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Matthew Sisk: Cats can develop cauliflower ear
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I once was on my way to a tire repair shop to have a leak checked. About two blocks from the shop, my tire exploded.

“Almost” is a frustrating aspect of hindsight.

Such is the case with Leia today. I saw her last week for hair loss and itching around her ears. She was diagnosed with an ear mite infestation.

It’s too soon for the hair to have regrown, and the itching is gone, but the problem today is one of proportion.

Today, Leia’s ears don’t match. One is the classic feline ear shape, but the other is a hybrid shape, part ear, part hot pocket. Leia has an ear hematoma.

The technical term is aural hematoma. It occurs when any sort of trauma, including self-inflicted secondary to itching, damages the delicate blood vessels lying beneath the surface of the skin covering the ear. Those vessels rupture and bleed under the skin. A pocket of fluid develops between the skin and the underlying cartilage that makes up the architecture of the ear.

If left alone, the fluid may be resorbed with no consequences. However, if a large enough pocket develops, the fluid will remain and congeal into a clot. This clot will slowly be replaced with scarring and connective tissue, then finally harden into a calcified new version of cartilage. It’s the same process that gives a human wrestler “cauliflower ear,” and it can be quite disfiguring for a cat.

The crinkled ear often left by the process can be painful and predispose to future ear diseases, including infection. Human wrestlers often wear it as a badge of honor. Cats don’t have the same concern.

Unfortunately, we relieved Leia’s itching a bit too late to prevent the complication.

Treatment ranges from allowing natural healing in mild cases to sedation and surgical correction in pronounced situations. Fortunately for Leia, hers is a milder case. I drain the fluid with a sterile needle and inject an anti-inflammatory medication.

On egg shells, we monitor for the next few days.

Once again, Leia is lucky. The pocket doesn’t come back.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at