Why Do Cats Scratch Their Ears?

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Cat Ear Scratching

When a cat is scratching her ears, is it because of an infection, injury, allergy, or wax? Itchy ears can be cumbersome although sometimes it is not harmful.

Moreover, itchy ears can sometimes be a sign of an ear infection. Due to allergies or flu caused by both bacteria and viruses which can cause itchy ears and scratching to your cat.

Regardless, itchiness can be stopped once you seek treatment for your cat. The cat itchiness can go away on its own depending on the cause or get medication.

Obviously, ear infections can become chronic and lead to facial paralysis and deafness.

To reduce the potential for chronic disease or hearing loss, prompt treatment can offer a better prognosis. Get treatment for your feline friend as soon as you notice ear discomfort.

Causes of Cat Ear Scratching

1. Infection

Bacterial and fungal (yeast) outer ear infections can look like that of mite infestations. A range of other signs can be noted including redness or swelling of ears, any type of ear discharge, a foul odour, etc.

An ear infection can interfere with the cat’s walking style as it lacks coordination and balance. You might notice your cat walking while tilting its head.

Spotting ear signs of ear infection for a cat owner help you catch a problem before it turns into something serious.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Cats

Ear infections in cats are not complex but once detected it is good to check for symptoms to know how serious it is.

For instance, discharge from the ear resembles coffee grounds (a symptom of ear mites). Ear mites might cause debris in the ear canal.

Undoubtedly, redness and smelly discharge from the ear are a sure sign that the cat has an infection. The discharge can be black, yellowish, or dark brown.

Importantly, some of the common signs that your cat will show are listed below:

Shaking head.

  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Scratching their ear
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or ear canal
  • Waxy buildup on or near the ear canal
  • Tilting the head to the direction where the ear hurts
  • Strong odor
  • Ear sensitivity
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance or disorientation
  • Facial paralysis

Treatment of Ear Infection in Cats

Besides these discomforts and symptoms can be treated with antibiotics, antifungals, and corticosteroids to name a few.

Regular grooming and removing wax from your cats’ ears can be helpful too.

Nevertheless, ear infections are not common in cats.

Infections can cause damage to the ear unfortunately hence need to be treated.

Although it is good to identify them and treat them before it becomes worse. I would recommend once you notice the above symptoms take the cat to the vet for a checkup. Indeed the vet will carry out some tests to diagnosis the cat and give proper medication to treat the infection.

To check if your cats’ ear is sensitive you can place your hand and if it reacts negatively or moves away that will be a sign. Also if you massage and they feel some discomfort hence meow in pain. Excessive scratching near the ear can tell you the cat has an infection above other symptoms.

2. Injury

Some cats can fight and in the process get injured on their body. It can be on the ears.

Check for any signs of a bite or scratch gently inside your cat’s ear. If there is a scratch wound from a claw, it will be long and thin. Bite marks may look like tiny punctures or a scrape.

If the wound is small it can heal by itself, but constantly check as it heals so that it doesn’t get an infection.

Regardless if your notice the wound smelling and having pus it might have an infection and get treatment.

3. Mites

Ear mites live in the ear and the most common in cats is called Otodectes cynotis. This mite is responsible for 90% of ear mite infections in cats.

It causes inflammation of the ear canal and skin disease in cats due to excessive scratching.

Not only, do Mange mites affect healthy pets but also is caused by microscopic mites that invade the skin of otherwise healthy animals.  They look like small white forming in the ear canal or around the ear. Mites can lead to bacterial infection if not treated.

Following, the mites cause irritation of the skin, resulting in itching, hair loss, and inflammation.

The mange mites are different, some are found in dogs others in cats.  The most common in cats is Notedric mange also referred to as feline scabies.

These mites cause severe skin infections in cats. Notably, generally starting on the face and ears and spreading to the rest of the body, and are highly contagious.

Treatment of Mites

Firstly, isolate the cats from other pets and animals in the household.

Let The Vet Check Your Cats Ear

Take your cat to the vet who will prescribe medication to kill the mites.

Nonetheless, the medication can be applied topically, by injection, or by shampoo and dip depending on the type of mange and your cat.

This medication can be either antibiotic, antibacterial shampoo, or anti-inflammatories for treating skin issues and ease inflammation.

Furthermore, mites are quickly killed, results are usually seen after a month of treatment.

Without a doubt, clean up the cats’ environment from beddings, toys, food bowls, scratching posts to prevent a resurgence.

Keep also your cat away from infected cats in the neighborhood.

Lastly, ensure to take the cats for recheck follow-up to be certain the mites have been eradicated.

4. Allergies

Allergies can also cause ear scratching in cats. Allergies are caused by allergens, for example, food allergens can include (fish and milk are some common triggers).

Subsequently, we have environmental allergens (pollen and house dust mites are some common triggers) for your cat.

Allergies can lead to reoccurrences of ear infections if the triggers are not dealt with.

One can be able to control these with a change of diet and ensuring the environmental allergens are eliminated.

For pollens, one can fence the flower garden to prevent the cat from getting access while outdoor.


To be sure that your cat is not suffering from an ear infection due to scratching, you should consult and seek treatment with your vet after a checkup.

Ear scratching in cats can be caused by many factors from intolerance to a certain food, bees or wasp stings, infections, insect bites, environmental allergens, etc.

Finally, prompt treatment will reduce the chances of chronic disease in your cat, lessen the potential of hearing loss and give relief for any discomfort in your cat ear.