What to Do About Black or Brown Discharge in Cat's Ears

Updated on May 24, 2019
Cats ears are wonderful parts of their features.  But sometimes they can get infected.
Cats ears are wonderful parts of their features. But sometimes they can get infected. | Source

The ears of a cat are a prominent and distinctive feature, but sometimes they can have problems. If your cat has been scratching its ear a lot or you notice a discharge coming from the cat's ear, find out what it could be and how you can treat it. Some ear issues are treatable at home while others will require vet care.

What Are Cat Ear Mites?

Ear mites are very small insects that can live inside your cat's ear. According to Animal Planet, the mites feed on debris in the ear and blood. Mites can happen to indoor or outdoor cats, and seem to be opportunistic feeders.

If you have multiple pets in your house and have an ear mite infection, all the animals will need to be treated. Just like fleas, mites can travel very easily from one pet to the next. Young kittens and senior cats are most prone to ear mites.

How Can I Tell If It's Ear Mites?

Since ear mites are the most common cause of cat ear infection and irritation, it's a pretty safe bet that your cat has ear mites. However, there are other kinds of ear infections, so it's best to make sure. When afflicted with mites, a cat's ear itches severely. The ear may be bloody, red, and irritated because of your cat scratching it. If the mite infection is bad enough, the debris may spread to the outside of the ears as well.

One way to be sure that it is ear mites is to take a sample of the build up in your cat's ear. You can get it on a tissue or a cotton ball. If you have a home microsope, study the sample and look for movement. Any movement indicates mites. Some people can see movement with the naked eye. To try this, get a very bright light (or bright sunlight) and watch the sample for any kind of movement. Even if you don't see movement, it could still be mites. Your safest bet is to run your cat by the vet's office and let them check your cat's ears and determine if it is ear mites.

Ear  mite under a microscope.
Ear mite under a microscope. | Source

How Can I Treat Ear Mites?

The first step is to clean your cat's ears well. Many pet stores have over the counter ear cleaners, or you can put baby oil on a cotton ball and gently swab the ear. Remember to never enter the ear canal. The cat's ear may be very sensitive. If it is in a lot of pain, you may need another person to help hold the cat while you clean the ear. You can also wrap the cat up in a thick towel so that only its head is sticking out and then try to clean the ear.

You will then need to apply a miticide to the ear. Pet stores have cat ear mite treatments. These work but they may take up to a week or longer. There are prescription miticides available through your vet that can get rid of the mites in one dose.

The Best Way to Apply Ear Solution to Cats

Here is a simple way to get any kind of ear drops into a cat's ear

  1. Place the cat or your lap.
  2. If the cat is anxious or skittish, wrap it in a thick towel first.
  3. Apply the drops according the package/bottle.
  4. Take your thumb and gently massage the base of the cat's ear,
  5. You should hear a "crackling" noise as the medicine is massaged into the ear canal,
  6. Allow your cat to shake its head but be prepared, the discharge may go everywhere, including on you.

There are several possible causes of discharge or build-up in a cat's ears.
There are several possible causes of discharge or build-up in a cat's ears. | Source

Other Causes of Cat Ear Infections

If your cat's ear is irritated or has a discharge, it may have a bacterial or fungal infection.

Both of these can be caused by similar circumstances

  • Something got lodged in the ear
  • Allergies
  • Moisture from rain or a bath
  • Immune system weakened due to age or illness

There are natural, over the counter remedies you can try such as applying a couple of drops of olive oil or cleaning the ear out with baby oil. Cat's ears are very delicate, however, so having them treated by a vet is always the safest option.

Another great product that will often help to get rid of yeast infections and mild bacterial infections is Zymox Otic HC. I keep this product on hand and use it on my older cats when they get ear issues. This product has hydrocortisone and actually works to clean the discharge through enzymes. The product specifically states that you should not clean out the cat's ear before placing the drops in it.

If you have tried cleaning and treating your cat's ears at home for more than two weeks, it is important to see a vet. Yeast and bacterial infections especially may need an antibiotic or a fungal treatment for proper care and removal of the issue.

What If the Cat Is Still Not Getting Better?

Cats can also have build-up and discharge in the ear because of polyps, cysts and cancer. Many of the tumors in cat's ears are benign so it is important not to panic and think the worst if your cat is still having ear issues.

According to Jennifer Coates of Paw Nation, diagnosis of tumors within the ear can be tricky. It requires sedation of the cat in order to examine the space and determine if a tumor is indeed causing the issue. The cat will require surgery to remove the tumor.

Take Aways

  • If your cat has ear discharge, it is most likely ear mites.
  • There are over-the-counter treatments for ear mites.
  • A mild bacterial or yeast infection may be treated with Zymox.
  • If the cat does not get better, have a vet check it for other issues.
  • Do not wait more than two weeks to clear up the ear infection.
  • Very often, you can resolve your cat's ear discharge issues at home.

What Do You Think Is the Issue With Your Cat's Ears?

See results

Cleaning Cat Ears

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.

Questions & Answers

  • I'm pretty sure my cat has ear mites. I used Zymox, but right after there was a lot of brown discharge. Why did that happen?

    The discharge is helping to push out the mites, the waste and the wax build-up caused by your cat's ear reacting to the mites. There may also be scabs and blood if the ear was very irritated. I usually use a soft tissue and gently wipe the inside of the outer ear as the discharge is coming out. Remember to not poke anything inside the ear.

  • What if the black discharge in my cat's ear is more on the outside of the ear, nose and coming out of their eyes?

    Some cats will have discharge from their eyes due to allergies and other issues. It could be something like that. If it is coming out of all three areas I would definitely seek a vet's opinion.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Very well written and researched hub. Voted up and useful!

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Pamela-anne. One of my cats just went through treatments for ear issues so I wanted to share what I had learned. I appreciate you stopping by!

    • Pamela-anne profile image


      7 years ago from Miller Lake

      Good informative hub it was making me feel itchy just reading it but its good to know that there is treatments out there for our dear furry friends thanks for sharing voted up as useful info!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)