Cat Ears are a Breeding Ground for Mites, Yeast, Bacteria and Fungus Infections

feline ear infections,mites in cats,brown wax in cat ears

The inside of your cat’s ears can be a breeding ground for ear problems with mites, yeast, bacteria, or fungus infections.   The infection and dark brown waxy discharge can get so thick and deep that the ear canal is blocked.  The infection can permeate into the inner ear canal, causing a lot of pain and even deafness, especially if it goes on for a long period of time.  It can be so bad, that the insides of the ears harden and the ears will lay flat.  That is what happened to my dear princess, Hanalei (her photo above) when we lived in Hawaii, where there is year-round moisture with mild temperatures.

Monitoring your pet’s ears, gums, and stool are easy ways to know if there is a health problem for your pet, and you can catch problems at the start before they become advanced, costly, and painful.  In fact, ear discharge and gingivitis are usually early signs of something more serious going on inside your pet.   It is a good habit to do a monthly ear check of your cat’s ears.

That dark brown waxy discharge can be:
1) ear mites
2) yeast infection
3) fungal infection
4) bacterial infection

You can determine what it is by taking him to the vet for an ear culture, and then treat it naturally.  Or you can try and figure it out on your own by trial and error.

Ear Mites if your cat gets outside, he could pick them up from outdoors.  You can determine if there are mites by doing this:

  • Have ready a black piece of paper.  You can use a page out of a magazine like an ad that has a section of black.
  • You need a magnifying glass, or your eyeglasses might work!
  • Take a swipe of the gunk with a q-tip
  • Place the gunk on the black paper.
  • Mites are teeny tiny white specks you will be able to see jumping around on the black paper using the magnifying glass.
  • You’ll need to use an ear mite product, drops that you put in the ears.  I’ve never found a natural product that works quickly and effectively.  And believe me, I tried everything natural that I researched for cats I rescued and fostered that had ear mites.  Neem oil works by smothering the mites, but it takes pretty long, like several weeks.  You might find it better to use a poison and get it done quicker, as the mites are irritating.  By poison, I mean a product that contains an insecticide.
  • If you have other cats and/or dogs, watch their ears, as the mites can get in theirs as well.

Yeast Infection

  • Can be caused by allergies to grain (corn, wheat, soy, rice, barley, oats) in food, with corn and wheat being highest offenders.  Includes corn meal, corn gluten, wheat gluten.  Even canned foods, mostly the shreds, cubes or other formed morsels, possibly have wheat gluten to hold the morsels into their shapes.  Some pates even contain wheat gluten, for what reason I don’t know.  It should never be in pet food.
  • Can also be caused by moist environments.
  • Can also be caused by floppy and/or hairy ears, as there is not enough air flow.

Fungal Infection

  • Mostly found in moist environments.  Some of my cats and my dog, Sierra (floppy hairy ears) always had yeast or fungal infections in their ears when we lived in Hawaii.  That was a big downside of living there for many animals.  It never got cold enough for these infections to clear up, and causes so much suffering for animals living in year-round moist environments.  Not to mention, viruses run rampant, and many animals are frequently sick with upper respiratory infections with no relief

Bacterial Infection

  • Often a side effect of a yeast or fungal infection, because the cat is scratching its ears and making open wounds that bacteria get in.
  • Or the cat got into a fight, ear got scratched, bacteria entered wound from other cat’s claws or airborne.

Zymox Otic is the product I used while living in Hawaii and my cats had yeast infections.  The year-round moisture caused them to have recurring yeast infections.  I had to use this approximately three times a year on each cat.  Once we moved from Hawaii to California’s drier climate, their ears instantly cleared up.

Zymox Otic the most natural, effective product I could find.  This stuff rocks!  Barely any odor, safe if they ingest it.  Zymox Otic is made of three natural enzymes and is used for yeast, fungal or bacterial infections.  It comes in two formulas.  One has 0.5% hydrocortisone, which is a steroid.  This can be used when there is a lot of inflammation, redness, and scratching to get that down faster, but I really don’t like using steroids on our cats.  If there is no or minimal  inflammation and redness, use the one without the steroid.  Why use a steroid if you don’t absolutely need to?  You might be able to get these at your local pet store, and here are links to purchase at Amazon.

Zymox Otic Without Hydrocortisone:  No Hydrocortisone

Zymox Otic With Hydrocortisone:  With Hydrocortisone

You do have to use it once per day for 7 days, and 14 days for chronic problems (i.e., if 7 days doesn’t clear it up, go another 7 days).

While Zymox Otic worked on all of my other cats during our time in Hawaii, unfortunately for Hanalei, nothing I tried helped her, not even Zymox Otic.  She was medium-haired with long tufts in her ears, which was against her favor.  Hanalei didn’t seem to be in pain as long as I routinely cleaned the wax out.  One vet suggested I was irritating her ears by cleaning them weekly, and to leave them alone for 4 weeks.  The wax build-up got so bad, she started scratching intensely, and made them bleed.  So, back to weekly cleaning it was.  We had much better results with our short-haired cats.

Here are some tips for success:

  1. The bottle states NOT to clean the ear wax before starting the course.  I guess this is to prevent you from pushing the wax deeper in.  Sometimes, the wax was so thick, I decided to clean some of it out anyway.
  2. All resources I have read warn against using a q-tip and to only use cotton balls. Cotton balls cannot get the wax out of the crevices of the ears.  Be very careful not to put a q-tip in too far!  You can easily puncture the ear drum.  Only use it to clean out the crevices.  Work slowly and gently, talking in a soothing tone to your pet.  (baby talking helps)
  3. I found it helpful to do the procedure with the cat placed on the washer or dryer, the perfect height for me, on a bath towel.
  4. Apply Zymox Otic as instructed, filling ear canal, continuing with baby talking.  I never filled the ear canals, it seemed like a bit overkill.
  5. Massage the ear at the base of the ear, still talking in baby talk, while your cat is expressing his deep discontent with the torture you are inflicting upon him.  (I had to blanket wrap and firmly hold down one of my sassy cats to treat her–heaven knows I most certainly must have been trying to kill her!).
  6. Your cat most likely will want to get the solution out as fast as they can!  They will shake their head, and gunk will come flying out, so have your warrior shield ready.
  7. To keep kitty from wiping it out — and ultimately eating the solution — it would be helpful to use an e-collar — you know, the kind you use after a surgery, so they don’t lick wounds.  Just casually slip it on and fasten.  You could keep this on for 15-30 minutes to give the product time to work.  Just a suggestion–I never used a surgery collar, as it would have made the session even more hateful for my cats.
  8. Give kitty a treat, to give her something pleasant to associate with what you just put her through.

Afterwards, If the Problem Keeps Recurring

You need to look at the type of food you’re feeding them.  Allergies to ingredients in cat foods cause all kinds of problems.  Poor quality ingredients are stressful for your pet’s digestion to deal with and this will weaken their immune system.  Help improve your cat’s immune system with these following two products.

Digestive Enzymes

Yeast infections can be helped by adding digestive enzymes to food, as digestive enzymes diminish with age and enzymes are destroyed in cooked food.  Feeding raw meat will supply natural occurring enzymes, just as eating raw foods does for people.  So, if you’re not feeding raw meat to your cats, digestive enzymes are extremely helpful for the health of your pet on so many levels.  Additional Benefits:  Fur will be softer, silkier, cleaner; less shedding; fewer fur balls; less stinky stool.  The brand I use is Dr. Goodpet.  It is the only brand I’ve found that is completely free of any unnecessary fillers, so you’re getting more for your money.  They are odorless and tasteless, just mix into the dry or canned food.  If you feed a dry-only diet (not recommended for prime health), add a teaspoon of water to get the enzymes to adhere to the food.  You can get Dr. Goodpet enzymes here at Amazon:  Best Enzymes


Yeast infections can be caused by a round of antibiotic use, which kills off friendly gut bacteria.  Poor quality food (not enough meat protein, dry food diet, artificial anything, grains) can also lower friendly gut bacteria.  Probiotics are very helpful to rebuild friendly gut bacteria, and make it easier for your pet to fight off infections.  Again, I use Dr. Goodpet’s probiotics, as they are the purest and best priced for the quality.  You can get them here at Amazon:  Best Probiotics.  Your best prices on these products are at Amazon, easy ordering, free shipping with orders over $35.  These products are good to have on hand for your pet.  The enzymes and probiotics will last for several months for 1-2 pets, as you use a very small amounts for cats.

Using these two products will help improve your cat’s health a lot.

Note:  I only promote products that I have personally used and are entirely or mostly natural.

Photo Kim and Clancy2Kim Staley
Healthy Life Cat Coach


My Mission: To help you become a well-informed conscious cat parent to provide your cats with a safe, non-toxic, natural healthy lifestyle and natural healing for optimum health and well-being. Because our cats are counting on us to do this for them. And, well, they deserve it!


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Cat Ear Problems Can Be Mites, Yeast, Bacteria, Fungus
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