What are the most common ear problems in cats
Cats are very good at hiding when they are in pain, including hurting because of troubles with their ears. Read our article to learn how to recognise ear problems in cats and what to do about them!
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Cats have problems with their ears much less often than dogs, fortunately. This is because a lot of dog ear problems are linked to their ear shape (the result of our selective breeding) and this is not the case with cats, the most of which have the ear shape nature selected for - upright, small triangle with minimal hairiness at the ear canal entrance, that does not tightly cover the ear canal. Occasionally though, they can get ear problems as well.
As mentioned above, they can be very subtle about it so you’ll have to watch them closely, but a cat with ear problems will do more of the following:
cleaning their ears with their forepaws,
scratching at their ears with their hind feet,
rubbing their face on furniture or the floor,
shaking their head,
holding the head to one side,
hearing worse (admittedly, they could be just ignoring you as cats are wont to do).
The inside of the ears may also look mucky and/or red.
Common causes of ear problems in cats
The most common reasons why cats get ear problems and show the symptoms described above are because of:
fight wounds on the ear flap,
growths in the ear, like polyps or ceruminous cysts,
a foreign body in the ear like grass seeds or a piece of grass,
an aural haematoma (rare in cats).
What can you do at home to help your cat with its ear problem?
First, have a close look at the ear flap, inside and outside and the ear canal entrance. Do this carefully in case your cat is protective of the area. Do not insist if they don’t allow you to touch the ear.
Fresh scratches or minor wounds that are not swollen can be cleaned and monitored. Sunburn will be visible as a red, crusty area around the edge.
If the skin is calm and the head-shaking or rubbing started very suddenly, it’s possible that your cat has something in the ear to make them itchy. If you spot the end of a grass blade or seed, gently pull it out of the ear.
If the ear is only mildly waxy and not too red, you can try cleaning it for a few days in a row and see if that helps improve the situation.
A very red, hot and sore ear or redness and waxiness that persists despite 3-4 days of cleaning is likely to be due to an ear infection and it’s best to speak to a vet then.
If you need to take your cat to your registered vet, please do not use any ear cleaners the day before and on the day of the vet visit. Some of the liquid ear cleaner remains in the ear canal and pools there, making otoscopic examination difficult.
When to take your cat to the vet?
If you see or feel a hard bubble or cushion in the ear flap, with variable give, that’s likely to be an aural hematoma and that needs to be seen by your vet. Big or swollen, oozy wounds or lumps anywhere on the ear should also be examined and sampled.
As mentioned above, take your cat to the vet if you see severe itchiness or redness of the skin, with or without the ear(s) being dirty or oozy. Keep in mind that cats are generally secretive and they might be in more pain than they show.
If you are not sure whether you should see your registered vet, please use the booking button below this article to speak to one of our FirstVet vets. They’ll be able to help you decide if your cat needs a vet visit or not, how urgent it is and what exactly to do in the meantime.