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All About Cat Mites: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Cat sitting on chair

Is your cat scratching frantically at their ears or shaking their head vigorously? If so, your feline friend might be dealing with pesky ear mites. But ear mites aren’t the only cat mites you need to worry about. So how do you know if your pet has mites, and what do you do about it?

What Are Cat Mites?

Cat mites are tiny parasites that take up residence in your cat’s ears or on their skin. Ear mites are the most common, but your pet may also get skin mites that cause mange. Skin mites on cats tend to be rare, so you might not notice them as readily as you would ear mites.

Different Types of Cat Mites

  • Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange) Ear mites are the most common type of cat mites. They burrow into your pet’s ears and live in the ear canal, feeding off of ear wax and dirt. However, they can also live on your cat’s outer ear. Ear mites cause uncomfortable itching and also potential eardrum damage.
  • Feline Scabies (Notoedric Mange)  Feline scabies live on your cat’s skin, making your cat itch and causing sores and hair loss.
  • Canine Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange) Although these mites usually affect dogs, cats can get them too, most commonly from an affected dog in the home. Like Feline scabies, they can cause itching, sores, and hair loss.
  • Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis) At first glance, you might mistake these tiny, white mites for regular pet dandruff. However, unlike dandruff, these little white specks move around.
  • Chiggers (Trombiculosis) Your cat might pick up chiggers if they’re exploring outdoors in a grassy or wooded area. Chiggers attach to your pet’s skin to feed on their blood.
  • Demodex Mites (Feline Demodicosis) — These mites are mostly found on dogs, but Demodex cati and Demodex gatoi can cause Feline Demodicosis, causing potential itching and hair loss.

Symptoms of Cat Mites

The most common sign of mites is excessive scratching. You may also notice sore spots and hair loss if your pet has skin mites.

If your cat has ear mites, head shaking is a common clue, and you may notice tiny black or reddish-brown specks and puss. A black crust could also develop on their ears, potentially blocking the ear canal. Your cat’s ears may also bleed from the constant scratching.

For walking dandruff, look for tiny white specks moving through your cat’s fur and over their skin. Chiggers look like small, orange ovals.

How Do Cats Get Mites?

Usually, your cat gets mites from another affected cat or animal. But if you’re not careful, you could also end up with your cat’s mites. Mites don’t distinguish between a cat and a dog or a cat and a human. Mites simply look for a host so they can continue to feed and survive.

Cat scratching their ear

What Should You Do if Your Pet Has Cat Mites?

If you suspect your cat might have mites, whether ear mites or another kind, there are a few things you should do as soon as possible.

Separate Your Cat From Others

Since cat mites can affect other animals and humans, it’s best to limit interactions with your cute kitty until you resolve the problem. Cat mites are very contagious, so it’s essential to separate your cat from other pets in the home. 

It’s also a good idea to explain to young children that they need to give their pet some space. Tell others to refrain from petting or handling your cat until your cat is on treatment and rid of mites.

It’s also possible for cat mites to survive for short periods on furniture, clothes, and other surfaces. Therefore, if you have multiple cats in the home, provide your affected kitty with a separate litter box and litter mat. Make sure they use different water and food bowls and don’t let them share toys, bedding, or other supplies.

Visit the Vet

There are prescription and over-the-counter ear mite medications and shampoos available. Ear wax removal drops can also help by removing the ear mites’ primary food source. Before you begin any treatment, it’s a good idea to bring your cat to the vet first for a thorough exam.

Your vet will examine your pet and ask about their symptoms. It’s most likely that your vet will be able to see the mites and identify them rather quickly. Once the vet determines the specific type of mite bothering your cat they can prescribe the appropriate medication or treatment plan.

Use the Right Medications and Treatments

If your cat has ear mites, your vet will first clean the ear and flush it gently. You’ll then most likely be advised to give your pet medication. Make sure you use the medicine as directed and only the one prescribed by your vet.

There are certain treatments specifically for cats and if you try to use a different one, for example, one for dogs, it might be too intense. However, over-the-counter options might not be strong enough depending on the severity of your cat’s condition.

Your vet may recommend a topical cream or prescribe a medicated shampoo for skin mites. No matter what type of cat mites your kitty has, treating them as soon as possible is vital to prevent things from becoming more serious.

Clean Your Cat’s Ears

When you put drops in your cat’s ears, gently massage the ears to help disperse the medication. Then use an ear wipe to gently wipe your cat’s outer ear area. Do not use Q-tips or insert anything into your cat’s ears to clean them.

Carefully Observe Your Cat’s Symptoms and Condition

After your cat begins treatment, keep a close eye on them and monitor their symptoms. If you don’t feel things are improving, follow up with your vet. You may need to try a different medication or treatment.

Home Remedies for Ear Mites

Several home remedies claim to eradicate ear mites, including garlic, apple cider vinegar, Vaseline, and coconut oil. However, while some of these options might give your cat some relief, they don’t replace a consultation with your vet. If your cat’s ear mites go untreated for an extended period, it could lead to larger problems, including serious infections and deafness.

How Long Does It Take for Cat Mites to Go Away?

Every case of cat mites differs, but typically it could take a few weeks for your cat’s mites to disappear completely. Your vet will advise you to apply drops or medication for a few days or more in addition to cleaning the area. Then after reassessing your pet, depending on the response, you may need to repeat the cycle a few times.

Ear mites can be persistent, staying in your cat’s ears long-term and breeding. Therefore, after treatment, your vet may want to examine your cat again to ensure all of the mites are gone.

Your cat will undoubtedly be uncomfortable when ear mites decide to live rent-free in their ears and on their skin. But the sooner you recognize the symptoms and get your cat treatment, the sooner they’ll get the relief they deserve.

For more helpful tips on how to care for your furry friends, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. Whether your pet’s dealing with cat mites, boredom, allergies, or something in between, you’ll find insightful resources and ideas to solve the most challenging of pet woes.


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