My Cat Has a Swollen Ear, What Do I Do?

Have you noticed a strange swelling around your cat’s ear recently? Are you worried about what could potentially be wrong with them? Is this something serious, or is it nothing to be concerned about? If you have questions about your cat’s swollen ear, then this article will be a great resource for you!

Cat swollen ear

What are the Causes of Swollen Ears in Cats?

Swelling of the ears is not an uncommon problem in cats, and there are a couple of potential causes. Below, you’ll find out more information regarding the two most common underlying causes of swelling in a cat’s ears: ear infections and hematomas. You can use this information to decide when it might be time to see the veterinarian. Read on to learn more.

Cat Ear Infections

Ear infections are more common than you might expect in cats, although not as common as they are in dogs. Although some cat ear infections can be caused by mild to moderate underlying problems, some may be caused by serious health issues that should be treated as quickly as possible.

Causes of Ear Infections in Cats

The causes of this condition can range from being mild to ones that are more severe. It’s important to know where which category these causes fall in so you know when your cat needs veterinary care.

Some of the mild causes of ear infection in cats include:

  • Ear mites
  • Bacteria or yeast infections
  • Cuts and abrasions that lead to abscesses
  • Wax
  • Allergies

In addition to the ones mentioned above, below are some of the more common moderate to serious causes of cat ear infections:

  • Accidental foreign objects lodged inside the ear
  • Feline leukemia
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Ear tumors
  • Ruptured eardrum from trauma to the ear

This is not a complete list of possible causes of ear infections, but it can give you some idea of what may be causing the swelling in your cat’s ear.

What to Do if Your Cat’s Swollen Ears are Caused by Ear Infections

If you suspect your cat’s swollen ear may be caused by an ear infection, look for other signs and symptoms associated with infection as well.

Redness and tenderness to the touch, oozing of pus or fluid from the ear, and discharge that looks like coffee grounds inside the ear can all be signs that a cat has an ear infection. Cats may also tilt or shake their heads frequently to help relieve the pressure caused by an ear infection.

Your vet will need to perform a full exam on your cat to determine whether or not they have an ear infection. The good news is that most ear infections can be cleared up quickly with a round of antibiotics and some ear drops.

It is important, however, to treat any underlying causes of ear infections in your cat as well, so your vet will need to check for signs of more serious health problems before sending your cat on their way.


Another cause of swollen ears in cats can be hematomas. Hematomas are surprisingly common in cat ears, and they may even be more common than ear infections in an otherwise healthy cat.

Hematomas are sometimes referred to colloquially as “blood blisters,” although this doesn’t quite describe them fully. They do, however, look like blisters filled with blood, which is where this common name comes from. A hematoma can occur on top of the skin or just beneath it; if your cat has a hematoma beneath the skin of her ear, then her ear may look swollen and spongy in texture.

What Causes Hematomas in Cat Ears to Form?

Hematomas in cat ears occur when a blood vessel inside your cat’s ear breaks. This can happen from trauma or injury, or it can even happen from rough play or from your cat scratching or shaking their head too hard.

There isn’t always a serious underlying problem when a cat has a hematoma, but it’s still important to make sure your cat isn’t further injured if you notice this issue.

How Cat Ear Hematomas are Treated

Most cats will require minor surgery to get rid of a hematoma. The cat will be put under anesthesia, and the blood will be drained from the hematoma during this procedure. Stitches are then placed to hold the cat’s ear together and allow it to heal without producing another hematoma in the process. During the procedure, the veterinarian will also look for any underlying problems that may have caused the hematoma, such as a foreign object within the ear.

Cats will need to wear bandages and drainage tubes on the affected ear for about a week or two after surgery, and some cats may need to wear an E-collar to prevent them from bothering their stitches until the incision site heals.

Do not leave your cat’s hematoma untreated. Even if it is reabsorbed by the body, it can remain painful for the rest of your cat’s life.

Get Treatment for Swollen Ears in Cats at Heart + Paw

As you can see, the two most common causes of swollen ears in cats are not too serious, but they also should not be left alone, either. By responding in a timely fashion to either of these problems, you can help your cat recover fully and ensure she gets back to their usual self in no time. No matter the cause, if your cat has swollen ears, you should take them to see a veterinarian so they can receive proper treatment.

Your vet can give you more information about preventing both hematomas and ear infections from occurring again in your cat. Although neither one can be completely avoided all the time, you can make changes that may help significantly reduce the risk for your feline friend.

For more information about swollen ears in cats, or if you think your pet may be suffering from an ear infection or a hematoma in cat ears, book an appointment with our team at Heart + Paw. We have a number of convenient locations, each staffed with compassionate and experienced veterinary professionals who are dedicated to making sure your pet remains as happy and healthy as possible.

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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