If you've ever had a cat, chances are that you've had a run-in with ear mites. These tiny parasites are barely visible without a magnifying glass. But the amount of misery they can cause your kitty is out of proportion to their size.
These little critters live in tunnels they make in your kitty's ear canal. If this sounds uncomfortable, it is. The intense itching can cause her to scratch constantly at her ears or shake her head so hard she can rupture the blood vessels in her ear flaps.
In this case, the blood will quickly fill the spaces in the ear flap, causing swelling and intense pain. This is called a hematoma. It requires prompt veterinary attention to drain it and prevent a permanent "cauliflower ear" for your feline friend. These parasites also stimulate the wax-producing glands in your furry friend's ear, which leads to a build-up of dark wax that looks like coffee grounds. This causes more itching and inflammation, which can lead to an ear infection.
Not all cats react to ear mites the same way. Some felines can have a large number of these bugs, but you'd never know it. Others seem to be hypersensitive to mite saliva, so the presence of only a few insects can drive these unfortunate individuals crazy. But eventually all kitties, including the hypersensitive ones, seem to build up an immunity to mites so that they are not bothered by them so much.
This would explain why kittens react so intensely to these bugs, while their mother is not bothered by them at all, even though she has them and probably passed them to her babies. Do not underestimate how quickly these bugs can spread from one animal to another. They may be small, but they do get around. They are extremely contagious, so if you live in a household with several pets, be sure to treat your entire kitty family.
There are several home remedies for this problem. Most are oil-based, which smothers the mites. You can try soaking a clove of garlic in a small amount of olive oil for a day or two. Remove the garlic and keep the oil in a cool place.
Wipe out your kitty's ears with a cotton ball dipped in a mixture of half vinegar and half water. Do not reach in there with a cotton swab, as you can damage your pet's ears. Put five or six drops of garlic oil in your furball's ears and rub them at the base to help it run in.
This is not as easy as it sounds. You may want to securely wrap your feline friend in a towel so she can not bite or scratch you. I used to sneak up behind my kitty and wrap the towel around her quickly with just her head sticking out before she could escape. Then I'd pin her between my knees and put the ear drops in. And be prepared; when you drip the oil in, she'll shake her head vigorously, flinging oil and ear debris all over you! So do not get dressed up to do this.
And the fun part is that you get to repeat this treatment twice a day for seven to ten days. If you stop treatment too soon, the mites may come back. You may need to take your buddy to the vet to have her ears cleaned out. Your vet can show you how to safely clean your cat's ears.
Do not neglect your kitty's ears. She depends on you to take of her.