CAT-CH THE SCRATCH! How itchy ears can make your kitty uncomfortable?


Dr Prachi Seth
Do you notice your cat scratching her ears a lot? Is your kitty getting uneasy and has a foul smelling discharge from her ears? All these are warning signs of an ear infection, so take care at the earliest.
Cats are super sensitive. So, if they’re uncomfortable you’ll get to know with their changed behaviour. Constant scratching in the ears can make them irritated. Itchy ear in cats is common condition which is seen due to the following conditions.

  • Ear mites
  •  Bacterial infections
  •  Yeast/ fungal infections
  •  Scabies
  •  Allergies

All the above conditions induce intense itching in the external and internal ear in cats.
Beware of warning signs
Cats with scratchy ears will show the following symptoms. Also note that scratchy ears can be an underlying cause for ear infection.

  • Constant scratching of ear
  •  Head tilt
  •  Head shaking
  •  Irritated
  •  Decreased appetite

Ear mites
It is common for cats to have ear mites which are known as Otodectic Mites. The condition is commonly known as Otodectic Mange. The condition is characterised by itchy ears, black dirt and secondary complications due to constant scratching causing ulcers and infection.Consult your vet if your cat has scratchy ears. Vet may perform microscopic examination of the ear dirt to reveal the presence of ear mites and suggest a treatment accordingly.
Bacterial infections
Unhygienic ear conditions, ear mites, scabies, and injury to ear may predispose the cat for secondary bacterial infections. Cats who have ear infections may –

  • Appear dull and lethargic.
  •  Be in pain and uncomfortable.
  •  Have some kind of discharge (pus) from the ear canal.
  •  Have foul smelling ears.
  •  Constantly tilt their head.
  •  Keep shaking their head.
    After a thorough physical and microscopic examination your veterinarian may recommend some ear drops and antibiotics for a few days.

Yeast/fungal infections
This is a common condition in hot and humid weather, as it promotes growth of fungus. Yeast infections can cause severe itching, blackening and thickening of the skin. Many times, it is complicated by secondary bacterial infections. The condition is curable but takes time. Make sure you’re patient with your pet and super dedicated. Don’t miss the medication routine and take all the precautions that the vet might recommend.
Scabies, also known as Mange, is caused by Notoedres cat mites. Mange is a highly contagious skin disorder and is readily transmitted between cats by contact. Scabies causes –

  • Severe itching.
  •  Crusting of skin.
  •  Hair loss that first appeared on the ears, head, and neck, but can spread over the entire body.Your veterinarian can diagnose Notoedric Mange by using a microscope to inspect skin scrapings for mites. The treatment involves Lime-Sulphur Dips given in a gap of 10 days. In some cases, the vet might also recommend a topical ointment depending on the severity of scabies.

Cats can develop allergic skin disease which is characterised by intense itching and skin rashes. The allergy may be due to–

  • Food.
  •  Fleas.
  •  Inhalant allergens.
    Your vet will rule out the possibility of other skin conditions before arriving at a conclusion. He/she may also undertake some tests like use of hypoallergenic diet and examination for flea dirt to diagnose the condition and suggest you the treatment accordingly.

Constant care for your cat

  •  Regular grooming is a must to keep ears healthy.
  •  Gently clean external ear dirt with medicated ear cleansers recommended by your vet.
  •  Make sure regular health check-ups include examining your pet’s ears.
  •  Avoid contact with stray cats.
  •  Provide a medicated bath for fleas at regular intervals.

(Dr Prachi Seth is MVSc Surgery & Radiology at Petcetera Clinic, Pune)