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Cat Ear Problems

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HGlick has rescued and placed stray cats for over 20 years and has personally fostered more than ten during that time

This article includes several potential causes of your cat's ear problem.

This article includes several potential causes of your cat's ear problem.

Ear Problems Are . . . a Problem

Cat ear problems can change the way a cat behaves. A cat's hearing is their best-developed attribute; they can hear higher-pitched sounds beyond the acute range of a dog. When a cat hears a sound they turn their head in the direction of that sound and rotate their ears to locate the angle of the direction. Since hearing is a significant function to your cat, anything that interferes with it can lead to serious cat health problems.

Cats also have an amazing sense of equilibrium. This is due to a function within their inner ear that allows them to adjust their body with great speed and agility. Thus, when dropped from a height in an upside-down-position a cat can readjust itself to land on its feet. This, however, does not prevent them from getting injured when dropped from a substantial height. If you live above the ground floor, be sure to keep your windows covered with screens. Cats may jump, with little or no regard to heights.

When you give your cat a bath, make sure that no water gets into their ears. This can be prevented by inserting cotton wads inside their canals before bathing. If you need to apply anything, mineral or olive oil should be used when cleaning your cat's ears rather than an irritating solvent like ether or alcohol. Also, do not excessively clean your cat's ears as a routine. This can induce trauma to the delicate surface of the ear canal.

I will briefly discuss here various ear problems that occur in the cat. If the ear problem that is present in your cat is not discussed here or if the cat is in a serious state, always see a veterinarian before trying to solve the problem at home.

Common Cat Ear Problems

  • Bites and Lacerations: Cats get into fights and can give or receive painful bites and scratches which are susceptible to infection. The ear flap is a frequent sight for this kind of damage. These types of wounds should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected. If the blood is not fresh it can be bathed with hydrogen peroxide solution (one to two parts water) to remove dried blood and foreign particles. Then apply an antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin. If the wound is severe see a veterinarian.
  • Swollen Ear Flap: A swelling of the ear is usually due to an abscess or hematoma. Abscesses are more common and usually occur after a fight or an irritating process, like ear scratching. Abscesses are found below the ear and hematomas involve the flap. A hematoma is a blood clot under the skin and it can be caused by violent shaking or scratching. Look for an underlying itchy ear disorder like ear mites or an infection involving the ear canal.
  • Ringworm: This is a fungus infection that affects the ear flap as well as other parts of the body. The usual appearance is that of a dry, scaly, hairless patch of skin. Hair is broken off at the skin surface. Ringworm does not cause itching like ear mites, and usually only one ear is involved.
  • Flea Infestation: Fleas usually feed on the skin of the ear flap. You may see the actual flea or just dried blood, that appears as black, crumbly crusts.
  • Ear Mites: ear mite infections are one of the most common health problems seen in cats. Ear mites are tiny parasites that live on the surface of the skin of the ear canal. They feed by piercing the skin. Suspect ear mites when both of your cat's ears are infected. Common cat ear mite symptoms are violent head-shaking and intense itching. Ear mites can most often be identified by removing some earwax and placing it on a dark background. They will appear as moving white specks, no larger than the head of a pin.
  • Bacterial Infections: These are usually the result of infected scratches or bites. Some of these infections begin in the ear canal that contains an excessive amount of wax or foreign material. The most common sign of an infected ear canal is head-shaking and scratching at an itching ear. A cat might tilt their head down on the affected side and show pain when the ear is touched. Usually, an examination reveals redness and swelling of the skin fold of the inner ear.
  • Fungus Infections: The presence of excess wax and moisture in the ear canal can lead to fungus infection. These are much less common in the cat than in the dog, because their ears are erect and get much more air. Signs and symptoms are not as pronounced as when the infection is caused by bacteria. The ear is less inflamed and less painful. A rancid odor is characteristic of a fungus infection.

Not all cat ear problems are discussed here, but those that are mentioned might help you to diagnose an existing problem.

Cat Ear Infection Symptoms

  • Cat ear infection symptoms can sometimes be easy to spot. Here are some suggestions for what to look for when observing your cat's ears
  1. One of the first things you want to do is to see if there are any ear crusts. These are usually a sign that your cat is not feeling well. Even if your cat is well you should have a test to determine whether or not he has an ear infection. They look similar to raised bumps around the ear and should not be painful. But if they are swollen and red it's a sign that your cat has an ear infection.
  2. Next would be to see if there is any discharge coming from his ears. This is usually a sign of ear infections. But if your cat is having trouble hearing or doesn't react to your voice it might be a sign that he might have a condition called otitis media, also known as yellow ear. If your cat has this you'll need to follow up with your vet to make sure the ear infection is gone.
  3. A good rule of thumb is to look to see if your cat is licking his ears. If he is licking, you should be able to see some discharge coming from his ears. It should be easy to see. But if you can't, or if there is any dry discharge you should be cautious. You should call your vet immediately.

It is now time to take your cat to the vet. You will need to take care of your cat and get him feeling better before you take him in to get treated. In some cases, treatment may only take 24-48 hours. You need to be diligent and cautious because a cat ear infection is a serious condition. Your vet will be able to determine the extent of the infection and will know how to treat it.


A Valuable Cat Health Problem Guide

Veterinary Clinical Care Formula

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

This formula is ideal for treating bacterial and fungal infections in cats and doing a daily cleaning maintenance of your cat's ears

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on May 15, 2021:

I am sorry for the delayed response to this issue. Signs including vomiting and seizures will usually develop within 4-6 hours. After this period your cat should be safe. Any signs of illness should immediately be reported to your vet

Holly Nicole AbercrombieC on November 13, 2019:

My cat has water in his ear. I can hear the water in his ear. How do I get the water out? Ear is hurting him.

Amanda on February 10, 2019:

Please help as soon as possible!!! I am very worried about my cat, he is not a young cat. For over a month now his left ear on the outside stays bloody with bubble like bumps all over it, he won't let me touch is ear, which as bloody as it is, I really don't want to, but I have been giving him oral penicillin and putting penicillin-dihydrostreptomycin in oil on it, it isn't getting better, I can't afford to take him to the vet. His ear is raw and stays bloody all the time, it looks really bad and I know it hurts him. He's lost a lot of weight and is dehydrated. He's an outside cat and he has learned when he sees me he runs. He's eating and drinking a little bit, I'm also giving him vitamin B complex with the oral penicillin, hoping to make him eat more to make him thirsty to drink more water and gain his weight and strength back. It looks to me like maybe a bacteria or a flesh eating virus. It looks that bad, and on his head at the base of his ear he has lost all his fur. I'm really worried he's going to die, he looks so bad and I know he's in pain. Do you have any idea what could be wrong with he's ear, and how to treat it?

Alexi Anderson on July 20, 2018:

My cat has ear mites and I'm putting miticide in her ears. The box said she would scratch her ears once it's in and she does it. But then after she licks her paw. If she gets miticide on her paw and then licks it, will it harm her? Please help as soon as possible. on November 12, 2017:

My 11 yr old male taby has a swollen hematoma in his left ear how can I get him seen for free?

I have pet insurance .

Terri on September 26, 2017:

My cat has a problem her left ear it has some black dots comming out on a QTip but it looks clean on the outside know black stuff on the ear outside. What could be the problem could it be a yeast infection

Lizz Benvie on August 06, 2017:

My cat Leela was tested for ear mites 2 weeks ago. She was given a topical treatment and I did her second reatment 2 days ago. She still seems to have a lot of dark build up in her ears and a few sores. I am concerned that she still has the ear mites but vet appts are expensive and i don't want to take her im if this is just build up left over from the previous mites

Diane on July 16, 2017:

After being away for a week, while leaving my daughter in charge of the cats, we arrived home to find one cat...Hobey's ear crusty and bleeding. We took him to the vet and found out that he had an fungus and an infection and had a ruptured eardrum, probably caused from scratching at his ear vigorously. After treating Hobey with antibiotics the infection cleared up. The fungus, however, took several types of prescriptions before it would clear up. Now Hobey just has the bleeding, which is not consistant bleeding and we are not sure where it is coming from. He shakes his head when he feels a little blood in his ear, leaving droplets of blood on floors, walls and everywhere. The blood is not deep red blood but looks like it is mixed with a clear solution as well. We had had his ears cleaned and while he was asleep they took a closer look and could not find any polps or tumors, dental problems...CBC; Serum Chem Profile/Electrolyte; Feline Leuk-Fiv Test...showed nothing. Hobey has also had a cat scan which has showed nothing. Then last week the veterinarian gave Hobey a steroid injection for the scratching and ear drop solution...Claro Otic. This was something they could do once a month if it worked. This helped for 6 days and now he's bleeding again. What are we missing?

Kirsten on June 12, 2017:

I have two cats that groom each other to the point where one has bloody sores and scabs on the inside of his ears. What can I do to deter them from licking the inside of their ears?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on April 21, 2017:

One suggestion would be to keep her isolated in one room or get a pet cage to keep her in temporarily, while she is getting the ear treatment.

Glenda on April 21, 2017:

We have a rescue cat that is really unfriendly. We rescued her three years ago and found out when we took her to the vet for a check-up that she had an eye infection and was also pregnant. The four kittens were all four born sick and since she wouldn't nurse them we spent ten days giving them antibiotics and feeding them with an eye dropper. Only one survived and is constantly sneezing and has a runny nose and eye. Several vets have told us she inherited it from the mother cat who has no symptoms whatsoever. They prescribed antibiotics and say they think she will outgrow it. But, back to the mother cat, since giving birth she has been to the vet to be spayed and for her shots, but each time is like World War III just to get her into the carrier for the trip. Her ear is really smelly and a vet told us she has an ear fungus and suggested OTC drops. The only problem is that whenever we catch her still long enough to put in the drops she hides for days and we can't use the drops which are supposed to be put in each day for seven days. It's a big old house with all kinds of hiding spots. How can we accomplish what it will take to get her ear well? My son suggests sedating her, but how do we do that? If we board her at a vet so they can treat her the cost would be unmanageable. We need any help we can get. Thanks.

Ashlyn on January 22, 2017:

My male cat has black dry crusty stuff in his ear but he doesn't show any signs of it hurting or itching until you touch it and it is all the way down in the ear as far as I can see and I am really worried he is just a year old, how can I get rid of this without paying a bunch of money for the vet without hurting him.

Marilyn Simons on October 25, 2016:

My cat has black blister like bubbles in both her ears. Some are big and there is a bunch of little ones, in both her ears. What is that, and is it causing her any pain? She has had it for some time now, a few years. My vet told me it may need surgery, but in time. I really need to know if she is in seems to be multiplying.

Rachael on September 26, 2015:

The tips of my cats ears have just started to dip forward slightly. About two weeks ago we finished medication for a yeast infection in her ears, but just the past two days I have noticed the very tips of her ears, once so pointed and alert, are dropping forward. Shes acting normal and eating fine. Any ideas?

Endergirl on June 24, 2015:

My cat has been randomly been twitching his head and itching his nose violently after hours of being outside. he also has tiny bumps on his ears with little patches of fur falling off. Got any ideas? I'm extreamly worried about him, please leave a reply as fast as possible.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on July 18, 2013:

Endergirl, An ear infection or an allergy are the most common causes. See the probable answer here:

Endergirl on July 18, 2013:

My cat has been randomly been twitching his head and itching his nose violently after hours of being outside. he also has tiny bumps on his ears with little patches of fur falling off. Got any ideas? I'm extreamly worried about him, please leave a reply as fast as possible.


hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on August 12, 2012:

Rebecca, A sudden swelling on the ear is caused by an abscess or a hematoma. Abscesses are the most common. They are caused by an infection of the ear and most frequently occur after a fight or some other ear injury; or after an irritative process such as scratching at the ear. If your cat has an abscess, this is a pocket of pus beneath the surface of the skin of the ear. If hot packs are applied, the heat and the moisture assist the natural defenses of the body to surround the infection and make it come to a head. The skin over the top of the abscess thins out and ruptures, allowing the pus to be evacuated.

You should try warm soaks three times a day for 15 minutes. Saline soaks, made up to a teaspoonful of salt in a quart of water should suffice. If there is no improvement after 1 week, you should see a vet.

Rebecca on August 12, 2012:

My 1 year old cat has a swollen ear. We have tried everything possible to take the swelling down. What else can we do to relieve some of the pressure so it dont hurt as bad?

Thank you.

yao on March 30, 2012:

Hi, i stopped all medication and my cat is getting better. She finally starts to eat and drink, her weird eye movement stopped, she has more energy even though she's still a bit unbalanced.

But she started to scratch again. around her ear and even on the back of her head. I found out a bald spot on the back of her head and lots of fur on my bed sheet.

Is it an allergy to begin with? I don't trust the vet I went to anymore and I am hesitate to take her to another vet to go through all the test again. It seems like all the test and meds only made her worse. I suspect that it's the vet ruptured her eardrum when I first took her there and causing all the unbalance problem.

Now the vet is telling me that I should give her antibiotic to see if her situation improves. She's definitely improved a lot when I stopped all medicine.

Now I'm only worry if her eardrum will recover soon if it's ruptured. And if it is, will the bacteria go in there? And why is she scratching so hard on her head? Could it be her eardrum is not feeling well or maybe just an allergy?

I'll watch her for a few days and if she still scratched her head or still can't get her balance back, I'll try the antibiotic or go to another vet.

Thank you.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 26, 2012:

yao, I'm very sorry to hear that she is getting sicker. You should get the tests to rule out the brain diseases first, since they are the worst possibility. If she is not eating or drinking, you need to definitely seek a vet's attention, even if it means using a more experienced professional.

yao on March 26, 2012:

Hi, it's me again. After giving my cat the medication (Otomax) for 5 days. I think it's getting worse. She didn't eat much nor drink. she is totally off balance, and her eyes are moving left and right quickly. I just took her to vet to see another doctor. Cost me $500 for a blood teat and some oral antibiotic (Clavamax). They suggested to run 2 more tests (Cryptococcus & Toxo IgG IgM) to rule out 2 brain disease possibilities. And even suggested to do a MRI ($1200) to have a thorough diagnose. They can't tell what it is.

I'm feeling really frustrated and don't know what's the best way to do. It all started with ear scratching. That's all. How did it become so complicated like now? And even now they can't tell me what it is. The oral antibiotic is not guaranteed either. But the vet asked me to stop the ear medication but start the oral one today.

I don't know. I'm thinking to stop everything just for a few days. And maybe start with the oral medicine to see how it goes. Cuz she is feeling super weak now. I'll be out of town in 2 weeks... don't know if the 6 weeks antibiotic is the best solution.

Any suggestion will help. Thank you so much for your help!

yao on March 24, 2012:

Thank you so much! She's a bit better now. But she didn't eat much. Seems like she has difficulty chewing dry food, I gave her wet food yesterday and she ate a bit more. Didn't drink water yet tho. But she has more energy than the day before and she can finally jumps onto tables. But still wobbles after shaking her head.

I'll keep treating her with the medicine. Really appreciate your prompt help.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 23, 2012:

yao, It seems as if your vet is treating the bacterial infection and hoping for improvement. As long as her condition does not worsen, continue with the medication. If she stops eating or exhibits any further complications, contact your vet immediately.

yao on March 23, 2012:

Please help. My cat scratched her ear to bleed yesterday (she's been scratching for almost a week). I took her to vet and after sedation and exam, vet told me her left ear has minor bacteria infection. I took her home but noticed that she acted weird. She wobbles, and doesn't move much. I noticed that when she shakes her head, she loses her balance and falls. I took her to vet again today, but vet told me I should keep give her medicine in the left year.

She still wobbles, walks slowly, her left eye is half open and she can hardly jump on to any table today. I'm very worried and am afraid if her inner ear is affected.

Should I keep giving her the medicine in her left year? (vet said twice a day for at least a week) How long will she get better? Watching her can't find her balance and fall really breaks my heart. Please help. Thank you.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 12, 2012:

Ally, Ear mites is not the only possibility with a waxy discharge, and vets should know this. See:

ally on March 12, 2012:

I am searching for any help I can find. My cat has been to 2 different vets with multiple visits and she is still having her ear issue. We have spent a fortune trying to fix the problem. Both vets tested her for ear mites and she does not have them. She has received steroid shots, been on bacterial and yeast infection medicine and had her food changed just incase it was a food allergy. Needless to say nothing has worked. Her ears did clear up and get better for a month but then the symptoms came back.

Her symptoms include a black waxy buildup in her ear and in the canal, she shakes her head and a clear fluid comes out from her ears, her ears itch and ofcourse if she scratches them she creates sores and bleeding in her ears (we put a cone on her to stop that, she hates it). Do you have any thoughts on what we might try to help her out? I really want her to get better but financially am reaching the end of the line on what I can afford as a full time student. Thank you for your help.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on February 12, 2012:

Kimbocatlover, The dry blood is probably the result of tiger scratching and scabs being formed. Moisten a warm cloth, and wipe the dry blood, to keep the area clean. There is a chance that he has ear mites.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on February 12, 2012:

Chris, If indeed it is an infection, you should seek professional assistance. I have never heard of an infection just going away If you leave it alone. Dry and warm does not fix an infection.

kimbocatlover on February 11, 2012:

My cat's name is tiger and he is always scratching his ear, he leans to the side for a while and then starts scratching over and over again. He has dry blood in his ear, only one of them, I am sure he has an infection but I don't know which one, my sister is going to take me to the vet, I hope soon, but I want to know which infection Tiger has and what should I do for now should I clean his ear or just leave it like that cuz the blood is sticked to his ear. Plz Plz tell me I'm scared that something bad is going to happen to him. My B-Day is coming up on Feb. 19 and I want him to be well and also it is almost going to be a year since I found him outside of Foodtown on March 8,2011.

Chris on February 11, 2012:

Is it possible for the infection to dissipate on its own if she is kept dry and warm?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on February 10, 2012:

Chris, Your cat will probably need to be examined by a vet to determine the type and amount of medication to administer if she indeed has an infection. See:

Chris on February 10, 2012:

I have a problem that I think is related to the fungus infection scenario. My cat has this yellowish green ooze i her ear and it drys looking like snot on the outermost part of the lower ear canal. It smells terrible an if I touch it she gets mad and scratches her ear intensively. I am really worried. As I said before, when the crap dries, it looks like dried snot. Can you help me on how to get rid of this problem. It worries me something terrible.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on January 05, 2012:

Danielle, your cat might have an infection in the inner ear. you should see a professional to have him examined. An antibiotic might be in order.

DANIELLE on January 03, 2012:

my cat was scratching all night.. so i thought he had fleas.. the next morning i wake up and he was very distant.. his ears were back like he didn't want me to touch him, i grabbed him and checked his ears out as i was checking them out he was shaking his head crazy. He has been shaking his head for a couple hours now. So i did some research and i saw he might have "ear mites" which is weird because he is an indoor cat, there are no black flakes in his ear .. nothing its pink and clear. i do not know the problem but i knoW hes in pain PLEASE HELP!

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on December 28, 2011:

Sharon, He might have an infection. He should be looked at by a vet. Don't worry, They are experts in handling strays.

Sharon on December 27, 2011:

We have been taking care of a stray for the past year. He lives in my garage and outside. We have other cats and my male cat does not like new cats. My male cat got out and got to our stray. We broke up the fight. Our stray didn't look to bad at the time. A few days later he had blood coming from the top of his head next to his ear, his hair is gone in that area. He also has some scares on the side of his face below the air. We cleaned him up and doctored him for about a week with peroxide and neosporin. This past weekend I think he might have had a fever for a couple of days, he didn't move much and had cry coming out of his right eye. He seems to be doing better now but his right ear is warm or hot to touch and is red about half way up his ear. He was shaken his head and scratching but not too much now. The past 3 days I have been putting cocoanut oil on it and it looks a lot better. Just wondering if you think he has some type of infection I have been thinking we might need to take him to the vet but he is a stray and don't know how well this will work. Thank you

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on December 15, 2011:

Brookler, Yes this is ok as long as your kitten does not exhibit any abnormal behavior, and is eating

Brookler on December 15, 2011:

My nine week old kitten's ears look moist down inside. No smell to them, and no scratching or signs of irritation. No discolouration or ear wax. So, is this alright?

Cap on November 21, 2011:

Also - The head movement seemed involuntary and we only observed it last night for a couple hours. She didn't seem to be bothered by it / in pain, as we could get her to play and purr. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Cap on November 20, 2011:

My cat is 1.5 years old now. My issue is that we observed her head shaking slightly for brief periods occasionally. My search of the internet didn't seem to produce anything that quite matched what I observed. Regardless the results tended to point towards the ears, which I looked into. I see no irritants / signs of irritation / excess wax or moisture, etc. We've been coping with a few fleas for about a month, the occasional flea bath using a BioSpot shampoo and one dose of topical Frontline Plus for cats 21 days ago. She had fleas about a year ago, in larger numbers and never showed any irregular head movement like this, so I don't know if that or the following is related. A couple nights ago we heard her randomly growl then prowl around low to the ground for a short time. (Nothing like that since). Night before last she peed on the carpet for the first time ever. We've been using a scented oil wall-plug thing for about a week now. I did not see the odd head movement at all when she was asleep. I would have taken her to the vet first thing today but none are open on Sundays around me (I looked up at least 8, in two cities). Now, I had to be out all day, but since getting home I have not observed the odd head movement at all tonight. Is it something I should be really worried about? Do I need to take her to the vet if I don't see it again? Thank you for your time.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on November 20, 2011:

sabrina, Cats will experience chronic itching at times. Hydrocortisone spray or an a aloa-vera based lotion will help relieve it.

sabrina on November 20, 2011:

so my cat has been scratching its ear furiously for 3 weeks now its usually accompanied with load yells so we took him to the vet, well the vet tells us all that's in there is dirt and she gives us medicine to clean it up. forward about 2 weeks and we were cleaning his ear the way it was prescribed but hes still dong it (p.s he usually scratches moments after he wakes up then runs out of the room)

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on November 18, 2011:

Claire, ear mites can appear as white specks about the size of the head of a pin. The ear problem may also be complicated by a bacterial infection. Clean the ears by a moistening a cotton wad or cloth with mineral oil. Gently touch and wipe the ear. Medicate the ears with a miticide such as Tresaderm. A vet will need to be consulted if there is a need for an antibiotic.

Claire on November 18, 2011:

My black cat has little white spots on the back of both ears, these are hard lumps about the size of a pin head,but still very visable, he doesn't scratch so they don't seem to be bothering him, tried squeezing one but they are hard, what are they should I be worried.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on November 14, 2011:

lang4884, There are numerous possibilities. Your description could describe anything from a bee sting to an ear infection. Get him to a vet promptly

lang4884 on November 13, 2011:

my cat is holding his head down like he is hurt.. laying around and sleeping alot.. what could be wrong

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on November 02, 2011:



teresamarguerite on November 02, 2011:

I have an older cat who has had frost bitten ears. They are fine during the summer, but in fall and winter he starts to scratch them and they swell and BLEED alot. What can we do?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on July 29, 2011:

Kim, swollen cuts on the back of your cats ears can potentially be serious, or they could be the result of ear mites. Make sure he is eating and behaving normally. If he is not, he should be seen by a professional. Maybe you should find a new vet If your vet is busy.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on July 29, 2011:

jen, If your cat has head mange, the typical appearance is that of a crusty area on the edge of the ear or face. The predominant sign is intense itching along with hair loss and the appearance of bald spots. You can treat the cat by clipping the affected areas on long-haired cats and bathing the entire animal in warm water and soap to loosen crusts. Dips active against head-mange mites are : Lime-sulphur 2.5% dilution (orchard spray); and Malathion 0.2%. Dandruff shampoos such as Seleen are uaeful. Apply a topical preparation such as Canex or Goodwinol ointment to areas of localized disease.

Cortisone will help to relieve severe itching. Sores that look infected from self-mutilation should be treated by a soothing topical ointment (Panalog).

Kim on July 29, 2011:

My cat seems to be having an issue with his ears. I mean, I started to see problems with him for a few months now with a swollen eye and a his lip seemed to change in colour for a bit, both coming to heal over time. I thought nothing of it but now I'm a bit worried. He's beginning to lose his fur and we found two cuts on the back of both his ears and now they have swollen up and he keeps shaking his head. My mother assumes he might have been having a stroke and I'm rather worried. When I found this thread I saw one of the syptoms of perhaps an ear infection but it still doesn't explain the other stuff. If you know anything, mind letting me know? The vet seems to be very booked right now.

jen on July 29, 2011:

My cat Got out a month ago and I found him in a forest. I used flea and ear mite and ringworm meds on him cuz he was itching the skin on and around his ears so much these scabs would form then peel off and leave huge bald.spots so now I'm thinking mange and don't no how to treat w/o goin 2 vet I'm broke so I can't I also thought diggers cuz I've been getting bit but also only treatment is vet I will try vinegar and olive oil but he also inches jaw and makes me itch top of head a lot his eyes r gunky too and he also gags like he wants 2 vomit wen I rub ears like he used to like. Ty 4 ur help

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on July 26, 2011:

Cindy, First of all I commend your friend for rescuing this old guy and giving him some good years. The ear condition on this guy is probably due to the years of wear and tear obtained from exposure to excessive outdoor climates which can break down the skin of any animal. The cat should be examined and treated for fleas and mites in addition to the ticks that were found. A physical exam by a professional couldn't hurt either. This way you can make sure there are no bacterial or fungal infections. It sounds as though this guy really lived out his 18 years and 9 lives very well.

Cindy on July 25, 2011:

Recently a friend of mine rescued an elderly cat from a bad situation. This cat apparently has spent the majority of it's life outside. The cat is said to be about 18 and he is very, very thin. He is friendly and mellow (presumably due to his old age). We removed a few ticks from him but his fur is still tangled and matted in some areas. Today we noticed that his ears are flaky, black. We can't tell if this is his actual skin peeling off in small sections, mainly the tips, or a black substance cracking off.... Does this ring any bells? We don't know what to think and are hoping he can have some happiness towards the end of his life. Thank you.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on July 09, 2011:

Sonja Maria, If your vet didn't find any ear mites, the most likely cause of discharge from the ears is usually a bacterial infection. If the discharge first began after your vet cleaned his ears than I would consider bringing him to another vet for an examination.

Sonja Maria on July 08, 2011:

Hi there, this is such a great column and I am very happy to have found it.

I have a 7 yr Devon Rex who recently had 3 teeth extractions. The rest of his teeth look really good now. When he came home he had a problem with his eye, the third eyelid comes across and the pupil is constricted. The vet thought it may be Horners Syndrome and hadn't seen it before. When he was in getting his teeth done they decided to clean his ears as they were dirty. SInce then he has had lots of discharge coming out of one ear and it sounds very wet constantly. I took him back to the vet and they put him on antibiotics (were not sure what they were treating though as they didn't say). He has finishing the anitbiotics and the ear is still wet. He also still had the eye problem (it has been 3 weeks now).

Can you give me any more advice? Should I see another vet or does he need more antibiotics?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on June 15, 2011:

dan, There are two possible preventive steps that you could take that will ease the damage resulting from the scratching habit. You can either get cat mittens for the paws that are most responsible for the scratching, or you can get a neck shade that prevents your cat from reaching his ears.

Also, See the video above about Mimi and the ear mites.

dan on June 15, 2011:

I have a cat that has huge pimple like bumps all over her face and in her ear. We recently took her to the vet; and found out that she has a bacteria infection in her ear. We clean her ear as often as possible--however, she will scratch her ear and cut into one of these "pimples" cause an awful lot of blood that drains into the canal and also out of her ear. What can we do?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on June 02, 2011:

Jillybean, Be very careful about using human products on cats. Many of them will do more harm than good.

What you should try is to take a soft cotten ball and carefully swab the inside of his ears. He will shake out the rest.

Jillybean on June 01, 2011:

I recently adopted a sphynx kitten. A couple days ago instead of a bath he took a shower and I think he got water in his ear. Now his ear "clicks" when touched or when he shakes his head. Can I use something like swimmers ear for people?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on May 25, 2011:

Kit, Obviously you will eventually need to treat your cat. You should feed your cat inside an opened cat carrier for a small amount of time. After you remove the food place a comfortable cushion with a towel above it, for the cat to rest. If the cat is still hesitant, you can sprinkle it with some catnip. After the cat is comfortable in the carrier start closing the door several times with him in it. You can try talking to him when the carrier is closed. Eventually you should be able to reach in and wrap him up in the towel so that only his head is exposed. You may need a second person to examine the ears, and apply drops or medication for earmites (if they exist).

Kit on May 24, 2011:

I've got a cat with a great deal of issues. He was abused before he came to me, and because of that he freaks out when he is picked up or when anything comes near his face. When we picked him up to move him to the new apartment, we were all scratched and he fluffed his tail and hissed at us all. Coming near his face results in him flinching and running and hiding.

I've noticed for some time now him scratching repeatedly at his right ear, so bad he's worn the fur down. I don't know what to do about it, since I can't pin him down to check the ear without him squirming away and bolting. At the moment I cannot afford to take him to the vet, and if I did, I do not know how I would repeatedly apply the eardrops to him. Even a little advice would help.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on April 09, 2011:

Nicki, Your cat is not mean. She may have a tender or sore spot that hurts when you touch it. You may wish to bring her to a vet to get a basic visual exam. This should not be too expensive, and you'll discover what is ailing her.

Nicki on April 04, 2011:

Hi My cat I have had her since a baby. She was the only kitten in the litter but she was always sweet but she is getting mean she will let you pet her for the most part but if you pick her up she growls and hisses and sometimes when you pet her. I did notice my cat have mite I hope thats what it is... But could that make her mean??? or is she just mean???

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on April 03, 2011:

Thank You for the kind words Fucsia

fucsia on April 01, 2011:

I will share this Hub with my sister: her cat have an ear problem. Thanks for wrote this useful pages

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 19, 2011:

MoonWolf99, Complete the Tresaderm treatment. If there is still no improvement you should bring the cat back to the vet. She may require another antibiotic. Tresaderm, like other antibiotics is not always effective for certain strains.

MoonWolf99 on March 19, 2011:

I got a new cat less than a year ago and she has been having medical issues since day one. Now, she has an ear infection. The vet said it was a bacterial ear infection and prescribed antibiotic ear drops (Tresaderm) which I have been putting in her ears every 12 hours since March 10th. I'm supposed to keep doing this for 2 weeks. Maybe I'm jumping the gun, because there are still a few days left, but they don't seem to be helping her at all. I was hoping I would see some improvement by now, but nothing. What should I do if the ear drops don't work? Thanks for your help.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 05, 2011:

Michelle, This article may answer your question:

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 05, 2011:

Michelle, This may answer your question :

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on March 05, 2011:

Roary79, Cats usually do not react positively to any kind of change in their environmrnt. They are creatures of habit. You may notice that your cat might react just as negatively to the boots as the e collar. If you would like to give him relief from the ecollar, I would suggest you trim his back nails if they are sharp, before trying the boots.

michelle on February 27, 2011:

My cat has dark brown gunk in only one of his ears and it doesn't seem to bother him. I don't think it's ear mites because he's not scratching like crazy and the gunk doesn't look like coffee grounds. The gunk does not have an odor of any kind so I don't think it's fungal or bacterial so what could it be.

Roary79 on February 25, 2011:

One of the cats at our shelter recently had surgery on his ear after multiple bouts of ear mites. Unfortunately he is really struggling with the e collar that they put on him. He is having trouble eating, drinking and well maneuvering to be honest. The collar that they put on him is really too big but I think that they did it so that it wouldn't rub on his ears as much. I was wondering about putting boots on his hind feet (he is a front declaw) so that he can't scratch the ear but gets a break from the e collar. I was wondering if anyone else has tried anything like this and if so what the outcome was. Thanks!

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on February 19, 2011:

Jae, If it is not ear mites, you should definitely bring her back to the vet. She may have some sort of infection.

Jae on February 14, 2011:

my cat naughty left ears seemed to have obvious blood vien compared to another ear and on the tip of it I touch and feel something small like pimple dots?? I don't know how to really describe it it's like some small picese of circle skin . when I try to remove it she bends her ears when I touch it . She does shake and scratch but not as frequent like before I brought her to the vet I brought her there as her Body have small black things on it the vet says it's due to mite I brought medicine n applied on her but aft a week I notice those thing growIng on her ears my vet gave me some ear drop when I visited him I used it on her and she struggles and get very angry I'm really worried about what is it do u have any idea?? It us advisable if u bring her back to the vet??

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on January 14, 2011:

cwill, Look at the post by Meaghan and my answer several comments above. Try the anti-itch treatment, as well as the ear cleaning procedure that was described in my response to the post by huecorukia

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on January 14, 2011:

Tay, your cat has probably acquired an infection from the fight. See a vet as soon as you can.

cwill on January 13, 2011:


I've been reading all these posts and found them to be helpful. I think my cat might have ear mites, but I'm not really sure. I can't really afford an appointment with the vet, so I would like to see if there is anything I can do at home before having to go see one.

My cat has never been outside and hasn't been exposed to any other animals in a long time. He recently started scratching at his ear (quite violently) and has started to make it bleed. There is only a small scab on the inside of his ear and a large one on the outside, behind the ear. He also has been violently shaking his head.

The reasons I think it might not be ear mites, is that it has only effected his one year and there is no dark material inside his ear. His ears seem clean and perfectly healthy except that one small scab on the inside. He hasn't shown any other signs of abnormal behavior.

About a year ago, he was scratching his ear and making it bleed, but after I cleaned the scab with anti-bacterial for about a week, he stopped scratching. That doesn't seem to be working this time.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Tay on January 08, 2011:

My cat has got into a fight with my other cat who hit her ear or something and her ear began to swell and them it shriveled up and now it's bloody and she keeps. Screening it and it's twitching . Please help

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on January 05, 2011:

Meaghan, Your cat might have an inner ear disorder or may just need an anti-itch treatment. Usually a hydrocortisone spray(or gel) with aloe will sooth an itch.

It is preferable to place a small amount of gel or liquid on your finger or on a q-tip and gently rub it into the itchy area. You should never spray the ear.

If this doesn't help, a veterinary exam of the irritated area might be necessary.

Meaghan on January 03, 2011:

My indoor cat is constantly having trouble with her ears. She is constantly scratching and shaking her head. I give her ear drops for ear mites, but she is still scratching at her ears. She hasn't been exposed to anything outside, except for what I bring in so I'm not sure what to do.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on December 31, 2010:

Michael, Violent head shaking and pawing at the ear is frequently a sign of an ear mite infestation. Check out the following link:

Michael on December 30, 2010:

My cats is pawing at his ear a lot and shaking his head. When he does this there is a rattling noise like two rocks or two marbles (much like earlier comments on this page). Marky is only about 8 months old so I don't think it could be an abscess so does this only leave infection and wax build up? Thanks

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on December 12, 2010:

huecorukia, You are probably correct about the ear mites, and possibly the infection. You should start by gently cleaning the ear. Moisten a cloth or cotton wad with mineral oil and wrap it around your little finger. Then insert your finger into the ear canal as far as it will go and gently wipe the surface to remove dirt, excess wax and debris. Folds and creases which can not be reached with a cloth should be delicately swabbed with a q-tip dipped in mineral oil. This process should only be done once or twice in a short period of time, because excessive cleaning can be dangerous. Because Sassy is a skiddish cat, you should first wrap her in a towel with only her head exposed. Be very gentle while conducting this process. Also, many vets prescribe Tresaderm as an ear drop that will help clear up mite problems.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on December 12, 2010:

That's great news Kat!

huecorukia on December 11, 2010:

My cat sassy is about 6 years old and is a tortie shell. Just today, we noticed her ears are really red, especialy on the left one. It is flaky and warm, and crusting. She gets very irritated if we try to look and kinda growls at us. I been looking everywhere online to find out what's wrong, and I have been stuck between an ear infection and ear mites..and I don't know if we cat take her to the vet until the end of the week cause my mom is leaving for newyork and my dad works. i would like some help, cause I am really worried for my kitty.

thank you, drea.

Kat on November 05, 2010:

Just thought I'd post a follow up.

I took my cat to a vet the next day who said he ruptured his ear drum. They put him on an oral antibiotic and liquid drops that I put in his ear twice a day.

While I am still pulling bits of dried debris from his ear with tweezers and gently swabbing the inside of his ear with rubbing alcohol (not going farther with the swab than I can see which is what the vet suggested) his behavior has seemed to return to normal and is feeling much better (as much as one can conclude based on mannerisms)

The vet said his ear will heal in 4-6 weeks but I'm already seeing an improvement (plus the ear smell is gone!) due to the medicine.

Thanks for the quick response!

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on November 01, 2010:

Kat, An educated guess would be that your cat has ear mites. Itching, scratching, head shaking and a dry crumbly dark-brown discharge resembling coffee grinds which is foul smelling are all tell-tale signs.

In the future, do not swab or irrigate your cat's ears with ether, alcohol, or other irrigating solvents. They are painful and cause swelling of the tissues. Use mineral or olive oil instead.

To clean a dirty ear, moisten a cloth or cotton wad with mineral oil and wrap it around your little finger. Then insert your finger as far as it will go and gently wipe the surface to remove dirt excess wax and debris. Cats are naturally fastidious. They don't need their ears cleaned unless there is an excess amount of dirt or debris within.

For ear mites, you should clean the ears and then dust your cat thoroughly with a flea powder or mite insecticide made up especially for use on cats. This will kill the mites on the surface of the body. Dust the tail of the cat as well, because they sleep with it curled up next to their ears.

Keep an eye on your cat. Make sure he is eating and alert. If the ear mite problem is complicated by a bacterial problem, you may need to visit a vet.

Kat on November 01, 2010:

Hi hglick,

My cat suddenly seemed very lethargic and slept through the whole day. (This is recent - in the last 24 hours) i suddenly noticed he would shake his head every time i scratched him near that ear. I smelled it (awful) and noticed a red, hardened crust right inside his ear. I think it was from a cut - he got in a fight a few weeks ago. i saw a small, pink cut mark but nothing fresh and bloody.

I removed the crusty part with a clean piece of toilet paper and gently swabbed the inside with alcohol and a q-tip. (didn't go too far in)

I seemed to have cleaned it out but it still smells. He hasn't been kicking at it at all, and I don't see any parts swollen, red, etc. His ear just is sensitive to the touch still and warmer than his other ear. Not vocal when I touch though - just shakes his head and twitches slightly.

Any ideas or home remedies? He seems to be more alert now - he just got up to eat and is bathing himself.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on October 24, 2010:

texngrrl, When you applied the ear drops, your cat reacted to the unfamiliar feeling of spray in his ears. That is a common occurrence with most cats. However, there seems to be something more going on in his ears. If his behavior has been altered the way you mention, my guess is that there are some sort of disturbance going on further in the ear. Minimally, you need to get him checked out by a vet.

texngrrl on October 24, 2010:

I used the ear mite medicine on my cat and I am worried I put too much. HEI wrapped him in a towel but he squirmed when I was applying the drops. He hissed and growled more than I have ever seen. My cat has not been the same since. He is just sitting around, won't lay down. shaking his head, scratching at his ears, and simply not himself. I am so worried. I don't know what to do. Any help would be appreciated.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on October 05, 2010:

Katy, There are several possibilities for this sudden dizziness in your cat. An inner ear infection could be present, but this usually is preceded by a middle ear infection. Since your cat hasn't shown any signs of pain prior to this, it is doubtful. However, don't necessarily rule it out.

Next, there is Idiopathic Vestibular syndrome,which is common in cats, for some unknown reason. The onset is sudden. The cat may exhibit head-tilt or have trouble walking, and falls down. In two to three days he begins to recover. In most cases he is well in three weeks, although some cats will retain a head-tilt permanently.

There are other more serious conditions that occur which need to be mentioned here. Feline cerebrovascular disease, encephalitis (especially toxoplasmosis), drug toxicity or Thiamine deficiency could be present.

The best advice is to observe your cat for several days to a week. If the condition persists or gets worse, seek professional help.

Katy on October 04, 2010:

Hi, My cat has scratched his ears every once and a while but not everyday then just today he was fine then i picked him up and he was laying on my shoulder and jumped down and when he landed he was all wobbly and almost fell over. and he has been doing it all night. i can touch his ears and i even cleaned them, but he doesn't care just like i'm tickling them not like they hurt. I haven't gotten any water in them and its only when he shakes his head. does he have a infection?

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on September 24, 2010:

amy, this could be a bacterial infection which was the result of a scratch or a bite. It could also be a hematoma or blood blister that drained. See:

amy on September 23, 2010:

hey i have a cat whos ear tonight waS draining and is very sensitive what can it be

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on September 21, 2010:

Snuffyboots, I am personally opposed to any kinds of collars or leashes for cats, because they usually cause more problems than they prevent. Hydrocortisone spray or gel could help stop the itching. You can try using septi-clens, (a medicated antibacterial creme). Bacitracin or neosporin for healing any wounds caused by the itching.

hglick (author) from Riverhead,NY on September 21, 2010:

Danielle, thank you very much for your compliments. I would like you and others to remember that whatever recommendations I make here are strictly educated guesses, based upon your comments and questions. Any recommendation I make should hinge on the continued observation of your cat's eating habits and behavior patterns. Should either of these change in a negative way, you should seek professional help immediately.

snuffyboots on September 19, 2010:

Okay, I'm posting here first, maybe you know something I can do for my cat.

Lately, as in the past year, my cat has been having severe fits of scratching her face/ears. It used to be every once in a while but it has accelerated to an alarming pace. I've taken the cat to the vet and they determined it is (probably) allergies and so I've got her on the prescription diet they gave me.

Unfortunately this hasn't been enough. We had to put an E-collar on her to restrain her further from scratching herself while she heals. Since there's no way to tell if she's scratching because she's still allergic to what she's eating, she's scratching because it itches, or she's scratching because she just likes to, the e-collar seemed to be the way to go. However now we have a further problem.

Now, because of the way the e-collar fits her, the sides of her ears, near the points, have been rubbing against the collar. So when she shakes her head to get relief to the healing scabs, the plastic of the collar rubs the sides and tips of her ears and has since rubbed them completely raw. This is the latest development this evening. I tried to bandage them with medical tape, bandaids cut down to size, and gauze... even tried putting medical tape directly ON the wounds, however she simply shakes them off.

I don't know what more to do for my cat. She is simply miserable. She barely eats because of being depressed about the collar, and the minute I take it off she starts to scratch again. I researched the "Bite-Not" collars but they are not recommended for ear and face wounds. We've thought about getting her completely declawed as a long term solution (she's the only cat in the house and is strictly indoors), but since she is 7 and very dependent on them, that seems cruel. Plus, that won't help me in the short term.

Anyway, I'm going to call the vet in the morning though i'm sure they're sick of hearing from me. If there's any advice you can give me to help my cat, I would very much appreciate it!

Danielle on September 19, 2010:

Thank you for this post!!! I was worried about my cat but now that I know what's going on I can relax a bit! VERY VERY helpful!!!!!