Common ear and eye problems in cats

It’s likely that at some point in their life, your cat will experience problems with their ears or eyes. From common issues to those that can be a bit trickier to treat, there are a number of ways that those little ears and eyes can be a cause of discomfort or signal underlying conditions.

As a cat owner, here are some things you can look out for to ensure that if your feline friend ever has an issue with their eyes or ears, they get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

Ear mites

Ear mites are often the first culprit that springs to mind if a cat is showing signs of ear discomfort. Ear mites are parasites that live in and around cat ears. They pass between cats and are often found on kittens, causing cats to shake their heads and scratch their ears. 

If you suspect your cat has ear mites, simply check their ears for dark specks. Gently remove a chunk and place it on a dark surface or material to check for white, moving specks – these are live mites. Your vet can confirm your suspicions and will recommend the most appropriate treatment – this can include your vet cleaning your cat’s ears, prescribing ear drops and recommending flea drops that can prevent ear mite infestations.

Ear infections

Unfortunately, there are lots of causes and factors that can result in your car getting an ear infection. These include wax buildup, polyps, allergies and even thick hair in the ear canal.

Bacterial and fungal infections of the outer ear can often look like ear mites, as this will cause your cat to scratch their ears and shake their head. However outer ear infections also cause a cat’s ears to become red and swollen. There might also be some nasty smelling discharge. If you suspect your cat has an outer ear infection, your vet can carry out the appropriate tests to determine whether it’s bacterial or fungal. They will then prescribe the best treatment for the issue, such as ear cleaners, anti inflammatories and topical medications.

If an outer ear infection moves deeper into the ear, it can cause a middle and inner ear infection. Symptoms can vary, but will often be more severe than those caused by an outer ear infection and can include a head tilt, lethargy, poor hearing, difficulty moving, decreased appetite and even eye issues such as squinting and abnormal eye movements. Your vet will likely carry out an examination and various scans of the affected areas and may recommend treatments, including antibiotics and even surgery. 

So it’s best to clean your cat’s ears regularly with a product such as Select Ear Cleaner for Cats and Dogs, and look out for signs of ear infections and get your cat the treatment they need as soon as possible to minimise their discomfort and long term impact on their delicate ears.

Ear injuries

Bites and scratches are common for cats who spend a lot of time out exploring. They might come across another cat during their adventures and find themselves in a fight that results in injuries to their ears. Pets in a multi-cat household are also at a high risk of wounds like this, which can result in punctures and lacerations that might become infected.

It’s very possible to treat minor cuts at home with the correct antiseptic solutions or wound cleaner. If a wound looks worrying or deep, you should always take your cat to the vets for a thorough check and to avoid infection.

Eye infections

Eye infections in cats can be caused by bacteria, fungus, virus and parasites – and unfortunately, they’re quite common. Signs that your cat has an eye infection includes redness, rubbing, discharge and swelling around the eyes. Often, mild infections can be treated relatively easily and your vet might advise that you keep your cat’s eyes clean, ensure they rest,stay hydrated and eat properly. 

In more severe cases, your vet will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your cat’s situation. Be sure to look out for symptoms of an eye infection in your cat, as if left untreated, they can lead to further problems and conditions that aren’t as easy to treat. An eye infection might also be a chronic problem that needs regular treatment and attention.


Glaucoma is caused by the blockage of fluid drainage in the eye, causing a cat’s eyes to look red, cloudy and weepy. Glaucoma is a serious issue and should be treated immediately as it can lead to blindness and can be really painful too. 

There are a number of causes of glaucoma in cats, some of which might be underlying health issues which when treated, can clear glaucoma up too. Infection, trauma, inflammation and abnormalities in the eye can all result in glaucoma and will need to be treated and controlled as soon as possible. If it’s left untreated, the affected eye might need to be removed. 

Be sure to monitor your cat if their eyes are weepy, and take them to your vet as soon as possible if you suspect they’re developing glaucoma. 

Eye injuries

Just as outdoor cats can be prone to ear injuries, their eyes can also be at risk from flying feline claws! Scratches, punctures or lacerations on the eye’s surface can be common if a cat finds themself in a fight. It’s always best to get eye injuries checked over by your vet to determine how serious it is – it can be difficult to know how damaged the eye is compared to ear trauma, which can be more visible and straightforward.

If your cat is prone to fighting, speak to your vet to discuss ways that you can help protect your cat and keep them out of trouble. This might include using calming products such as Feliway, or keeping them indoors for longer periods of time.

Phil’s top tips:

  • Keep your cat’s ears and eyes as clean as possible with regular, gentle cleansing. If you need advice on the best way to do this, speak with your vet.
  • Like our own, your cat’s eyes and ears are extremely sensitive and delicate. If you’re worried that your four legged friend is experiencing discomfort or irritation, book a vet appointment as soon as possible to determine the cause.
  • Keep on top of your cat’s flea treatment and any regular vaccines to ward off nasty parasites and viruses that can be the common cause of a number of eye and ear problems.