8 Common Ear Problems in Cats

Common Ear Problems in Cats

No one likes it when their cat is faced with a medical problem. Unfortunately, our cats are just as susceptible to medical ailments as we are.

One of the best ways to ensure that your cat is happy and healthy is to make yourself aware of what some of the common causes of various medical issues in cats are.

When it comes to their ears, it can be tricky to figure out what is causing a cat distress. Here are eight common ear problems in cats that all cat owners should watch out for.

Ear Mites

Tiny parasites that live in or around the ears of cats, ear mites are most commonly seen in kittens and can be easily passed from cat to cat.

If your cat’s ears have a material inside of or around them that resembles coffee grounds, and if your cat is shaking and scratching its head, ear mites could be the cause.

If your veterinarian confirms the diagnosis, your cat will either be given an over-the-counter ear mite treatment or, if the mites are more extensive, will be given a prescribed medication to treat the mites.

Outer Ear Infections

Fungal and bacterial infections of the outer ear resemble the appearance of an ear mite infestation and usually mirror the symptoms of an ear mite infestation.

However, outer ear infections will usually cause the ears to become swollen or red and sometimes are accompanied by a foul-smelling ear discharge.

Treatment will involve diagnosing the type of bacteria and then prescribing medication based on the results.

Middle or Inner Ear Infections

Symptoms of middle or inner ear infections usually produce shaking of the head, ear rubbing, tilting of the head, lethargy, decreased appetite, squinting, poor hearing, or a raised third eyelid.

Treatment varies depending on the location of the infection and ranges from antibiotics to surgery.


Acting as benign growths within the middle ear of a cat, nasopharyngeal polyps can cause middle ear infections, loud breathing, or nasal discharge. Surgery is required to remove the polyp.


Mange mites usually live on the skin that surrounds the head and ears of cats.

If the skin around a cat’s head is thickened, crusty, or scaly, mange is likely the cause.

Mange is serious if left untreated. Treatment involves a prescribed medication that kills the harmful parasites.

Foreign Bodies

If a cat frequents the outdoors, sometimes a foreign body like grass or rocks can become lodged into its ears.

Cats usually respond to the presence of a foreign body by pawing at their ears and shaking their heads.

If the foreign body seems easy to remove, there is no need for veterinary intervention. If the cat shows any discomfort or if removal of the foreign body is met with resistance, contact a veterinarian immediately to have it removed.


Trauma to the ears is common in multi-cat households.

Minor abrasions can be cleaned at home with an antiseptic solution made of diluted povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine. However, if lacerations are deep, a veterinarian should be notified.

Allergic Reactions

Sometimes, cat ear problems are caused by allergies generally related to their food.

If a cat is scratching its head but there are no other observable causes for the scratching, switching to a diet that is limited in antigens for six to eight weeks can help determine whether or not the cat is dealing with allergies.

However, if you have concerns regarding your cat’s head scratching, it is better to see a veterinarian just to be sure.

It is a good idea to regularly check your cat’s ears. By regularly observing your cat’s ears to determine what his or her ears look like when they are “healthy,” you will be able to notice much more quickly when something is wrong.

Central Texas Animal Hospital provides a variety of veterinary services for cats in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock area including vaccinationsparasite preventiondental careweight managementspaying and neutering, and more. Call us at 512-251-BARK today to learn more!