Cat Tips

Ear Infections in Cats

We, humans, go through ear pains several times in our life, especially when we are kids. And we usually resort to home remedies including cleaning it with earbuds, our own fingers, etc. as if the earbud is going to suck the pain out of the ears. I personally have tried some unusual remedies like applying pain balm to a cotton ball and putting it in the ear or asking a smoker to smoke one puff inside the ear. These remedies may or may not work as these are probably trial and error or temporary methods. To know actual remedies, we need to first understand what causes this pain, and what are ear infections and then we can try to understand the same for our beloved pets.Pro Tip – Earbuds do the exact opposite of what they are supposed to. Aggressively using them may cause the ear wax to actually go deeper into the ears and may also damage the ear drums.

What are Ear Infections?

An ear infection, which in medical terms is called acute otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. It occurs when a bacterium or a virus gets into the middle ear. This then leads to several other illnesses like cold, flu, or allergy, causing congestion and swelling of nasal passages and throat.

Common signs of Ear Infection

Some of the common signs and symptoms of ear infections, especially in kittens, include –

  • Ear pain, especially while lying down

  • Tugging or pulling at an ear

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Fussiness

  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds

  • Loss of balance

  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher

  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

  • Headache

  • Loss of appetite

Ear Infection in Cats

We come across reading about ear problems in dogs. It is also known that as much as 20% of the entire dog population suffers from ear problems at least once in their life. That is unfortunate. But on the other hand, our other four-legged friends, cats, are blessed with fewer ear problems than dogs. Infections in cats are very uncommon in general. Probably the hygiene-maintaining personality of cats helps here. As a parent would say, something dogs should learn from them.

However, there can be some cases of infections in cats. Most of the time these are an indication of an underlying condition that requires medical attention. Ear infections can develop when the skin lining in the ear canal becomes irritated, leading to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to excess wax production which in turn creates an environment where the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast grow out of control. And these can be quite serious as well. A mere outer ear infection can quickly spread to the middle ear and onto your kitty’s inner ear causing serious damage.

Signs of Ear Infection in Cats

Healthy cat ears are a shade of pale pink in color with no debris or bad odor and almost no wax. If it does not look like that then there may be some issues. But unlike your human baby, your four-legged baby won’t be able to tell you that he/she is feeling discomfort in the ears. As a responsible pet parent, you need to look out for signs and symptoms for the same, which include –

  • Yellowish or black discharge from the ears

  • Head tilting

  • Swelling or redness in the ear canal

  • Waxy buildup near or on the canal

  • Disorientation

  • Swelling or redness of the ear flap

  • Strong odor from the ear

These are the most common signs of ear infections in cats. However, there can be some serious symptoms as well which may require more attention and thus immediate treatment.

Causes of Ear Infection in Cats

The basic reason here can be if your cat has contracted another animal with ear mites. Apart from that, there most probably is an underlying condition that causes infections in their ears. A weak immune system, allergies, and diabetes can become a catalyst for the infection to stick. A cat with the above 3 conditions is very less likely to develop such infections.

The inflammation causes the itchiness to begin which leads to the symptoms like ear rubbing, scratching, clawing, and head shaking. The main and common causes of this include –

  • Irritants in the environment

  • Diseases affecting the immune system (FLV or FIV)

  • Contact of foreign bodies in the ear canal

  • Allergies like pollen or food

  • Prolonged wax buildup

  • Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both

  • Thick fur or hair in the ear canal

  • Diabetes

  • Polyps or tumors in the ear canal

  • Incorrect ear cleaning

  • Ruptured eardrum

Ear mite infestation is the most common cause of external ear infection.

When you should be concerned about Cat’s Ear Infection?

Your vet needs to be consulted in case any of these symptoms occur. But there are some very severe symptoms, which if shown, the cat needs to be taken to the vet immediately and the treatment should begin at the earliest. These include –

  • Hearing loss

  • Loss of balance

  • Strange eye movements

Treatment for Ear Infection in Cats

Ear infections are most of the time, a sign of an underlying condition like an allergy or something. Luckily, the treatment of ear infections in cats is not very complicated.

  • The first step is to clip the cat’s fur around the ear canal so that no more moisture gets accumulated there and it is kept dry.

  • If somehow the infection has reached the middle ear, oral or injectable antibiotics should help.

  • Your vet may prescribe treatment with corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics, or anti-parasitic in-ear drops in case of ear mites, bacterial ear infections, or yeast infections in your cat.

  • For using the prescribed ear drops, gently lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal, massaging the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way deeper into the ear.

It is always better to prevent ear conditions from developing and this can be done by regularly monitoring the condition of your cat’s ears. It is important to ensure that the ear flap is clean and that the canal is clear.

Note: Do not use Q-tips for cleaning the ears. Do not use rubbing alcohol as a cleanser. Read more about hypoallergenic cats, Cat Skin Diseases & Periodontal Diseases in Cats


Ear Infection although uncommon in cats, can become a chronic and serious issue for them. As a responsible pet parent, it is always recommended that these problems be prevented by periodically giving your cat a hygiene check.

Happy Mood and Health to your Cat and lots of Love and Purrrss to you!


Follow us on Instagram

Follow us everywhere else: