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Ear Flap Problems in Cats

The pinna is an erect flap of cartilage covered on both sides by a layer of skin. It is fragile and easily damaged. The signs of an outer or external ear problem are discharge, shaking the head, ear scratching, and tenderness about the ear. A cat with an itchy ear ailment may scratch so vigorously that the skin becomes severely abraded. The abraded skin may then become infected, leading to an abscess. Attempts to treat the traumatized pinna may not be successful until the initiating cause of the itching and scratching has been identified and treated.

Bites and Lacerations

Cats give and receive painful bites and scratches that are prone to severe infection. The pinna is a frequent site for such injuries. Some occur during mating.

Treatment: All cat bite wounds should be carefully cleaned and inspected. Trim the hair from the edges of the wound. Bathe the wound with a Betadine or a chlorhexidine wound cleansing solution to remove dried blood and foreign debris. Be careful to keep all solution out of your cat’s eyes. Omit this step if there is fresh bleeding.

Then apply a topical antibiotic ointment, such as triple antibiotic ointment or Neosporin. Try to distract your cat for a minute or two after applying any ointment so that she does not immediately rub or lick it off.

Because claws and teeth produce deep wounds and punctures and almost always inject bacteria into the wound, injuries caused by cat fights are often complicated by abscesses. Some can be prevented by giving your cat a course of antibiotics (often a penicillin such as amoxicillin). Do not give any antibiotics without first consulting your veterinarian.

Large lacerations and those involving the margin of the ear or the cartilage should receive veterinary attention. Surgical repair is necessary to prevent scarring and deformity. With bite wounds from unknown animals, discuss rabies with your veterinarian.

Swollen Pinna

Sudden swelling about the ear is due to an abscess or a hematoma. Abscesses are more common. They are caused by an infection of the skin of the ear and often occur after a fight. Severe scratching at the ear may produce skin infection and abscess. Abscesses are usually found below the ear.

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