still the best way to recognize what causes your pet’s ear infection.

4. Treatment


When you go to the vet for your cat’s infection, they will prescribe the right medication to get rid of it. These medications can be oral, topical, or systemic, depending on how infected your pet’s ears are.

  • According to experts, thoroughly cleaning and removing ear wax and discharge is the first vital step to treating ear mites and yeast infections. Besides, ivermectin, a systemic treatment, is extremely effective in treating ear infections in cats.
  • If your pet’s ear infection is still in its early stages, you may try a home remedy. One of the most common home remedies for a cat ear infection is baby oil.

Take a few cotton buds, soak them in baby oil, and use it to remove the discharge on your pet’s external ear canal. A few drops of baby oil into your cat’s ear also drown the mites in it.

  • You may also use over-the-counter antifungal and antibiotic creams to eliminate yeast infections.

Care Tips to Prevent Your Cat’s Ears From Getting Ear Mites and Yeast Infections


Felines are known for grooming themselves well. But in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, such as the ears, they may need the assistance of their caretakers.

  • A proper ear-cleaning technique is necessary to prevent ear infections. You also need to use an ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian.

Gentleness is crucial when cleaning your cat’s ears, especially if you are using cotton buds. Pushing the cotton buds in too deep can lead to hearing issues, balance problems, and pain in your pet.

  • Regular veterinary visits will also help you prevent ear mites and yeast infections. The vet can detect ear infections early on, allowing them to apply proper treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can ear mites cause yeast infections in cats?

As mentioned, ear mites can create an ideal environment in your cat’s ears for yeast to grow. Failing to treat cat ear mites can cause it to develop yeast infection as its secondary infection.

Do cat ear yeast infections go away on their own?

Yeast infection does not go away on its own. Once your pet has it, you need to bring it to a vet for proper treatment and medication.


How do I know if my cat has ear mites or yeast infections? The answer is simple – observe your feline friend.

If not treated, cat ear infections can affect its hearing. If you notice something wrong with its ears, the best thing to do is bring it to a veterinarian.

We hope that we were able to clearly discuss the difference between cat ear mites vs. yeast infections.

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