Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis, are common among animals like cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets. They are commonly found in the ear canal, though they can live in other areas of the skin as well. Mites are highly contagious, especially in cats - felines can become infected if they come in direct contact with another animal that has ear mites, VCA Animal Hospitals reports.
Ear mites can be hard to detect because they resemble tiny specks of white powder. Because of this, owners need to be diligent about looking for signs that their pet has been infected, VCA reports. Common signs of ear mites include irritation of the ears, which will cause a cat to scratch its ears or shake its head. Additionally, infected cats will have excess dark ear wax. An infected cat may also have hair loss near the site due to the excess scratching, while crusts or rashes could also develop near the ear.
If an owner notices any of these symptoms, they should bring their cat to the veterinarian health clinic to get it checked out. A vet will diagnose the problem by using a microscope to look for the parasites. Once a diagnosis is made, owners will need to use medication on their cat and any other pets in their home to rid their animals of the mites. PetMD.com also recommends owners clean their houses thoroughly by washing all fabrics like bedding or couch cushions where mites may be lying in wait. Homes should be vacuumed thoroughly and the bag disposed of to prevent the mites from crawling back out of the vacuum.