Ear, Nose, and Throat (Aural and Nasopharyngeal) Polyps in Cats

Key Takeaways

Polyps are benign, non cancerous masses which can grow in multiple locations in cats.

• A common location of polyps in cats is the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear with the nasal cavity

• Polyps originating in this location extend into either the ear canal or the nasal cavity

• Polyps are more common in young cats, and are sometimes associated with chronic infections affecting the respiratory system or middle ear

• Nasal polyps present with an increase in respiratory noise and effort, persistent nasal discharge, and difficulty eating

• Ear polyps present with a visible mass in the ear canal, ear infections, and neurological signs including Horner syndrome

• Diagnosis involves physical examination, diagnostic imaging, and biopsy

• Treatment includes surgical removal of the mass alongside symptomatic treatment 

• Prognosis is good with surgical treatment, but the recurrence rate of polyps is high

A Closer Look: What are Polyps in Cats?

Polyps are a distressing condition but treatment is normally effective. Difficulty breathing and persistent infection of the ears or nose commonly present alongside polyps and require prompt veterinary attention.

In some cases, polyps in the ear can lead to neurological symptoms collectively referred to as Horner syndrome. 

Symptoms of Horner syndrome include: 

• Drooping eyelid (ptosis)

• Constricted pupil (miosis)

Elevated third eyelid

• Retracted eyeball (enophthalmos)

Ear polyps can also develop symptoms of vestibluar disease, the system involved in balance. Symptoms include:

• Circling

Loss of balance and coordination (ataxia)

Risk Factors

The location of the polyp determines the symptoms. Aural (ear) polyps result in chronic ear infections and put pressure on the nerves that surround the middle and outer ear, resulting in neurological symptoms.

Nasopharyngeal (nasal and throat) polyps reduce airflow which results in snoring and an increase in respiratory effort. Rarely, nasopharyngeal polyps obstruct airflow, which is sometimes fatal. The underlying mechanism of polyp formation is unknown but is more common in young cats.

Possible Causes

The disease mechanism of polyps is not well understood. Possible underlying triggers include:

• Chronic middle ear infection

• Chronic ear mite infestation

• Chronic upper respiratory tract infection

• Inherited structural abnormality of the middle ear

Main Symptoms

The symptoms of polyps vary depending on the location of the polyp.

Nasopharyngeal polyp symptoms include:

Nasal discharge (normally unilateral)

• Increased respiratory noise or snoring

Difficulty breathing

Difficulty eating

Aural polyp symptoms include

• Visible mass in the ear

• Redness, irritation, drainage, or other symptoms of chronic or recurrent ear infection

Head tilt

Itchy ear

Testing and Diagnosis

Investigation of polyps in cats focuses on visualization of the polyp, and differentiation from other types of masses. Diagnostic tools include:

• Physical examination

• Diagnostic imaging

• Biopsy

Steps to Recovery

Treatment options include:

• Symptomatic treatment of secondary infection and inflammation with medications, including antibiotics and steroids

• Surgical removal of the polyp

Prognosis following surgical removal of the polyp is excellent and normally resolves symptoms, however, recurrence is common. Surgery aims to remove the entire mass, but this is often not possible. Incomplete removal increases the chances of recurrence. Some cases require multiple surgeries.


Polyps are not preventable as the underlying disease mechanism is poorly understood. Prompt treatment of ear infections, or mite infestations may reduce the likelihood of chronic ear disease.

Polyp formation may have a genetic component; cats with polyps should not be bred.

Are Polyps Common in Cats?

Polyps are not common in cats.

Typical Treatment

• Antibiotics

• Steroids

• Surgical removal of the polyp

Want to speak to a vet now?

Book an appointment

Time for a check-up?

Start a video chat with a licensed veterinary professional right now on Vetster!

Book an online vet

Online veterinarian and virtual pet care services available on-demand.

Available now on Apple and Play stores.

Vet on phone