Your cat is losing hair around one or both ears. Scabs are forming, which may or may not be oozing.
The cat may be scratching more than usual. Should you be concerned?
Although there are several reasons for hair loss and scabbing on a cat’s ears, the one reason you and your other pets can catch is ringworm or dermatophytosis.
What is This Scabbing and Hair Loss on My Cat’s Ear?
Ringworm is a common cause of both hair loss and scabs on a cat’s ears. These bald, itchy, and scabby patches often start on the head and paws, then spread to other body parts. Although ringworm is not fatal, a cat can die from any infection caught after scratching its skin open.
Ringworm Is Not a Worm
Despite the name, a worm isn’t the cause of ringworm. It’s an infection caused by a fungus of the dermatophyte family.
In cats, the most common species of dermatophyte fungus found is Microsporum canis. As the name suggests, it’s also common in dogs.
Another species cats are prone to is Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
Other names for ringworm include tinea and dermatophytosis, which (arguably) are not as catchy as ringworm.
The name “ringworm” has been around for hundreds of years and is as persistent as the infection itself. No matter what you call ringworm, the symptoms are similar.
There are red, round, or ring-shaped hairless patches on the skin. The skin on this ring is often raised, and in cats, often causes scabs.
Ringworm has been around for a very long time and shows no indications of being eradicated anytime soon.
In 2011, a 125-million-year-old fossil of a small mammal called Spinolestes xenarthrosus was discovered in Spain. It still had internal organs and fur on it.
Well, some fur, anyway. It showed evidence of ringworm.
Ringworm Symptom in Cats
Ringworm symptoms vary from cat to cat. The most common are:
- Hair loss, including hair loss on one or both ears, but can be anywhere on the body. These bald patches are usually round.
- Cat scratches or grooms more than usual.
- Color changes to the skin on the hairless sites. It can become red or black.
- Much more dandruff than usual.
- Individual hairs in the infected areas are brittle.
- The skin on the bald spots becomes thick or scabby.
- The skin on the bald spots may ooze.
- Open wounds from the cat scratching so much. Wounds appear mostly on the head, forelegs, chest, paws, and along the spine. Some cats eventually go completely bald.
- Claws get a scaly, pitted appearance and, if left untreated, sometimes become deformed.
Some cats may even have ringworm but not show any symptoms. These are called “asymptomatic carriers.”
Since they have ringworm, they can spread it to others. Mentor Animal Hospital estimates that 20% of all cats are asymptomatic to ringworm because ringworm has been around for so long that cats are starting to get used to it.
Ringworm Treatment in Cats
The first step in treating cats with ringworm is to get them to a vet for a diagnosis.
Unfortunately, balding and scabby ears are symptoms of many other conditions other than ringworm, including:
- Ear mites
- Bacterial or yeast infections
Cats positively diagnosed with ringworm may need a combination of treatments before they are better. This includes ointments or creams for the really bad areas.
Some balding areas may need to be shaved off the remaining hair in order for the ointments or creams to best get to the infected skin.
The most common treatment is medication such as Griseofulvin, Lamisil, or itraconazole to kill the fungus. If the skin is open, then antibiotics might be needed to prevent infection.
It takes at least six weeks for ringworm to clear up. Cats will need testing for ringworm by a vet again to make sure it has defiantly gone away.
Warning: Cats with Ringworm are Contagious
You, your family, and your other pets can catch ringworm from your cat. Avoid kissing your cat at this time.
Wash your hands immediately after petting or handling the cat. If possible, isolate the cat from other pets.
If your cat has been showing symptoms of ringworm and had contact with your other pets, then those pets need to be taken to the vet and checked for ringworm, even if they are not showing symptoms.
Fungal spores can last for 1 1/2 year. Anywhere the cat has been needs cleaning, especially where the cat has slept.
Wash all of the bedding, toys, collars, brushes, and combs. If collars and toys can’t be washed, they should be thrown out.
Vacuum carpets, human furniture, and cat furniture. Mop up tiled or hard floors.
If you need to shave off any hair on the infected areas, keep in mind that those hairs are contaminated. If possible, do the shaving in a bathtub or sink.
This way, the hairs can be easily wiped up and disposed of. If not, the hairs need to be vacuumed or swept up so they do not spread ringworm around the home.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Scabbing and Hair Loss on My Cat’s Ear Is
Why Is My Cat Losing Hair and Has Scabs?
There are many causes of hair loss and scabs in cats, which is why it is important to take your cat to a vet for a diagnosis. Other than ringworm, causes of scabs and hair loss include parasite infestation, mange, cancer, sunburn, and allergies.
Will Cat Ringworm Go Away by Itself?
If you are hoping to save yourself a vet bill by not doing anything about your cat’s ringworm, dash that hope. Ringworm usually gets worse if left untreated. Not only will the cat become bald, but the constant scratching can cause potentially deadly infections.
Can I Get Ringworm from My Cat?
Ringworm is highly contagious. Not only can you get ringworm from your cat, but so can other pets in your house. Ringworm is rarely fatal in people with healthy immune systems, but it can make you miserable.
The Least You Need to Know
Hair loss and scabs are common symptoms of ringworm in cats. These circular, bald or balding, scabby patches can be on the ears or on other parts of the body.
Other symptoms include swollen skin, skin that has changed color, noticeable dandruff, grooming more often than usual, lumps on the skin that ooze, and infected claws.
Ringworm’s highly contagious to people and other animals.