Treating a Cat With Ear Mites

Treating your cat's case of ear mites is a three-step process. The first step is to get as many tiny critters out of the ear canal as possible by cleaning the ear. You can use an ear cleaning solution (available at pet supply stores) or try almond or olive oil, but clear the latter with your vet first. Put several drops of the solution or oil into the ear canal and massage gently. Massaging will help bring debris up to the outer part of the ear where it can be wiped away with a cotton ball or tissue. Do not use cotton swabs, because one slip could puncture an eardrum. Repeat the cleaning procedure until the debris is gone.

Next, you need to administer an ear miticide. Products that contain pyrethrins, a natural insecticide, are available at pet supply stores. Follow directions carefully, making sure to massage the drops in well and wipe away any excess. A single cleaning and treatment with ear drops won't do the trick, because just one surviving female mite with eggs will begin the entire ordeal anew. You must clean out your cat's ears every day and use the miticide exactly as directed (which may take a few weeks depending on the product).

Finally, you have to keep your cat from being reinfested with ear mites. A single ear mite can hide out deep in your cat's fur -- only to crawl back in after all the excitement of treatment is over. Microscopic mite eggs can hatch days after a treatment, so it could take a few weeks before you can safely assume your cat and home are mite-free. Cats with ear mites also need regular treatment with flea products to knock out those adventurous mites that go exploring elsewhere.

If your home remedies don't knock out ear mites within a few weeks, or the skin in or around the ear becomes raw or inflamed, you need professional help. Your vet can prescribe medications that work faster than the over-the-counter ones. An untreated ear mite infestation can lead to a skin disease or to an ear infection. If your cat has itchy ears, shakes her head, flattens her ears, and has discharge from the ear canal -- but no mite debris or live mites -- check with your vet. It could be a yeast or bacterial infection or another type of ear problem.