Ear mites under a microscope. Courtesy of Dr. Chris Adolph, Southpark Veterinary Hospital
Ear mites are tiny mites that live on the surface of ear canal skin of cats (or dogs). They are barely visible to the human eye. An infestation produces brownish ear wax, similar in appearance to coffee grounds. Ear mites are contagious and can travel from the ears of an infected cat to any other cats in close contact.
Cats who are infected with ear mites typically have very itchy and irritated ears and frequently scratch at their ears or shake their heads. The ears can become red and inflamed, and there can also be rashes or other skin reactions around the ears.
Ear mites are a very common problem in cats, particularly in kittens. If your cat’s ears appear red, inflamed or irritated, or you see waxy debris inside their ears, consult with your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment options.
Ear mites are transmitted through social interaction with other infected cats, which can include grooming, sleeping and playing together. All cats should be checked regularly for any signs of ear mites.
Ear mites can be successfully treated with a number of medications. Because ear mites are contagious, all pets in the household (both cats and dogs) should be treated for ear mites. Your veterinarian can provide assistance in choosing the most effective treatment for your cats and other pets.
Ear mites are not generally considered a risk to humans.