Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that the world has changed a lot in the last few years, and for the better.
People are more conscious now than ever about their health and about the environment.
Everyone is Going Green and, as we become more conscious about what we put into our bodies and into the environment, we should be careful not to leave our feline friends behind.
Today, we’ll be focusing on safe, natural remedies to one of the most common plights of the house cat: ear mites.
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are tiny arthropods (invertebrate animals with an external skeleton, such as a spider or crustacean).
They are parasitic, making their home in the fur and internal and external ear canal of your cat.
Almost invisible to the naked eye, ear mites irritate the ear and can lead to serious infections of the skin and ear if left untreated.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Has Ear Mites?
The most common sign of ear mite infestation is excessive rubbing or scratching of the ears.
If your cat cannot leave their ears alone, or if you see them shaking their head a lot, they may be suffering from ear mites. Inspect your cat’s ears, looking for a black or dark brown discharge.
It should be dry and crumbly, resembling coffee grounds. Often, the discharge will produce a strong odor.
How Serious Is An Ear Mite Infestation?
Left untreated, your cat’s health will suffer. According to WebMD Pets, half of all feline ear infections are the direct result of ear mite infestation.
Such infections can lead to aural hematoma, a rupturing of the blood vessels inside the ear, which can even cause deafness and may require surgery to correct.
Why Does My Cat Have Ear Mites?!
Unfortunately, ear mite infestation is extremely common in house cats. Ear mites are typically spread when your cat comes in contact with another afflicted animal, usually another cat.
Kittens and outdoor cats are the most susceptible. Dogs are also common carriers of the pest, as are rabbits.
Ear mites make their home in these animals, feeding on the wax and oils their ears produce. But don’t go running for the Q-Tips; humans are immune to ear mites.
What Do I Do Now?
Traditionally, a cat is taken to a veterinarian, where their ears can be cleaned and treated with medication.
Then, the cat owner is usually sent away with a prescription for medicated ear drops or antibiotics. Which brings us to the issue at hand…
Should I Be Worried About The Toxicity Of My Cat’s Medication?
Concerns about the safety of your cat’s medication are valid. Many cat medications contain powerful chemicals and compounds that can impact your cat’s health adversely, sometimes triggering dangerous reactions in your feline.
Consider also that anyone who lives in your home will be in close contact with your cats and will be exposed to such compounds as well.
Veterinary Costs Adding Up Fast
Regular veterinary care for your cat may already be quite costly. Add to that the cost of professional cleaning of your cat’s ears, on-site medication, prescriptions and any follow-up visits and treatment, and you’ve racked up a substantial veterinary bill.
Even a trip to your local pet supply chain for medication and premium ear cleaning products can be prohibitively expensive.
Natural home remedies can save you hundreds of dollars and, best of all, you probably already have what you need right there in your home!
My Cat Hates Going To The Doctor
For most people, a trip to the doctor can be quite stressful. Maybe it’s the strange smells of iodine and rubber gloves that triggers your anxiety.
Maybe it’s the nervous hush of the lobby as you wait with strangers for the results of a blood test.
Whatever stress you feel at the doctor’s office, it is likely much worse for your cat.
The busy, sterile environment of the veterinary office can be quite alarming to your pet and cause undue stress. Stress that effects their health just as it does ours.
Home care helps to reduce stress in your cat by keeping them in a familiar environment, where they can feel safe, and by receiving care from a person they know and trust.
Keeping Your Cat Secure And Safe
As mentioned above, ear mites cause a build-up of dark, crumbly debris in your cat’s ears. This can be removed easily with a gentle cleaning.
If your cat is fussy or does not want to be held, ask another person to help you to hold the cat gently.
Alternately, you can wrap your cat in a warm towel or blanket, leaving their head exposed.
Cleaning Your Cat’s Ears With Vinegar
The most effective solution for cleaning your cat’s ears is plain old white distilled vinegar.
It helps to remove dirt and debris left behind by ear mites. It also kills adolescent ear mites on contact and the acidity helps to maintain a healthy balance in the ear canal.
Petwave.com recommends applying directly with a cotton ball or swab. If you choose to use a swab, be careful not to poke or jab the delicate inner ear canal.
Using Hydrogen Peroxide
Ear mites live off the oils and the wax inside the ear. Remove their food supply and they die off in short order.
The best way to clear away any buildup of wax and oil in the outer ear canal is to swab the area with hydrogen peroxide. It poses no danger to your cat, and also works as an antibacterial.
Hand Sanitizer: Quick and Clean
While white distilled vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are preferred for cleaning and disinfecting your cat’s ears, DogsCatsPets.com found that, in a pinch, hand sanitizer is extremely effective in eliminating ear mites and cleansing the ear canal of your cat.
And, because it is mostly alcohol, it will evaporate as you use it and leave no mess. But do not forget to moisturize your cat’s ears afterward, as alcohol dries out the skin and can cause cracking and irritation.
Garlic And Olive Oil: a Natural Cure
Garlic is historically known to have anti-bacterial properties. And the moisturizing effects of olive oil have likewise been known since the fifth century.
Massage your cat’s ears with garlic-infused olive oil to moisturize dry, damaged skin.
The oil will also create a barrier that protects the ear from further infestation, and the garlic should prevent any bacterial infection.
Just make sure that your cat does not try to eat any of the garlic, as it can irritate their stomachs.
A little oil is fine, but raw garlic will likely cause moderate to severe digestive upset.
Honey: A Sweet Solution
The scientific and medical community is constantly discovering new and amazing properties of honey.
It has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial qualities and can be used to ease inflammation and even to mitigate pain and irritation in the ear.
Apply honey directly to the inside of your cat’s ears to smother mites and their eggs.
PetSymptoms.com also found that the stickiness of honey also inhibits the development of ear mite eggs. Sweet.
Petroleum Jelly: It’s Not Just for Diaper Rash Anymore
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of petroleum jelly on injuries of the skin to reduce scarring.
Applied in a thin layer, petroleum jelly protects the skin from bacteria and other microbes in the air and also helps the skin retain moisture, thus promoting faster healing.
Additionally, the folks over at eHome Remedies found that, when applied to the inside of your cat’s ears, petroleum jelly quickly smothers adult ear mites and acts as a shield, blocking them from their food source.
Mineral Oil: Cheap And Effective
Mineral oil is another great way to smother ear mites. It also boasts the added benefit of reducing pain and inflammation of the ear tissue.
It provides moisture and helps protect the ears and promote healing as well.
If you don’t have any mineral oil at home, baby oil works just as well. That is because baby oil and mineral oil are the same things.
But be warned: some baby oil does contain fragrance, which can irritate some cats’ ears.
Coconut Oil: Is There Anything It Can’t Do?
If you’ve searched the kitchen cupboards and raided the bathroom drawers and you can find neither mineral oil or olive oil, coconut oil will work too.
It doesn’t have the anti-bacterial properties of honey or the cleaning action of hydrogen peroxide, but it works wonders to soothe ear skin damaged by ear mite infestation.
Not only is coconut oil safe for your pets and family, many cats love having their ears massaged!
Aloe Vera: The Miracle Plant
Now that your cat’s ears are clean and all their eggs have been removed or destroyed, use aloe vera to prevent reinfestation. Just apply in a thin layer to the inside of the ear.
It will repel ear mites and make it more difficult for ear mite eggs to attach to the skin. And don’t worry if you don’t have a potted aloe plant growing in your home.
The bottled stuff from the store works just as well to moisturize your cat’s ears and prevent ear mites from returning in the future.
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe For Use On My Cat?
Tea tree oil can repel some pests from your cat, including ear mites. It also has the ability to moisturize.
But be wary when using essential oils of any kind on or around your pets, as some cats have been known to have extreme reactions.
Diatomaceous Earth And Your Cat
Congratulations! You’ve removed all the mites from your cat’s ears. You’ve stopped the infestation, cleared away the debris and smothered any leftover eggs that might still be hiding. You’ve soothed your cat with an ear massage using all natural oils.
Now it’s time to make sure the mites don’t come back, using something that is all-natural, safe and cost-effective.
Diatomaceous earth is the single most effective way to kill the ear mites that still reside in the carpet of your home and in your cat’s toys and bedding.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance comprised of sedimentary rock and clay, ground to a fine, soft powder.
It is totally safe for your cat and your family because it contains no chemicals. It is a 100% natural and organic way to eradicate ear mites where they live.
How Do I Use Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth couldn’t be more simple to use. Simply sprinkle it around your home, dusting the carpet evenly. Put some in your cat’s fur and comb through.
They will lick their coats, of course. But fear not: the diatomaceous earth is so safe that it is a common ingredient in most brands of toothpaste!
How Does It Work?
Diatomaceous earth works by bonding to small insects like fleas and mites and stripping away the waxy coating of their outer shell.
This inhibits their ability to retain water, so they dry out and die from dehydration.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe For My Family?
Diatomaceous earth is extremely safe and effective in ridding your home of ear mites, but it is ineffective against ear mite eggs.
That means you’ve got to keep using it for the length of an ear mites entire life cycle (about three weeks).
Dr. Andrew Jones, a veterinarian, provides a lot more information about the diatomaceous earth in this video from VeterinarySecret.com
The Best Defense Is A Good Offense
So there you have it; everything you need to rid your cat and your home of ear mite infestation, using all-natural home remedies. And you didn’t have to break the bank to do it!
Just remember to clean your cat’s ears regularly. It will help you stay aware of your cat’s ear health and prevent future ear mite infestations before they get out of hand (or paw).