Feline Inner Ear Problems


When your cat is sick, it is often extremely difficult to try and diagnose the problem. Any cat owner will identify with the pain and worry caused by a crying cat when the reason is unclear—and the concern that follows, especially when you are unable to take the feline to a vet, is extremely unnerving. Inner ear problems, however, are relatively common ailments, and several are easy to spot and diagnose.

Food Allergies

Should a cat constantly scratch its ear with a paw or shake its head, an inner ear infection might be the cause. Food allergy infections may affect the inner ear without any obvious damage to the outer ear. Pull back the flap of the outer ear and look closely at the inner ear for signs of a food allergy. The inner ear should be pink and healthy looking, without any black discharge, redness or bumps. Food allergies can manifest themselves with little to no visible sign of irritation. The best indicator, in fact, of a food allergy in a cat is slight redness and signs of ear scratching—but no additional external signs of inflammation or infection. A cat with a food allergy will often rub the side of its head and its ear against a piece of furniture, sharp corners of end tables or even the floor.

Ear Mites

Cats have the propensity to pick up ear mites very easily, particularly if they live on farms, are new kittens, or are allowed outside. Ear mites are exceedingly irritating for cats and can introduce a host of other health problems, but when prevention is no longer an option, treatment can be simple. Mites are extremely tiny and very difficult to detect. Fold back the cat's ear and shine a flashlight inside to see whether tiny white dots are moving around. The problem with ear mites is their tenacity: They can live on the outer ear and around a cat's head, making it difficult to treat infection, and they can cause additional infections that require antibiotic care. Take the cat to a veterinarian. Treatment will likely be given for three weeks to a month to prevent reinfestation. Mites must be treated immediately, or they can cause ruptured eardrums and loss of equilibrium for the active animal.

Tumors and Polyps

Infections may be difficult to diagnose, but tumors and polyps are extremely noticeable. These are usually deep blue, purple or black, and look like tiny blisters. Prevention is key in protecting a cat from such tumors. An ear-cleaning regimen allows a cat’s inner ear to receive the air it needs for continued health.

Tumors may result in blockages, treatable with nausea medication, antibiotics or surgery. Tumor treatment is often very effective, and if careful attention is paid to the ears after treatment, these painful polyps are unlikely to recur.

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