How Do Cats Get Ear Mites? – Symptoms & Treatment

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

how do cats get ear mites

Taking care of your feline cat is fairly rewarding. However, it also has some obstacles. One of these challenges is when your kitten gets ear mites. Due to this, most cat owners wonder, how do cats get ear mites?

Ear parasites are transferred from one animal to another through close or physical contact. So, once your cat has contact with a wild cat from an outside environment, there is a likelihood that the ear mites are passed on to them.

Are Ear Mites in Cats Contagious?

Do you know that ear mites are pretty common parasites in cats that invade both indoor and outdoor environments? These little creatures that look like small white dots live in the ear canal of your cat.

They survive by nourishing themselves with your cat’s skin oils and ear wax. Scientifically, ear mites are called Otodectes cynotis and are barely visible for us to notice.

Once these ear parasites invade your cat, it spreads quickly. The egg of an ear mite only takes four days to hatch and at most three weeks to become an adult ear mite.

Most adult ear mites live until two months and can generate more eggs. From then on, the ear mites propagate and grow in population fast.

This group of ear mites would make a brownish ear wax that looks like coffee grounds and is contagious. This wax that looks similar to coffee grounds is evidence that the ear mites are feeding off your cat’s nutrients and blood.

How Do Cats Get Ear Mites and How Do Ear Mites Spread?


Since ear mites are contagious and multiply rapidly, it is absolutely easy for other cats to get infected by this parasite.

Once your cat gets in contact with a cat who has ear mites in them, these ear mites can travel from an infected cat’s ears to your cat’s. Therefore, your cat will be the new “host” of these ear parasites.

Not only will this affect your cat but these ear mites might also transfer and invade your other cats or dogs at home. Other pets in your household are susceptible to these parasites but cats are more prone to having ear mites.

Moreover, you might have been wondering, “can humans get ear mites from cats?”

Well, you do not have to worry because ear mites in humans are not typically a risk. Cat parasites are not generally applicable to human parasites.

However, look for any sign of skin rashes as well. In some rare cases, some cat owners have skin rashes when they have an infected cat inside their houses.

What Causes Ear Mites in Cats?

Your cat can get ear mites through contact with a stray cat in the outdoors, in grassy fields, forests, the wild, or even in filthy, low-hygienic places like veterinary clinics or animal shelters.

Most likely, indoor cats get ear mites when they brush past these places. So, it is best to look out for these areas.

Also, do not let your cat get in contact with other cats or dogs roaming in the street because there is a possibility that these stray animals are infested with ear mites and could pass on to your feline such parasites.

Once cats get infected, these ear mites in cats causes a severe itch that would make cats shake their heads or scratch their ears. This is an attempt for them to get rid of the ear mites.

Symptoms of an Ear Mite Infestation in Cats


It is important as a cat owner to ensure our cat’s hygiene at all times. So, it is recommended to check if your feline has ear mites from time to time.

You can also look out for any of these symptoms of ear mites in cats that might indicate that your cat has infestation:

  • Excessive shaking of the head, scratching, and rubbing of the ears
  • The ear starts to lose hair
  • Produces black or brown oily discharge in the ears
  • Has swollen, reddish, and itchy ears
  • Has a block in the ear canal, noticeable in the interior and exterior parts of the ears that looks similar to coffee grounds
  • Has an awful smell from the ears
  • Scabs in the ears and dermatitis

How to Treat Ear Mites?


Since ear mites are barely noticeable to human eyes, it is safe to get your cat checked up by the nearest veterinarian in your area once you suspect that it might have ear mites infestation.

When your kittens get ear mites, they can feel these ear mites walking on their skin and in their ears, and they can’t shake these parasites off. So, you should be the one who takes immediate action to protect your feline.

If it is confirmed that your cat has ear mites, you can get rid of these bugs at home by using parasite-killing medications given by your veterinarian. These include any gels, ear drops, or creams following the stated directions on these products.

Before applying the prescribed product, it is best to clean first your cat’s ears from any wax or debris.

If your feline has a damaged ear due to severe scratching, more treatment is needed. The veterinarian might prescribe your cat antibiotics to reduce the swelling or any inflammation in your cat’s ears.

To avoid further harm to your cat’s ears, it is also advisable to make your cat wear an Elizabethan collar around its neck.


Hence, being a cat owner is not just about feeding your cat. Your responsibility stretches up to your cat’s hygiene. And the most common challenge for cat owners is when their cats have ear mites. This prompts them to ask, “how do cats get ear mites?”

Being in contact with other animals in a poorly hygienic environment is the reason for this. But fortunately, there are solutions to get rid of these parasites in your cat’s ears.

Therefore, having preventive measures for your cat will save your time and resources and at the same time ensure your cat’s health.

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