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My Cat Has a Floppy Ear

 
By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. January 28, 2021
My Cat Has a Floppy Ear

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There is a key difference between a cat having floppy ears and a cat having one floppy ear. In the case of the former, the reason is likely due to their breed. Some cat breeds have been specially bred to promote ear shapes different from most other domestic cats. These include long eared cat breeds, but also those with a curl or even a fold. If your cat has only one floppy ear, but the other is erect, this likely means there is a problem.

At AnimalWised, we explain why your cat has a floppy ear. We show you when this is something natural related to their breed and when we need to do something about it.

You may also be interested in: My Cat Has Scabs - Skin Conditions in Cats

My kitten has a floppy ear

Felines are altricial animals. This means when they are born, they are unable to look after themselves and require their mother for survival. In part, this is because they are physically not sufficiently developed. They are unable to hear and they won't open their eyes until their transition period at between 9 and 15 days of age.

When kittens are newborn, their ears are not erect. They are small and still developing, usually sitting relatively flat against their skull. After only a short period of time, the kittens ears will start to rise. It is at this point in time that we may see a kitten with one floppy ear. It is when one ear rises before the other. However, this time period is unlikely to be very long as the ears should develop simultaneously.

For cat breeds with non-erect ears, neither ear will become properly erect. However, they will still grow and develop, resulting in their characteristic ear shape. Most of these cats are pedigree and will likely be purchased from a breeder. However, if you are unsure, you should check to see if your cat is a folded breed.

If your kitten has only one floppy ear, but the other keeps developing normally, only at this point should you be concerned something is wrong.

My cat has one floppy ear

There is a difference between a developing ear looking floppy and an already developed ear which starts to droop. If the cat has previously had straight erect ears, then they should not return to a floppy state unless there is a problem.

The problem in question can be from a number of causes, but some are more likely than others. The floppy ear happens when it bends forward due to some sort of pressure. This can be due to:

  • Mites: mites are little arachnids which can crawl into the outer ear of the cat. The mites feed on the cat's skin and can cause a variety of problems. Since they are so small, they can be hard to detect, but you can notice them if the cat starts to shake their head to the side regularly. They will likely start to scratch it, which can be dangerous as it can cause a secondary infection. Damage to the ear causes it to bend forward and appear floppy. If the ear mite infestation grows, they can enter the ear canal, causing deafness in the affected ear. Whether temporary or permanent depends on how far the infestation progresses.

  • Scabies: also known as feline mange, this is a particular disease known caused by the Notoedres cati mite. While scabies can also cause drooping in the ear and the cat will start to scratch the area, it is also causes lesions to appear. It is very annoying for the cat and can cause serious problems, so mange in cats needs to be treated immediately.

  • Infection: a cat doesn't need a parasite infestation to develop an ear infection. Whether a wound gets infected, they have been bitten by another animal or they simply have poor hygiene, ear infections in cats are fairly common. If the outer ear is infection, it will unlikely be floppy. However, an inner ear infection can cause the ear to bend forward due to the swelling. You might first notice a cat's ear is infected if it feels hot to the touch.

  • Foreign object: if something becomes stuck in the cat's ear, it can cause the ear to drop. The cat will scratch it and try to shake it out, but this can cause it to be lodged further. This can promote secondary infection. Larger objects should be easily observed, but some might have lodged far into the canal. Foreign objects, however, can also include dirt or dust which can also cause a problem and lead to an ear becoming floppy.

What to do if my cat has a floppy ear

If a cat's ear has become floppy due to one of the above causes, it needs to be addressed. The problems are often easily resolved, but if it has become protracted, deafness and other more severe problems can occur. For an infection, antibiotics will likely be prescribed by the veterinarian. This course needs to be taken for the prescribed amount of time.

For mites and other parasites, various antiparasitic medications may be prescribed. Ivermectin for cats is one such medication, but it will depend on the diagnosis. This will need to be carried out a veterinarian as the wrong medication will not work for certain parasites.

Most importantly, before you cat develops a floppy ear, we should do everything we can to prevent ear problems happening. This means you should consider the following:

  • Deworming: proper deworming is vital for a cat's well-being. What product you will need depends on the area in which you live, but your veterinarian should institute a deworming program as soon as the cat is of age.
  • Vaccination: similar to deworming, vaccinations will help keep the cat healthy. There are various diseases common to cats which can lower their immune system. Cats with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop ear infections and other related problems.
  • Outdoor cats: cats with access to the outdoors are more likely to develop ear problems. This is because they cat get in fights with neighbor cats, there are more pests outdoors and other factors. While we should be observant of any cat in our care, we should be particularly careful with cats with outdoor access.
  • Regular checkups: the veterinarian will examine a cat's ears during their checkup and is able to see things we are likely to miss.

Although cats are very hygienic, they are often unable to clean their ears as easily as other parts of their body. For this reason, we should clean the cat's ears ourselves. Check out our guide on how to clean a cat's ears if you need some assistance.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has a Floppy Ear, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.

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