Your cat is a highly formidable creature, able to traverse the length of your living room faster than a speeding bullet and leap tall furniture in a single bound, but when it comes to their ears, they may have an unfortunate vulnerability. Any feline suddenly preoccupied with ear cleaning, scratching and fussing, or displaying signs of compromised hearing needs help right away.

The Symptoms

Your cat's rather large, expressive ears do more than just pick up the slight sound of a nearby scurrying mouse; they help them maintain their balance, which is why an ear problem can be catastrophic, if left unchecked. Beyond the ordinary flicking and twitching, your cat may show a host of other symptoms indicating something just isn't right:

  • A buildup of dirt and debris.
  • Frequently scratching at one or both ears.
  • Shaking their head a lot and/or tilting it to one side.
  • Meowing or groaning as they tend to their ear. 
  • Impaired hearing and balance.
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, such as over-responding to your pats and scratching.

Of course, you know your cat and when something is bothering them. If you believe something is off, spend a few minutes watching them closely to gather the clues your vet will need to figure out what's happening.

The Conditions Your Feline May Have

Unfortunately, a lot of ear-related conditions display the same symptoms, and, to complicate matters further, some conditions are benign and temporary, while others require a visit to the animal hospital. The common ear issues afflicting most felines are as follows:

  • Congenital defects, which may affect your cat's ability to hear.
  • Infections, usually of the ear canal.
  • Excess wax formations, a fertile place for bacteria to flourish or parasites to invade.
  • Accumulation of dirt and debris not kept tidy by some felines.
  • Fighting wounds or aggravations due to continuous scratching.
  • Age-related hearing loss that may be conveyed (to an observer) through head-shaking, pawing, and scratching.
  • Abnormal growths, sometimes attributed to serious conditions such as cancer, that are more likely in cats that spend most of the day outdoors exposed to constant sun rays.

The Possible Treatments Veterinary Services Will Recommend

From cleanings to salves and more potent prescriptions, your veterinarian will advise the best course of treatment for your cat's specific condition. If an infection is present, an antibiotic will most likely be recommended; however, if the pesky ear mites are observed, the vet will need to flush the ears immediately, followed by the administration of drops by you at home. Doing anything to your cat's ears, other than the affectionate petting you normally engage in, may be met with fierce resistance, necessitating a second person to assist you.

The more serious diagnosis of a growth may require surgery or, in some cases, radiation, but most ear trouble in felines is treatable with a favorable prognosis. The most important action for you to take is the trip to the animal hospital.

While complications of the ear may be common in felines, it doesn't make getting through them any easier. Let your vet in on the issues, and together, you'll figure out what's going on with those ears and what should be done. Reach out to your local animal hospital for more information.