Ear Infections In Cats: Causes & Prevention

small kitten with mouth wide open

Cat Ear Infections & Common Feline Ear Health Problems

Estimated Read Time: 4 ½ minutes


Just like dogs and many other mammals, your kitty’s ears are full of powerful muscles and incredible sound receptors that make their hearing better than ours. They’re capable of picking up higher-pitched sounds, up to 1.6 octaves above our human range - and an octave above their fellow furry canine friends! Plus, they can pick up vibrations from four to five times further than us, too - quite incredible!

However, just like us, your cat’s ears are extremely sensitive and fragile – packed with intricate bones and hairs all evolved to give them this powerful sense – which, when compromised, will damage their hearing…

So, when it comes to health issues affecting your cat’s ears, you must always remember to first take special measures to handle them with care and to try to find prevention before things get too bad. After all, prevention is the best medicine!

Cat Ear Infection Symptoms

Your cat’s ears should always be clean and clear, with no greenish/brownish waxy discharge or redness, irritation, foul odors, or dry, itchy patches. If you do notice any of these, your cat could be suffering from an ear infection.

Luckily, cat ear infections normally come with obvious, physical symptoms that you should be able to notice straight away;

  • Continued and relentless ear scratching
  • Redness, swelling, or weeping
  • Redish/brownish/greenish discharge coming from the ear
  • Head tilting
  • Loss of balance
  • Strong, foul smells coming from the ears
  • Hair loss from around the ears
  • Scabs and open sores

As a cat owner, if you notice any of the symptoms above, the best thing to do is contact your vet as soon as possible. There are many reasons your cat could be showing signs of an ear infection, so your vet will be able to find a diagnosis and offer treatment to get your cat’s ears back to full health.

Causes Of Cat Ear Infections

sphynx cat laying on brown sofa

There are many reasons your kitten could be suffering from an ear infection. And although it may feel like it has completely developed out of nowhere, finding the cause of the infection is paramount in getting your cat back to full health. Take a look at some of the potential causes of your cat’s ear discomforts...


If your cat is prone to allergies, whether environmental or dietary, it could be the cause of their irritable ears. The irritants can upset the natural balance within the ear, causing inflammation, itching, and soreness. As your cat scratches his/her ears, they could easily and accidentally lacerate their skin, leaving it exposed and vulnerable to bacteria, dirt, and infection.


Ear mites are the most common type of mite when it comes to your feline friend. These tiny parasites, only a millimeter in length, feed off earwax and dirt within the ear. Normally contracted from other cats, mites can make your cat itch, shake their head and feel extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they’re incredibly contagious, spreading from cat to cat very quickly.

Wax Build-Up

When your cat’s ears are not clean, earwax can develop excessively if too much dirt and filth enter the inner ear. Cat ears are open and exposed, which makes it easier for irritants, dust, and grit to collect inside the ear. When there is too much dirt, and the earwax has overproduced, it creates a very warm and moist environment – perfect for bacteria to thrive!

Foreign Objects

Particularly if your cat ventures outside, their ears can collect and pick up all sorts of foreign objects. Grass and tiny buds from plants are the biggest contributors to feline ear infections. The small blades of grass can get lodged into your cat’s inner ear, causing irritation and making your kitty want to paw, scratch, and itch their ear to try and remove the foreign object.


Cats are nimble and agile, but sometimes they can miss a step or fall from places, resulting in an injury – especially if you have an outdoor cat. If any injury occurs in the ear, and it is not cleaned or looked after correctly, it could lead to an infection…

Try to keep an eye on any new cuts or scratches you find on your furry friend. A simple cut can turn into an ear infection if bacteria finds its way into the vulnerable, exposed skin.

Types Of Cat Ear Infections

tabby cat laying on red blanket

Ear infections in cats can affect both or either the outer ear and the middle section. Depending on where the infection can mean different approaches for the treatment...


Due to the tiny twists, turns, and bends within the fragile inner ear, the ear canal can be the perfect dark, moist environment for bacteria, yeast, and mites to thrive and overdevelop. When dirty, foreign objects, and water get trapped inside these intricate bends, they can be the cause of an infection inside the ear, causing your cat to start shaking or tilting their heads – or they may paw at and rub their ears to try and relieve the irritations. 

Sometimes, if your cat has developed an infection in the outer ear, it can often spread into the inner ear, too.


The pinnae (the outer part of your cat’s ear) is prone to infections caused by cuts, bites, and lacerations. If your cat is an indoor cat, with no other furry siblings, they will be less likely to have injuries to their outer ear – unless they like to rough play with themselves! However, if you have two or more indoor cats that love to play or your kitten is an outdoor cat, there is always a possibility of an accidental scratch or bite on the ear when they’re playing – or in some cases, fighting!

Although this doesn’t always result in an infection, if you do not care for the damaged outer ear, the chance of bacteria getting into the open wound is higher.

How To Prevent Cat Ear Infections

The great thing is that keeping your cat’s ears clean is the best and easiest way to prevent infection – simple! Checking for cuts, foreign objects, or changes in skin appearance; swelling, redness, or bleeding regularly can help you catch an infection early.

Ear Cleaning Serums

Lots of cats, especially long-haired cats, benefit greatly from adding a special and gentle ear cleaning product to their grooming/cleaning routine. Of course, you must always remember to be careful with their delicate ear canal and drum, but if you use the right treatment product that's specifically formulated for cat use, it’ll support their ear health immensely. 

Providing pain-free support when applying the formula to your pet's inner ear. It should not sting or further irritate vulnerable skin. There should be no nasty additives, alcohol, or harmful chemicals are included in the cleaning solution you choose, and should be suitable for everyday use.


Have you noticed that the inside of your cat’s ears are pinky and pale? Well, that is because it is your furry friends exposed and fragile skin! UV damage can burn your cat’s ears if unprotected, so investing in animal friendly sunscreen during long, sunny days is crucial for their ear health. If they burn, you cat may paw and scratch at the skin to try and soothe the burn, which can lead to open sores and potential infections!

Final Thoughts

So, the best way for you to support your cat’s ear health and prevent cat ear infections is to make sure you’re regularly checking the condition and appearance of the ear. Although cat’s are extremely clean animals, an ear infection can happen at anytime, no matter their age or breed. If you keep a close eye on their behavior (looking out for the signs and symptoms above and use a specialized pet ear cleaning serum) you should be able to help support your cat’s ear health and avoid those pesky health problems.

Related Reads

Cat UTI: Everything You Need To Know
Arthritis In Cats: Signs & How To Help
Why Does My Dog Have Smelly Ears?


Love Meow

Becca Trigg

An all round animal lover, who absolutely adores writing and researching anything puppy! Over the past few years, I have been able to gain ample pet knowledge; specifically joint health and dental hygiene. When I'm not typing away in the office, I can be found sitting in a country pub or growing chillies

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