Mites In Cats - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Mites In Cats – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Due to their chitinous external skeleton and their eight legs, mites belong to arachnids. They can grow up to two millimeters and therefore can be detected with the naked eye. They are transmitted by direct contact with a cat that already has them, or indirect contact, for example, when entering contaminated rooms. Since mites feed partly on cells and blood, they cause serious skin and health problems after a certain time.

Female adult mites usually lay their eggs on or in the cat’s skin, from which the larvae hatch. From this and gradually, three different nymph stages develop into female or male adult mite stages. This typical life cycle can vary greatly over time. While some species of mites fully develop after a few days, others take several years to develop. Often, they attack especially those cats that are already immunocompromised by the following factors:

  • unhygienic tenure
  • poor diet
  • very young or old cats
  • other underlying diseases

Cheyletiella Mites

Female cheyletiella black mites lay their eggs at the base of the cat’s hair folocole. Newly developed mites live almost exclusively on feline fur and survive outside the host for up to three weeks. Therefore, they spread especially quickly through contaminated objects. Due to their flat body structure, these mites are also called “walking dandruff.”

Otodectes Cynotis Mites

In general, mites have 8 legs, for which they are taxonomically classified as arachnids. As the name suggests, ear mites, about 0.5 millimeters in size, are found in the ear of cats. With the help of their long legs, they attach themselves to the skin of the ear canal and feed on skin cells and cellular secretions. For this, they use chewers that are at the end of their heads.

Otodectes cynotis mites lay their small eggs on the surface of the ear canal. The larvae hatch within a few days. These larvae develop in two nymph stages (protonymph and tritonymph) to adult stages, which can last two months. The cycle from egg to maturity is complete at three weeks.

According to this, the ear mite has a very high reproductive rate. Even though parasites prefer to inhabit the ear canal of the feline, in the adult phase and a humid environment, they can survive for months outside the animal. You must take this into account to eradicate them successfully.

That’s why part of the effective ear mite treatment is to have all of the animals in your household treated for ear mites as they spread rapidly. Failure to have all of your pets treated may result in their reemergence and another ear mite infestation. 

Otodectes cynotis mites are ectoparasites that fixate on the fur or inside the ear of the affected kitten. With the help of their mouthparts, they feed on skin cells and cellular secretions there. Although mites always prefer to live on the cat, they can also survive in very humid environments for several months during the adult stages.

mites on cats

Demodex Mites

Demodex cati is the causative agent of feline demodicosis. The disease is rare in Europe, as this species of mite exclusively affects immunocompromised cats. In general, affected cats already suffer from feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or other underlying diseases.

Trombiculidae Mites

This species of mite is widespread in cats, especially during the warm summer months. The reddish adult mites spend their lives on the grass and, when they come into contact with cats, they mainly infest the lower parts of the body, such as the legs and the belly. Therefore, the larval stage is the only stage that lives parasitically in the cat and feeds on its blood.


The scabies mite is also known as Notoedres cati. This species is quite rare in central Europe and is usually diagnosed mainly in stray cats from more southern areas. The females dig up to 1 cm into the skin in the area of ​​the head and neck of the whiskers and lay their eggs in the external protrusions. This mite species is known as scabies mite because of the serious damage it causes to the skin.

Mites In Cats - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Signs of mites in cats

Depending on the type of mites, different symptoms may appear:

  • Tiredness
  • weight loss
  • Allergic reactions
  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive grooming
  • Irritation
  • Hair loss
  • Skin problems: lesions in the dermis, increased thickening of the outer layer of the skin (hyperkeratosis), and formation of wrinkles
  • Ear mites: dirty ear canal due to the formation of a dark, smelly and waxy mass (mixture of blood, ear discharge, and mite droppings), possibly with itching

Young cats are especially prone to die from severe weight loss, self-mutilation due to itching, and associated secondary bacterial infections.

Diagnosis Of Mites In Cats

If your cat scratches more and more, the vet should check if it is an infestation of mites. During the interview with the caretaker (anamnesis), the veterinarian asks about possible sources of infection (for example, contact with stray cats) or previous prophylaxis against parasites (for example, the collar). Any indication can exclude possible differential diagnoses.

The next thing is to determine the general health of your cat based on several vital parameters. These include general condition, examination of mucous membranes and fluid balance, heart and respiratory rate, and rectal internal body temperature.

Mites In Cats - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

If your kitten is in good general health, you can start with a special exam. Since some species of mites are visible on the coat or the surface of the skin, in some cases, it is sufficient to perform a close inspection (inspection) of the hairline of different regions of the body or the application of transparent adhesive strips.

To detect an ear mite infestation, the vet uses an otoscope. This is inserted into the ear canal of the cat. If there is a dark mass there, it can be examined under a microscope or through a smear to detect mites. Mite species found on or in the skin can also be made visible under the microscope by scraping the skin deep and dissolving the sample in potassium hydroxide. To do this, the vet scratches the skin’s surface with a blade until some blood appears. This is very important because all layers of the skin must be examined for mite infestations.

Mites In Cats - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Treatment Of mites in cats

The treatment of a mite infestation should consist of a specific pharmacological treatment and complementary therapy:

  • Anti-mite drugs (acaricides): selamectin, ivermectin, doramectin, fipronil spray
  • Treatment of all contact animals
  • Cleaning the environment (rooms, eating areas, sleeping places)
  • Antibiotics and antiallergic drugs
Mites In Cats - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments


The prognosis can be very different depending on the type of mite and the state of the cat’s immune system. While mite infestation in otherwise healthy adult cats can be easily controlled with consistent treatment, the prognosis for immunocompromised animals can be quite poor.

How to prevent mites in cats

To prevent a mite infestation in your feline, it is advisable to follow the following prophylactic measures:

  • Regularly clean the places where you sleep and the hygiene and care products (for example, brushes)
  • Use antiparasitic prophylaxis collars

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