Your kitten probably has two or three different things going on from what you’re describing. First, the coffee grounds usually indicate ear mites. It is very common for young kittens to have ear mites. The symptoms can be as minor as a little bit of itch and that coffee ground substance in the ears, all the way to major scratching and self-mutilation where the kitten scratches so much that she makes herself bleed. It’s really awful when it gets that bad for these little ones!
Both diagnosis and treatment are pretty simple for ear mites. Diagnosis is to look at a sample of the “coffee grounds” underneath the microscope. Using a little bit of mineral oil on a microscope slide and only four times magnification, it’s very easy to see what looks like funky little spiders crawling around on the microscope slide. Because it’s actually very easy to see under the microscope, it’s often a fun thing to share with the client in the office –
No one wants spiders crawling in their ears!
There are many over-the-counter treatments for ear mites that take repeated applications before the ear mites are killed. These treatments range from olive oil, which basically drowns the mites, to pyrethrins which can be poisonous to kittens. Conventional Western medicine uses a one time insecticide to kill the mites and they don’t come back – as long as other cats in the house don’t have ear mites and they don’t keep passing them back and forth.
The other issue your kitten is dealing with is the clear watery discharge coming from one of her ears. It’s possible the ear mites are causing inflammation in her ear which is making the watery discharge. It’s also possible that she also has an ear infection. Normal moisture from the ear should drain through a healthy eustachian tube. Anyone who’s ever had an ear infection understands how the fluid builds up and does not drain when the eustachian tubes are plugged. So if your little girl has swelling in her ears due to the ear mites, the normal fluid may not be able to drain out and then she will develop a bacterial infection. She needs to have her ear mites treated and have her ears examined using a scope to look down deep and see what’s going on. She may need her ears cleaned after the mites or treated, or may need medication.