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How to treat cat mites?

Ginger cat scratching his neck
© Pixabay

Mangy cat? Cat mange is an infestation of mites; tiny parasites that live in a cat’s skin or ears. It’s important to treat cat mites quickly.

By G. John Cole

Updated on the 06/05/2021, 13:33

They can get passed from cats to humans, and mite eggs can hide out for months at a time before hatching. Mange is uncomfortable for your cat, so need to get your cat mange cleared up as soon as possible.

When a cat suffers from mites, it tends to scratch itself to get rid of them. Over-itching results in soreness and wounds that are vulnerable to infection. Mange is also transmissible to humans, so it’s important to treat both your cat and your household.

What are cat mites?

There are two main types of cat mites. Ear mites live in your cat’s ear canal. They bite the surface, which causes itching and soreness. Burrowing mites burrow into a cat’s skin to feed. This can also lead to severe skin soreness and hair loss.

How do I know my cat has mites?

Noticing that your cat has become mangy (sore and patchy-furred) is a bit of a late reaction. To catch cat mites in good time, look out for your cat’s behaviour. If the creature scratches its ears a lot or shakes his head, guess what… he could have ear mites!

Scabs, reddish-brown dirt, or a black crust can all be signs of mites. Next, take your cat to the vet, who will look even closer – with an otoscope (ear microscope). She may be able to see the individual mites. 

Mites elsewhere on the body are a little harder to spot. They are not usually visible to the naked eye so skin samples and hair plucks will need to be done, and investigated under a microscope.

It’s worth keeping an eye on your other pets, including your children, for signs of mites. If one animal shows symptoms of mites, get the whole zoo checked out. Otherwise, the parasites will keep returning.

Treating ear mites

If your vet spots ear mites, she’ll probably give your cat’s ears a quick clean to get rid of the visible debris.

Only when your moggy’s ears are clean should you think about medication. Your veterinarian will need to prescribe some medicated ear drops which will kill off the mites. There is nothing licensed to buy over the counter to remove ear mites, and home remedies are not effective.

Cat ear mite medicine comes as eardrops, which you can apply ear canal and then massage in.

Be sure to follow your vet’s exact directions, as if you stop the treatment too early or treat the ear incorrectly, the mites may not have been killed off entirely and the infection will swiftly return.

Treating burrowing mites

If you spot signs of burrowing mites on your cat’s skin, you should contact the vet urgently. She can prescribe the precise treatment that’s best for your cat. 

Burrowing mite treatment usually involves shampoo or anti-parasitic spot-on treatment. It’s best to take action as soon as possible to stop the parasites spreading. 

Giving your cat a bath with shampoo can be challenging, so if your cat is not cooperative, ask your vet for alternative treatment.

Burrowing skin mites can have a major impact on your cat’s welfare, so swift veterinary treatment will help ensure your cat remains comfortable and mite free. In the end, preventing mites is a much better approach than treating mites, so when you reach for your monthly flea and tick control, check out whether it also prevents mites.

Reviewed by Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS