Ear Mites in Kittens

Do you have a newly adopted kitten? Have you noticed a brown “coffee-like” debris in your kitten’s ears? Are your kitten’s ears itchy? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, your kitten may have ear mites. In the following article, we will discuss ear mite infections in kittens, and how your veterinarian can diagnose and treat this common condition.

Otodectes Cynotis, more commonly referred to as “Ear Mites,” are microscopic parasites that commonly inhabit the skin and ear canals of kittens. While adult cats are often resistant, they can also become infected, albeit less commonly. Ear mites are the most common cause of ear infections in kittens. Ear mites are not host specific, and can be transferred from your kitten to other kittens, cats, and even dogs within the same environment.

Ear mites are contagious and cause itchiness, head shaking, and, frequently, the accumulation of dark to black debris inside of your kitten’s ears. Many people think this debris resembles coffee grounds. Secondary scratching by your kitten may cause cuts, abrasions, and scabbing to the base of your kitten’s ears. If left untreated, ear mites my also result in the development of bacterial infections inside of your kitten’s ears.

When you bring your kitten to the veterinarian, they will perform a complete physical examination. As part of that exam, they may rub your kitten’s ears in a particular way. Kittens with ear mites are likely to scratch at their ears with their hind legs, this is called a pinnal-pedal reflex. In addition, your veterinarian can obtain a diagnosis of ear mites by obtaining a sample from your kitten’s ears and looking under a microscope using mineral oil as a base. Many times, we can see the mites microscopically, and obtain a definitive diagnosis.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for eliminating ear mites. Treatment options range from topical ear medications including Ivermectin, products containing thiabendazole, and ear mite specific ear medications. There are also certain Flea/Tick preventatives which have activity against ear mites. However, it is extremely important to consult with your veterinarian who can counsel you about which products are safe and effective for kittens. Certain flea/tick preventatives can be toxic to cats, and others are not approved for cats, or do not treat ear mites. Please do not apply a dog-specific flea/tick preventative to your cat, and be sure to always consult with your veterinarian before starting any new flea/tick preventative!

Ear mites have a 21-day life cycle, so it’s important to treat your kitten for an appropriate duration of time in order to prevent a recurrence. If the infection is not completely eliminated, remaining ear mites can continue the life-cycle, complicating treatment.

Kitten Ear Mites Treatment Options

If you suspect your kitten has ear mites, we recommend scheduling an Appointment with our Veterinary Team. We will perform a complete physical examination as well as a microscopic evaluation for ear mites, and discuss the appropriate treatment options for your kitten.

Jeffrey Stupine, V.M.D
Medical Director – World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals