ear mites maine coon

Dealing With Ear Mites in Your Maine Coon

Not the topic for a polite dinner conversation, but something a Maine Coon owner may need to know about. With those big tufty ears, what exactly should you know about ear mites?

In short, ear mites actually small parasites that feed off ear wax. They are not fatal for your cat, but will be annoying. Symptoms include pawing the ears, black ar red ear canals and unnecessary shaking of the head. They don’t live very long but are prolific breeders, so it’s important to deal with them for your cat. There is very little the cat can do to get rid of them on their own. Your Maine Coon will need your help. A number of remedies are available that can sort the problem out.

The Problem Arises

Shortly after I got Alita, I took her to the vets to get a little check up. There was a vaccination to take care of as well and I wanted to get some professional thoughts.

She is well fed and exercised so I thought there was nothing to surprise me.

I got quite a shock when the vet pulled these out of her ears.

ear mites maine coon

Those are ear mites.

Suddenly all those paws at the ears gave me second thoughts. Was she reacting to these unwanted pests? Are they painful for her? Are they just annoying? Or does she even notice?

I suddenly realised I was a bit ignorant on the subject so decided I needed to brush up on the subject. For the future, if nothing else.

This prompted a little bit of research, as I knew very little when I started.

What Are Ear Mites?

We know that mites are “bugs,” but some details about them might be quite surprising. Mites are actually parasites found in cats. Sometimes they get them from their environment and other times they jump onto your Maine Coon from dogs or even other cats.

Parasites feed off their “host,” which are affected by the experience. Fun Fact: Scientists estimate that up to 300,000 kinds of parasites in the world make meals out of animals with backbones. In this case, they satisfy their snack attack by gnawing on the cat’s skin and ear wax found in the ear canal.

The critters are so small that they look like little “dots” when the naked eye sees them. A microscope is usually needed to verify that your cat definitely has them.

The most common type of mite in this area is something known as “Otodectes.” They’re eight-legged parasites that eat wax and oil found in the cat’s car.

The adult mites usually only live for two months. A big problem is they breed quickly. In fact, the eggs hatch in just four days then they grow into breeding adults in a mere three weeks.

How Do Cats Catch Ear Mites?

Pet cats can get these mites in different ways. Sometimes it involves physical contact with other animals including dogs and other cats. When this happens, the critters have a chance to crawl onto your pet feline. In fact, turns out this is the primary way they spread.

If you have an outdoor kitty, then it’s more likely it will get infected with mites than a housecat. That’s because it might contact different kinds of animals including:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Cats
  • Dogs

 

Although Alita is an indoor cat, and she still managed to get them. It seems anything with fur seems to carry them.

There are some X-factors to consider. Mites in ears are more common among cats than dogs. So, it’s especially important for your personal Garfield to avoid contact with their feline friends in particular until the problem is fixed. Another caveat is kittens are more likely to experience these mites in part because their immune system is still developing.  

Why is direct contact with these tiny critters the most common way? Quite simply, they cannot survive within their own environment, so it’s very unlikely an ear mite will jump on your kitty from a furniture piece, mobile gadget, or blade of grass.

The situation is different with animals like dogs. The canine can transfer the parasites to felines and vice-versa.

It’s worth noting that when a pet gets infested with such mites, they’re classified as contagious. They’re then able to transfer them to other animals. This can become a vicious cycle until you isolate your cat from other household pets.

One key reason to take this step is the parasites can be transmitted even when there’s brief physical contact. This would actually be more likely indoors since there’s less space for your kitty to roam around in. It’s best to provide them with the proper treatment then later they can hang out with feline friends or do some family bonding.

Are Cat Ear Mites a Problem For Humans?

Based on the research I’ve done, humans seem to be immune to ear mites. It’s worth noting that the parasites are “not zoonotic”. Fancy term I know.

In layman’s terms, this means that they can’t be passed from an animal to human or a human to animal. This should help to give you peace of mind since there’s no danger of you or your children catching mites in the hearing organs.

The reason is ear mites don’t survive a long time on humans. So, it makes sense they won’t want to hang out somewhere if they can’t get their next meal. Keep in mind that parasites are “leeches” that stay on their hosts to get the nutrients they need.

Does this mean that ear mites don’t spend any time on people? It sometimes happens even though it’s quite rare. They might stay on humans for a short time and especially on the arms. If they bite this can cause an allergic reaction.

However, this is only a short-term situation. The tiny bugs only live on animals, so they’re always looking for a new host to nibble on. So, your earwax is safe.  

The key is to focus on your pet feline since parasites can cause a lot of problems like irritation and infection. The sooner you take that step, the sooner your pet and household can avoid worrying about your furry family member.

Alita the Maine Coon

Are Ear Mites Painful for Your Cat?

You might be wondering how these mites can affect your cat. Is it painful? Is it itchy? Does it feel ticklish and just make them annoyed?

When kitties get such mites, it makes the area itchy. This causes them to use their paws to scratch their ears, shake their heads, or tilt their head to one side due to the discomfort in the other area.

So much made sense when I found that out. My memory went back to all the times I saw Alita paw her ear. I’d assumed she was grooming herself.

I now know this for the future.

Your pet might also experience dizziness and have problems staying balanced. Flat ears are yet another sign your kitty has a mite infestation.  

The bugs can cause different problems for the ears. For example, it can cause them to appear red and inflamed. Interestingly, besides eating wax they can also cause more of it in the ear canal.

There are other signs to watch out for. You also might see a discharge that’s dry and black. There might be fresh or dried blood inside the pet’s auditory canal. This might look like coffee grounds.

You also might see small white dots around the canal. This isn’t a symptom but the actual parasites.

Another thing to watch out for is allergies caused by the mites. This is on top of the effects of biting your cat’s skin and eating the ear wax/oil. The allergies can cause various other symptoms that can make your furbaby’s life miserable.  

It’s important to note that there are also different causes of itchy ears. Your feline could have an ear infection that’s caused by stuff like dust, bacteria, or yeast. So, it’s important to get it checked out by a veterinarian. Then you’ll know for certain what’s causing the symptoms.

How To Check Your Maine Coon Cat for Ear Mites

Here’s how to inspect your pet’s ears for mites. Use a cotton ball to remove a little of the dry debris from the ear canal. Place it on white paper then use a bright light to look for small white specks and debris.

If you think your feline has mites, then massage the base of the ears’ back area using your forefinger and thumb. A kitty without parasites will be in seventh heaven. However, if mites are there the kitty will likely growl and try to escape.

You should also look for signs of mites on the body. They include bald spots and red/scratched skin.

That said, the mites are usually found around the ear canal. The main reason is if the bug goes for a walk on the animals’ back or belly the bigger animal will just wipe it off using its paw or even swallow it with its tongue.

Besides signs of the mites, you should also look for the critters themselves. They’re very tiny and are about as big as a pinhead. If you have 20/20 vision or use a magnifying glass, you can get a better look at your feline’s ear to check for them munching on a skin sandwich or guzzling an oil smoothie.

We’re not animal doctors so if you think your pet has a parasite infestation it’s important to contact your pet’s vet immediately. They’ll have the knowledge and experience to determine if the cause of the problem is mites or something else.

There’s no question people love their pets. It could seem tempting to self-diagnose them based on info from the web. There are a few problems with this situation. The first is a trained veterinarian will have lots of experience seeing many kinds of mites and knowing the difference between them.

Another issue is your pet might actually have a bacterial infection instead of one caused by bugs. The treatments are different, so it’s critical to have a professional inspect your feline.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cat with Ear Mites?

The ear mites themselves are super-tiny, so they can be tough to spot. This is especially true if you haven’t checked your pet’s ears. There’s really no way to be sure one way or the other unless you actually check them.

In fact, one thing to keep in mind is that the mites might get worse. It could seem like your pet just has itchy ears, but within time the middle/inner ear can get damaged. This can affect different things like your cat’s hearing and balance. You want the best for your feline friend, so those are definitely situations you’ll want to avoid.

Let’s start with the signs to look for:

  • Rubbing/scratching an affected ear
  • Red/black in the ear canals
  • Ear twitching
  • Strong odor from ears
  • Shaking of the head

 

If the parasites have moved to other parts then your pet might do a lot of scratching and/or licking in those areas.

Something to keep in mind is that animals deal with health problems differently than humans. If your pet cat has mites in their hearing organs, then they probably won’t meow loudly. However, they’ll make some sounds that show they’re irritated. This happens when they’re also doing things like scratching their ears or shaking their heads.

Another common symptom of mites is a growling cat if you try to inspect the ears. This is probably a sign that the animal has a lot of discomfort and doesn’t want to be bothered. If you’re unable to check out the area then you should take your pet to the veterinarian ASAP.

Home Remedies for Cats with Ear Mites

If your feline has ear mites, the good news is you don’t have to spend tons of money on medicines. Besides the high price tag, the strong chemicals might also cause some problems for your pet.

You can use different home remedies including the following:

  1. Ear cleaning solution

You can get this at pet supply stores. An alternative is olive oil but you should get a green light from your veterinarian first.

Here are the steps. Place many drops of the solution/oil in the ear canal. Then massage it gently, so the debris goes to the ear’s outer part. You can then wipe it away using a tissue or cotton ball. Make sure NOT to use cotton swabs to avoid damage.

  1. Ear Miticide

This is a natural insecticide and you can find them at pet stores. Make sure you pick one that’s feline-specific since high dosages can be dangerous to them.

When you apply this stuff make sure you follow the directions to a tee. After you add the drops wipe away any extra moisture.

It’s important to apply the ear drops multiple times. The reason is if a pregnant mite survives then the whole process will start again. That’s a bad thing.

The miticide will take different amounts of time to work based on the product. Sometimes this is just a couple weeks but make sure to follow the directions.

  1. Flea products

This might seem odd since mites aren’t fleas. Sometimes mites wander around a little to the cat’s body. You can knock them out by using products like flea/tick shampoo. This should be part of your cat’s regular grooming anyway.

How to Treat a Cat with Ear Mites

If home remedies don’t get rid of the mites, then you should contact your pet’s veterinarian. They’ll likely prescribe stronger meds. This will help to deal with a mite infestation. Here are some options:

  1. Infection relief

Since mites have a high chance of infection, ear drops or antibiotics might be prescribed. These are used to deal with infections that your pet kitten or adult cat is suffering from. These treatments usually are only given up to a month although the length of time can vary.

The antibiotics are important because sometimes pets experience a “secondary” bacterial infection from the mites. This is due to stuff they leave behind like debris.

  1. Topical medicines

These are applied to the ear directly and the regions surrounding it. These meds work like lice shampoo for humans and wipe out all the mites. These medicines usually must be applied for 2 to 3 weeks.

Some prescription meds can also be applied to the body. This will help to deal with other problems like fleas and some kinds of worms.

These products can provide various benefits. For example, they can bring immediate relief from the crawling critters in terms of irritation.

Conclusion

If your cat is scratching its ears then it might be more than dust. Felines and especially young cats are prone to ear mites. This can cause symptoms like pain, irritation, and itchiness. It’s important to treat the pesky varmints as soon as possible so you’ll have a happy cat.

The good news is it’s relatively easy to diagnose and treat mites in ears. It’s a matter of inspecting the organs and getting the help of your veterinarian when possible. DIY, OTC, or Rx remedies can keep parasites from bugging your cat.

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