Ear Mites

If a kitten is scratching at her ears, or shaking her head from side to side, it's possible that the kitten has ear mites. Ear mites are a microscopic pest that is transmitted from animal to animal, and they can cause a dark, waxy residue that resembles coffee grounds in the ear canal. Though ear mites are extremely small, their movement can be perceived with magnification. If you see or suspect ear mites, you'll need to bring the kitten to a veterinarian for treatment.

Ear mites are treated through a 2 step process that involves cleaning out the ears and applying a miticide that kills the mites. To clean, use an ear cleansing solution to remove as much of the dirt, wax, and residue as possible. Do so by placing a few drops of the solution into the ear, then gently rubbing the ear for 10-15 seconds to allow the solution to break up the discharge. Use a dry cotton ball or gauze pad to gently swab the moist residue out of the ear and repeat as needed.

Once the ear is cleaned out, apply the medication prescribed by your veterinarian.  Depending on the severity of the mites, you may need to repeat treatment a number of times. Talk to your veterinarian about what treatment is right for the specific kitten.In older kittens, Revolution is appropriate to treat not only fleas but also ear mites--however this treatment is not approved for kittens under 8 weeks old.

Learn more about ear mites from Kitten Lady's veterinarian, Dr. Erica Ellis, below. 

Ear Mites in Kittens by Dr. Erica Ellis

What is the culprit?
Otodectes cynotis is the scientific name of the common ear mite. This mite sometimes causes secondary ear infections which may be yeast infections or bacterial infections.

How is it transmitted?
Ear mites are highly contagious and spread from cat to cat.

What symptoms will the kitten show?
Shaking of the head, pawing of the ear, thickened and reddened skin on the ear, and severe dry brown discharge of the ears are common complaints.

How can I prevent it?
Make sure to quarantine new kittens and litters and be vigilant for symptoms of ear mites. However, even with meticulous care and cleanliness, if one cat is diagnosed with ear mites all other cats in the environment may have ear mites. It is also important to keep your feline residents over 8 weeks of age on monthly Revolution. Keeping older kittens and adult cats protected will help decrease the risk of spread to the younger kittens in the home and will help protect the older kittens and cats from ear mites brought into the environment by young kittens.

How might my veterinarian diagnose it?
Mites can sometimes be found when a veterinarian examines the ear canal, or they may be found on an ear swab.

How might my veterinarian treat it?
Your vet may apply a drug called Milbemite directly into the ears; this is approved for kittens 4 weeks and older but your veterinarian may discuss off-label usage in younger kittens if the problem is very severe. Since secondary bacterial or yeast infections may occur, your kitten may also require regular ear cleanings and applications of antibacterial or anti yeast ear drops at home.