Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Ear Mites in a Cat? Vet Approved Advice

If your cat’s going wild scratching their ears, ear mites may be the culprit. These tiny parasites can cause big problems for your kitty, and you’re probably combing your cupboards for something to treat them. For instance, does regular old rubbing alcohol work to kill and repel ear mites in cats? Technically, it might kill a couple, but you should never use rubbing alcohol to treat ear mites. It does actually kill some mites, but the alcohol will dry out and irritate the already ravaged skin, ultimately making matters worse.

The good news is that there are more effective and less harsh treatments for ear mites that you may already be familiar with. For more details on that and how to help your cat get rid of their ear mites, keep reading.

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Signs of Ear Mites in Cats

Before you can start treating your cat with random home remedies for ear mites, you need to confirm that mites are really the source of their ear-related issues. Allergies and ear infections, for instance, are often confused with ear mites, and it’s essential to know what’s really ailing your cat so you can treat it correctly. If left untreated, ear mites can lead to a secondary bacterial or yeast ear infection, and they are easily spread to other animals.

Cat ear mites, Otodectes cynotis, live in the external ear canals and are very itchy. While ear mites themselves are too small to see with the naked eye, there are several signs you can watch out for.

Signs of Cat Ear Mites:

  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Raw, red skin around the ears
  • Missing fur around the ears
  • Dry black discharge coming from your cat’s ears

Your vet will examine the ear canal with an otoscope and may take a sample of the discharge to look at under the microscope to confirm that ear mites are the problem.

cat scratching head
Image Credit: lothofoxburr, Pixabay

Natural Ear Mite Home Remedies: Do They Work?

You may be thinking that other home cleaning agents like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide would be effective at killing ear mites, and again, you may be technically right, but with the extreme irritation for your furry friend. Considering that your cat’s ears are very raw with a current ear mite infestation, you have to consider the amount of pain they’d be in and the potential damage you may do to their ear.  Plus, there is no guarantee that you’d kill all the mites.

The verdict? No, home remedies for ear mites don’t work because their side effects are too risky. Your cat will hate the sting and probably lose trust in you, making it an even riskier proposition. Instead, we recommend taking a trip to an experienced vet when you suspect ear mites.

What Does a Vet Treat Ear Mites With?

Veterinarians use a few different products to treat cat ear mites. Often they will prescribe a spot-on treatment which will kill mites as well as other parasites. Fluralaner is an example of a spot-on treatment which has been shown to be very effective at eliminating ear mite infestations and fleas, and keeping them away for months.

Medicated ear drops may be prescribed, and ear cleaning is usually necessary. Your vet will choose the right treatment option for your cat depending on their signs, and whether there is any infection present as well.

Regardless, ear mites are relatively simple to diagnose and treat in most cases. After, your biggest concern will be preventing your cat from getting mites again.

vet nurse checking the cat
Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

How to Help Keep Your Cat’s Ears Clean and Healthy

Cats with ear mites typically have built-up black gunk and ear wax inside their ears, and your vet may advise you to clean this out at home using a special ear cleaner. Let’s go over some essential tips that will help you clean out your cat’s ears and make a less hospitable environment for those ear mites.

Tips for Cleaning Your Cat’s Ears:

  • Use cotton balls and avoid using Q-tips, as they can damage your cat’s delicate ears.
  • Have treats on hand to reward your cat’s patience.
  • Use a blanket to hold your cat still in your lap during the procedure.
  • Apply your vet advised ear cleaner directly into your cat’s ear canal. Don’t try to apply it with a Q-tip or finger.
  • Massage the base of your cat’s ear to spread the cleaner around the ear, where it will work to dissolve ear wax and other build-up. Be gentle, as not all cats respond well to this part.
  • Use cotton wool balls or pads to gently remove ear wax from around the entrance to the ear canal.

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Rubbing alcohol might kill mites, but like vinegar and peroxide, it irritates the heck out of your cat’s sensitive ears and may cause long term damage. Instead of using acidic, stinging home remedies, we recommend visiting a vet to formally diagnose the mite infestation and treat it with veterinary prescribed spot-on treatments or ear drops.

Featured Image Credit: MBLifestyle, Shutterstock

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About the Author: Tony Ramos