6 common ear diseases in cats

3rd August 2016

At Bollington Veterinary Centre we see many cats every year with all sorts of problems associated with their ears, so this month we thought we’d tell you about some of the more common complaints so you can be pre-warned and on the look out.


Ear mites

  • This is probably one of the most common problems we see. It’s caused by a tiny parasite called Otdectes cynotis, which feeds from the skin lining the ear canals.
  • It’s easily spread from cat to cat, and is most often found in small kittens.
  • You’ll probably see our vets checking your cat’s ears with an auroscopes if we suspect there is a problem.
  • Many cats with ear mites will have an allergic reaction to the mite, which will cause intense irritation and head shaking.
  • When we clean the ears, we often manage to remove large quantities of dirty black debris.
  • Treatment can involve ear drops, tablets or spot on treatments.



  • Many cats are brought into our surgery with sore bleeding ears. We’ll often find small tears and evidence of spots of blood and scabs.
  • These wounds are frequently caused by cat fights, where another cat will have bitten or scratched the earflap.
  • Our vets will usually clean the wounds and prescribe antibiotics if there is infection.


Solar dermatitis

  • This is more commonly known as sunburn, and will usually affect white or pale coloured cats.
  • If you have a cat susceptible to the damaging UV light from the sun, look for signs of redness, scabs or bleeding on the ear tips. We are used to being warned of the dangers of too much sun to ourselves, and the same applies to cats.
  • Cats are susceptible to skin cancer (usually Squamous Cell carcinoma) and we would certainly recommend restricting your cat’s exposure by keeping it inside during the heat of the day and using sun creams which are ‘cat-safe’.
  • Before reaching for any sun cream, check with us at Bollington Veterinary Centre first.



  • Bacterial and fungal infections in the ear canals of a cat are quite common.
  • You may notice your cat shaking its head or scratching its ear with its back feet.
  • There will often be redness of the inside of the earflap, as well as a smell or discharge from the middle of the ear. We would refer to this as ‘otitis externa’, and we usually make the diagnosis by looking inside the ear with an auroscopes.
  • We may collect samples using a swab to check under the microscope or send away for culture.
  • We might clean the ear during the consultation, or may have to use an anaesthetic, as the infections can often be very painful. Eardrops and tablets may be prescribed, and we may recommend your cat uses one of those protective collars.
  • If your cat seems to have a sore ear, don’t leave it too long. Make an appointment to see one of our vets and we’ll check inside.



We will occasionally come cancer of the ear in cats. There are a few different types, some being more of a concern than others. One we see reasonably frequently is called a ‘ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma’. This will appear as multiple small bluish nodules in the skin of the inner ear flap. If you see these, let us know as early as possible, as there are ways we can manage these. Surgery is sometimes offered together with cleaning and using drugs to manage the inflammation.



  • Cats can experience problems from a polyp growing in the middle ear or the estuation tube. This can in some cases cause a head-tilt.
  • If you see your cat holding its head at an odd angle, do let us know.
  • We may suggest we take some X-rays to see if we can see any evidence of a problem with the middle ear. In these cases, surgery may again be offered.
  • These polyps are benign, so surgery to remove them is ideal.