Unlike humans, ear infections in cats are a fairly uncommon condition. However, if your cat gets one or has chronic ear infections they can be quite painful. There are two kinds of ear infections in cats, otitis externa (external infection) and otitis interna (inner ear infection).

Think of a cat’s ear as a canal that leads to a chamber and then continues on through a small tube. External ear infections occur in the canal, while inner ear infections reach the chamber behind the eardrum.

What causes a cat ear infection?

External ear infections. This type of ear infection is most commonly caused by ear mites. An ear mite infestation can result in an inner ear infection as well. Ear mites make up about 50 percent of ear infection cases in cats.

Internal ear infections. These infections are generally caused by bacteria—or less commonly fungus (yeast infection).

In addition, wax buildup or thick hair in the ear canal, allergies to food or pollen, uncleanliness, and diabetes are all possible causes of cat ear infections.

What are the clinical signs of an infection?

Cats with either inner or outer ear infections may show any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching of the ear
  • Red skin and inflammation
  • Hair loss or scabs
  • Head tilt
  • Unpleasant odor from the ear
  • Difficulty eating
  • Disorientation or irritability

How are ear infections in cats diagnosed and treated?

If we suspect your feline has an ear infection we will examine the ear canal with an otoscope. We’ll look to see if the eardrum is intact and if there is debris, discharge, or inflammation present. If your kitty is in a lot of pain, a thorough exam under anesthesia may be necessary to properly determine the source of the issue. We will sometimes examine samples taken from the ear in order to choose the right medication for treatment.

To treat ear infections we will clean the ear canal as best as possible. Certain medications given both orally and topically can be prescribed for bacterial or yeast infections. For ear mites, we generally prescribe a parasiticide medication to be applied to the inside of your cat’s ear, or directly on their skin to remove the mites.

Vet in Gilbert

If your furry pal is experiencing any of the above clinical signs of a cat ear infection or needs to be kept up-to-date on her parasite treatments, schedule an appointment with us at East Valley Animal Hospital in Gilbert, AZ. We’ll treat your pets like family!


Photo by Rasmus Gerdin on Unsplash (7/27/20)