How to know if your cat has an ear problem

How to know if your cat has an ear problem

Keeping your cat's ears healthy

As a cat parent you’ll know just how much of a cat’s day is spent keeping themselves meticulously clean, but that doesn't mean they don't need a helping hand with harder to reach areas.

Ear problems in cats can be very painful. To add to this, cats are masters at hiding pain. With these things combined, it's crucial you know how to spot ear problems early, what causes infections and how to prevent them entirely.

Getting to know the ear

The skin and cartilage that we see on the outside of our cat's ear is called the Pinna, but the ear itself goes far beyond this outer flap. Ears can be affected by wounds, parasites (like fleas and mites), allergies, yeast, infections, and much more. As there are parts of the ear we can’t see, ear health is incredibly important.

The ear itself is made up of the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. There are several structures and functions that include hearing and balance. The outer ear contains the ear canal, this is an L-shaped tube which is why it can be very difficult to treat some ear diseases . This tube is lined with skin - the same skin that covers the rest of your cat's body - which is why it can form part of a skin allergy problem.

Symptoms of an ear problem in cats

  • Pawing at their ears
  • Shaking their head
  • A build up in wax
  • Signs of pain, including not wanting to be touched or behaviour changes like hiding more
  • Discharge or bleeding
  • Smelly ears
  • Head tilt, loss of balance or changes to eye movements: while this can be related to other conditions, if you have noticed these symptoms in your cat you should speak to a vet right away.

"While every cat is susceptible to ear problems, be extra wary for white cats."

Know whether your cat has a higher risk factor

Cat’s with white fur on their ears or cats with sparse hair covering on their ears are at a higher risk of contracting skin cancers on their ears. This can be very painful, and even fatal if left untreated and it spreads.

There are cat friendly sunblock's that can be used to prevent sun damage on sunny days. It is also advisable to keep your cat inside during the heat of the day in the summer to reduce sun exposure and prevent sunbathing.

For some cats this is not an option and could cause too much stress, so in these cases as well as the sunblock, make sure to check your cat's ears regularly. If you notice any red scabbing, redness, ulcers or crusting around the edges of your cat's ears, speak to a vet.

Should I be cleaning my cat's ears?

Whilst some cats will require regular ear cleaning, over-cleaning a cat's ears without reason can cause inflammation and make ear problems worse. The best thing to do is check your cat's ears regularly as part of their grooming routine.

Make sure they are comfortable with having their ears touched and examined. If you notice any redness, irritation, wax build up or discharge contact a vet.

Never use a cotton bud on a cat's ear. This can easily cause damage. And if your cat does not like having their ears touched, contact one of our veterinary nurses for advice.

How to prevent ear problems

Now we know the signs to look out for, let's take a look at ways to keep on top of ear health.

  1. Check your cat's ears regularly to ensure they are clean, odour free, and that the skin is soft and pink

  2. Book in for regular vet check ups every six months.

  3. If you have a cat that goes outside, check them when they return for any wounds or things in the ear that shouldn’t be (like grass seeds).

  4. Be mindful, and if you notice a problem, contact a vet for advice.

Remember our online vets are here 24/7 in the Joii App.

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