VCA Animal Hospitals

What are the differences between ear infection and ear mites in cats?

Published: May 31, 2012

Back to News

Ear infections in cats are not as common as they are in dogs, so an owner may not recognize the signs as readily.  Typically, a cat with an ear infection will frequently paw at and draw attention to the affected region, which is a sign the owner should seek the opinion of a veterinarian.

Most ear infections in dogs are caused by bacteria or yeast, and while these harmful organisms can affect cat ears, ear mites in cats are the most common cause of ear infections in cats.  In fact, next to fleas, ear mites are the second most common parasite in cats. Thus, those who have owned a cat for a while may have seen ear mites in the past and known they need ear drops to be treated.

Common clinical signs of both ear mites and ear infections include shaking of the head, pawing at the ear, a black or yellow discharge, and a red inflamed ear that may give off an offensive odor. Officially diagnosing an ear infection will be up to your vet. Depending on the cause of the infection, the veterinarian will recommend treatment options for your sick cat.

Rather than simply buying ear drops for the cat or using the same medication you had when the cat was treated with ear mites before, you should always see a veterinarian when suspecting ear issues with a cat. This is because the cat medication prescribed to treat ear mites and infections are actually quite different. If a bacterial infection has developed with the ear mites, it may require more than one ear drop or another type of medication altogether to be effectively treated.  If ear mites are the problem, you will also need to treat all other household pets in order to successfully treat the problem.

Cat owners should take all ear issues seriously and see a veterinarian as soon as possible if they believe their feline is developing issues in the ear. Cats that have recurrence of ear-related problems may be suffering from a more significant problem such as a deformity in the shape of their ear or a polyp or growth within the ear.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:


See all VCA Animal Hospitals >


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:


See all VCA Animal Hospitals >


Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.