Common ear problems in cats
Seeing cats licking their paws to groom their ears, alongside infrequently scratching at their head are both completely normal feline behaviours! Seeing your cat persistently shaking their head, or constantly itching at their ears is a different story however, and are a pretty good sign that their ears are probably really bothering them. If you have an allergy-prone cat, or a cat who ventures outdoors coming into contact with other cats, the likelihood of them catching ear mites or developing an ear infection can be much higher. Luckily there are ways to lessen their chances of suffering ear problems, especially once a cause has been identified by your local vet.
Surprisingly, ear mites are the culprits in about 50% of all cat ear problems. Ear mites are common parasites that are very contagious and can be easily passed onto other pets. Ear mites can cause slight irritation or can lead to constant scratching and head shaking, sometimes even causing thick wax build-up and dark debris falling from their ears. It’s important not to let this kind of infection carry on for too long, as constant scratching can lead to hair loss and skin irritation around the infected areas. You can easily prevent ear mites be using and appropriate feline flea treatment with a claim for treating them, alongside looking for the common symptoms of ear mites in order to catch the issue before it deteriorates. If you suspect your cat could have ear mites, the best next step is to take your cat to your local vet in order to confirm that the primary cause of their issue is definitely ear mites. If this is the case, then your vet will most likely prescribe a topical treatment to apply to your cat’s neck that treats both fleas and ear mites in one application.
If your cat hasn’t picked up ear mites, they could potentially be irritated by an ear infection, and these infections often occur as a result of a separate ear issue. These can include bacterial or fungal infections that can cause pus, and even blood, to build up in your cat’s ear canals. These infections are also usually accompanied with an unpleasant odour and you may see your cat shaking their heads in discomfort. It isn’t uncommon to find that these types of infections are actually secondary to a skin allergy, however many cats can just develop ear infections without any other underlying cause. If you have noticed a smell from one or both of your cat’s ears, if you have seen any discharge, or if your cat seems particularly irritated with one of both ears, then you should definitely arrange an appointment with your local vet who will examine both ears. From here they may carry out further diagnostic tests, clean out the affected ear(s), and possibly even prescribe your cat topical antibiotics to cure any infection if it is confirmed.
Ear polyps are fairly rare but if not properly diagnosed and managed, they can cause severe damage to your cat’s ears. A polyp is a benign (safe) growth, and aural polyps are the kind that grow in your cat’s external and/or middle ear. It isn’t really known how polyps suddenly develop, but they generally seem to occur as a result of long term inflammation caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Polyps will usually have the same symptoms as other ear infections initially, but after time, will begin to become more severe to the point where you may see your cat tilting their head to the side or even cause them difficulty in walking in a straight line. Treatment for polyps may involve surgery in order to fully remove the polyps, and your local vet will most likely also send a biopsy of the polyps to make sure they aren’t cancerous.
Get to your vet
Ear infections aren’t nearly as common in cats as they are in dogs, but they definitely can happen and cause your cat pain. Be sure to look at your cat’s ears regularly for signs of inflammation or wax build-up so that you are able to confidently determine when something isn’t right. You should also remember that your cat’s ear issues aren’t a do-it-yourself fix up, and you should consult your local vet when you notice an issue, so that they can properly diagnose and prescribe the best treatment for your cat.