Cats’ ears are a very important part of their body. Characteristic active triangles moving in different directions make these beautiful animals unique. Nature has well thought out the structure and functions of cat ears – on the one hand, they are extremely sensitive, on the other hand, they have features that protect them against damage. Cat lovers know that cats are also a means of communication and an important element of body language. What is worth knowing about cat ears?
The structure of a cat’s ear
How is a cat’s ear constructed? As in all mammals, it is anatomically divided into the external ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer ear includes the pinna, the L-shaped ear canal, and the outer surface of the eardrum. A cat’s ear is built in such a way as to best capture sounds coming from different directions. Thanks to the appropriate musculature, a cat’s ears can move independently of each other and each of them can be turned in a different direction. The entrance to the ear canal is covered with long hair, which is intended to prevent foreign objects from entering. Next, in the middle ear, there are elements that conduct and amplify acoustic waves (including the auditory ossicles and the cochlea), while the inner ear is used to transform the received sounds into nerve impulses and is responsible for the sense of balance.
The fact that cats hear better than humans does not surprise anyone. However, an interesting fact is that cats’ sense of hearing is twice as sensitive as that of dogs! How do cats hear? Their hearing covers such a wide range of frequencies that some of them are elusive to humans and reach the ultrasonic category. In addition, thanks to the ability to move their ears independently of each other, cats can detect the direction from which a sound is coming with great precision. This is what makes them such excellent night hunters. On the other hand, sounds that are acceptable to us can be very irritating to a cat. This is best seen when there is a source of noise near the apartment (e.g. renovation or neighbors with a barking dog moving in). Some cats may react with stress in such a situation, even if, according to their owners, the new sounds are not bothersome.
Collars with a bell are very dangerous for a cat’s hearing, and you can read about them in the article “Collar with a bell for cats and dogs”.
The most common ear diseases in cats
Even though cat ears are quite well protected due to their anatomy, various types of diseases may occur within them. The most common problems are parasitic diseases (ear mites), bacterial and fungal inflammations, as well as foreign bodies, autoimmune diseases, dermatological disorders (including allergies), sunburn and cancer (most often occurring in cats with white ears). . Individuals that go out and live in herds also suffer from mechanical damage, e.g. due to fights.
Get to know the most common symptoms of the disease in cats: “10 symptoms of disease in cats”.
Ear diseases in cats – symptoms
The most visible symptom of ear disease is scratching and rubbing the auricle and shaking the head. The cat may also tilt its head unnaturally towards the affected ear, cringe it and squint the eye on the same side. Over time, as the problem worsens, the ear may become red, hot and painful. Scratch marks often appear in its area, which become additional portals of infection. You may also see a large amount of discharge with an unpleasant odor. In neglected cases, secondary inflammation of the middle and inner ear is possible, which may result in problems with balance, facial nerve paralysis and other neurological symptoms. In the case of some diseases (dermatological, autoimmune or cancer), the first symptom may only be a change in the appearance of the auricle, especially the skin covering it.
Ear infection in a cat
An ear infection in a cat should immediately take us to a veterinary clinic. If disturbing symptoms appear or something has changed in the appearance of the auricle, it is best not to delay visiting a specialist. The longer the infection lasts, the more difficult it is to cure, and ultimately, “ordinary” otitis externa may result in long-term and problematic treatment of the deeper sections of the hearing system. During the visit, the veterinarian will look into the ear and assess its appearance. A common procedure is to take a sample of the secretion for microscopic examination. In this way you can, among others: find out whether the ear has been attacked by ear mites or whether the problem is of a bacterial or fungal nature. Based on this, treatment will be implemented – most often in the form of drops or ointment, which should be applied to the ear according to the veterinarian’s recommendations. Usually, otitis externa is treated within a dozen or so days, but if it spreads deeper, it may last up to several weeks.
Dirty cat ears – should they be cleaned?
Some manufacturers offer cat owners regular ear infection prevention by applying cleaning fluids. However, for most cats, this does not help in any way and may even be harmful. These types of fluids may cause irritation and further inflammation of the ear canal. Sometimes they can actually be useful, but only in specific cases – then such prevention may be recommended by a veterinarian. Ears are naturally protected by earwax and its task is to stick to any dirt and help remove it from the outside. If it happens to appear more than usual (in the absence of symptoms of ear inflammation), you can simply wash it gently from the auricle. However, you must not clean cats’ ears with cotton buds or insert other things into the ear canal on your own – this is only allowed in special cases and on explicit medical advice.