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My Cat Has Sores Behind Their Ears, What’s Wrong? Our Vet Explains

Written by: Dr. Marti Dudley, DVM (Vet)

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat with a red sore behind its ear

My Cat Has Sores Behind Their Ears, What’s Wrong? Our Vet Explains


Dr. Marti Dudley Photo


Dr. Marti Dudley

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There are several different reasons that small sores or scabs may be found around our feline companion’s ears. This can be troublesome to find, especially if bumps seem to persist. Often, the sores are secondary to self-trauma through scratching. Your veterinarian will be able to help determine the underlying cause for pesky sores, but below are some of the most common reasons we see these in our cats.

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The 4 Common Causes of Sores Behind Cat Ears

1. Allergies

Cats can have food and environmental allergies. Both types of allergies can result in intense pruritus or itchiness. Sores behind the ears can be a result of self-trauma because of scratching. Treatments to reduce pruritus may be needed in some cases, whereas other situations may require a dietary change.

2. Ear Infections

Ear problems can cause cats to be itchy around the ear. Bacterial, yeast, or parasitic infections can lead to ear scratching, head shaking, and discharge. Trauma from scratching can result in scabs and sores around the ears. Otodectes cynotis, cat ear mites, is a common parasite that can cause intense pruritus in cats as they crawl around within the ear canal. Additionally, foreign bodies impacting the ears can cause similar signs.

vet checking cat ears
Image Credit: Yaroslav-Astakhov

3. Parasites

Ticks and mites may be problematic for some cats resulting in skin irritation. One of the most common reasons for bumps or scabs behind the ears is fleas. Fleas tend to spend a lot of time around the neck and base of the tail. Fleas bite the host and ingest their blood. As a result, small, scabbed areas will be noticeable.

Some cats have allergies to flea saliva, intensifying the itchiness affected cats feel. Cats with fleas will often have bites throughout their body; however, a majority may be felt around the neck region. Keeping up with monthly parasite treatment will help prevent several of these parasitic causes of skin irritation.

4. Skin Infections

Fungal and bacterial infections can certainly result in visible a

nd palpable bumps. Medications may be needed to help improve the infections which may be in topical, oral, or injectable form. Skin infections may also be a sign of an underlying problem like allergies.

allergic skin diseases in domestic cats
Image Credit: eremeevdv, Shutterstock

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Diagnosing the Cause of Bumps

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet and ask questions regarding diet, preventative care, and duration of signs. With this information, your veterinarian will be able to come up with a list of possible causes.

Additional tests may be necessary to pinpoint the underlying cause. Skin scrapings, ear cytology, and tape prep are just a few of the tests that may be beneficial. Successful treatment will be dependent on the underlying cause.

How Best to Care for Your Cat

Closely monitoring your cat for signs of self-trauma is important. You may note a seasonality to the pruritus, which may help your vet determine if allergies are a concern. Additionally, many monthly parasite preventatives can help eliminate numerous causes of parasitic skin infections, including mites, fleas, and ticks. Prevention should be considered in all cats, even those living strictly indoors.

If self-trauma is severe, an Elizabethan collar should be worn to physically block scratching from occurring. Nails should also be kept short to minimize trauma.

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Bumps behind the ears can originate from several different causes. A visit with your veterinarian will be helpful in pinpointing the underlying cause of the lesions. Fortunately, in most cases, bumps occurring around the ears can easily be resolved.

Featured Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

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