Ear Infection in Cats

Cat's don't often suffer from ear infections but when they do these infections can be an indication of an underlying health issue. Here our South Charlotte vets explain some of the causes, symptoms and treatments for yeast infections in cat's ears, bacterial infections, inner ear infections and more.


Do cats often get ear infections?

Ear infections are a relatively uncommon health issue in cats but when they do strike the underlying cause can be serious.

A simple outer ear infection can quickly spread to the middle ear and onto your kitty's inner ear, which is why it is essential to seek treatment for your cat's ear infection as soon as symptoms arise. If left untreated ear infections in cats can result in hearing loss.

 There are 2 main types of ear infections:

  • Outer ear infections in cats (typically less serious and easy to treat) often caused by ear mites.
  • Inner ear infection in cats (less common but more serious) often resulting from an underlying condition leading to a bacterial infection.

What causes ear infections in cats?

Except in the case of ear mites, most ear infections in cats are usually a sign of an underlying health condition. If your cat has a weak immune system, diabetes or allergies they face an increased risk ear infections compared to cats with stronger immune systems.

Cat ear infections can develop when the lining of the ear canal becomes irritated, leading to inflammation. Inflammation within the ear can lead to excess wax production which in turn creates an environment where the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast grow out of control.

At that point further inflammation is likely to occur and itchiness begins, resulting in the most common symptoms of ear infections in cats: ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and repeated head shaking.

Some of the most common causes of outer ear and middle ear infections in cats include:

  • Irritants in the environment
  • Immune system diseases (FLV or FIV)
  • Foreign bodies in the ear canal
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Allergies (pollen, food, etc).
  • Buildup of wax
  • Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both
  • Thick fur or hair in the ear canal
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Polyps or tumors in the ear canal
  • Incorrect ear cleaning
  • Ruptured eardrum

Our vets see far fewer outer ear infections in cats than in dogs, but when they do occur these infections can quickly spread to your cat's middle ear and inner ear. Ear mite infestation is the most common cause of outer ear infections in our feline friends.

What are the signs of ear infection in cats?

If your kitty is rubbing their ear or looking otherwise uncomfortable, your pet may have an ear infection. Other signs of ear infection in cats include:

  • Ear discharge resembling coffee grounds
  • Yellowish or black discharge
  • Head tilting
  • Swelling or redness in the ear canal
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Waxy buildup near or on the canal
  • Disorientation
  • Swelling or redness of the ear flap
  • Strong odor from the ear

If your cat's ears are healthy they should be pale pink in color and have no visible debris, or odor, and very little wax buildup. When a cat's ear becomes infected they are often red or swollen and may have an odor.

How will the vet diagnose my cat's ear infection?

Your vet will start by examining your cat’s ear canal, then taking a sample of ear debris to examine under a microscope to determine whether bacteria, ear mites, or a yeast infection in your cat's ear, is the cause of the problem.

Bringing your kitty in to see our vets at Sharon Lakes Animal Hospital for routine wellness exams provides your vet with an opportunity to monitor the health of your cat's ears on a regular basis.

Wellness exams mean that your vet may be able to detect early signs of health issues, including ear infections before they develop into more serious health concerns that can be more difficult and costly to treat.

Our animal hospital also has an in-house lab that allows us to perform any tests required and receive results quickly so that your kitty's treatment can begin as quickly as possible. 

How to treat ear infection in cats?

Treating cat ear infections typically begins with your vet clipping the fur around your cat’s ear canal in order to help keep the area clean and dry.

If the infection has reached the middle ear but the eardrum has not yet been infected, oral or injectable antibiotics may be used to help clear up the infection.

For ear mites, a bacterial ear infection in cats or yeast infection in cats, treatment with corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics or anti-parasitics in-ear drops may be prescribed by your vet.

Treatment at home for your cat's ear infection involves monitoring the condition of your cat's ears to check that the interior of the ear flap is clean and that the canal is clear. If your vet has prescribed ear drops, simply lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal, gently massaging the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way deeper into the ear.

Early treatment is the key to preventing chronic ear infections that could lead to severe issues such as facial paralysis and hearing loss for your kitty.

What causes chronic ear infection in cats?

Chronic ear infection in cats can be caused by a number of issues including growths, allergies, or parasites. If you find that your feline friend has a long-lasting or recurring ear infection that’s making their ears itchy or painful, discuss this problem with your vet. They may be able to prescribe a medication to help reduce tissue swelling inside of your cat's ear canal.

Surgery may be required in some rare cases to correct ear issues and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed your kitty's ear canal.

Prevent Your Cat From Getting an Ear Infection

While there may be no way to prevent an ear infection you can take steps to catch the signs of an ear infection early so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. Regularly check your cat's ears to ensure there’s no odor, residue, redness, swelling or other symptoms. Be sure to have any issues treated before they worsen, and ask your vet to show you how to correctly clean your cat’s ears.

Do not insert cleaning devices into your cat’s ear canal unless your vet has specifically told you to do so, and shown you how to clean your cat's ears safely.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your cat may have an ear infection? Contact us today to book an appointment for your feline friend. Our South Charlotte vets can examine your kitty and provide a fast diagnosis and effective treatment for your cat's uncomfortable ears.

Ear infections in cats are rare but can lead to complications if left untreated, South Charlotte vet

Looking for a vet in Charlotte?

We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Related Articles View All

Help! My cat won't eat! What should I do?

If your cat suddenly stops eating you are bound to be concerned. Should you rush your feline friend to the emergency vet clinic or wait until your regular vet is available? Our South Charlotte vets share some common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to tell if it’s time to head to the emergency vet.

FLUTD & Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Our South Charlotte vets see far fewer urinary tract infections in cats than in dogs, nonetheless, there are a number of other urinary tract conditions that frequently affect older cats. Below we explain more about urinary tract infections and other urinary conditions in cats.

Cat Laryngitis - What to Do if Your Cat Loses Their Meow

Has your kitty's meow been reduced to a squeak or a scratchy rasp? Laryngitis in cats can be the result of a number of different underlying causes. In today's post our Charlotte vets share more about cat laryngitis symptoms, causes and treatments.

(704) 552-0647