Cat Ringworm Symptoms and Treatment

"The fungal infection cat ringworm can be contracted at any age and is more pronounced in younger cats. Cats with ringworm can either naturally fight off the fungus, the fungus can continue to live on the cat with no symptoms, or the skin can become inflamed. Infected areas may look like the hair has been shaved or broken in a circular area with skin looking red and crusty. Other symptoms can include changes in skin or hair color, excessive scratching and itch, and infection in the nail beds or claws. The fungus feeds on keratin, a natural substance found in the nails and hair. The condition is one of the most common feline skin conditions. Feline ringworm treatment includes the use of topical skin ointments in affected areas and the possible use of an oral medication. If a cat has several affected areas, a dip might be recommended as well. Treatment could take weeks or months. if a cat is not treated, the fungus can spread to other animals. While some cats may be able to fight off the infection without treatment, this could take as long as a year."

Cat Ringworm is not a worm, but a fungal infection technically called dermatophytosis. It’s called ringworm due to its appearance - in humans, it appears as a crusty red circle with a pale center. That’s right, people can get ringworm, too. You can get it from your cat, or she can get it from you. If you have symptoms of ringworm, you should see a doctor for treatment. (Don’t worry, it’s easy to treat).

cat ringworm
Picture Kitten Ringworm

cat ringworm
Picture Kitten Ringworm

While any cat can get ringworm, some are more susceptible than others. Young kittens, long haired cats, cats in crowded conditions such as shelters, and those with other health problems are more likely to contract the disease. Some cats may be carriers without having any symptoms. They can still pass the disease on to others.

The fungus grows down from the base of a growing hair shaft (cuticle).

Ringworm Symptoms in Cats

In cats, ringworm symptoms appear a bit differently than in humans. It generally appears as dry, red or gray scaly round patches with embossed edges. Your cat may appear to have dandruff. There may be some hair loss in the area (alopecia) such as if the hair in the area has been shaved. It’s generally not too itchy, but your cat may scratch or lick at the area.

The condition can appear on any part of your cat's body but is usually seen on the front paws, tail, head and ears.

picture cat ringworm
Picture of Ringworm in Cats

Diagnosing Cat Ringworm

Feline ringworm can resemble other skin problems, so your vet may need to do some tests in order to make a diagnosis.

The first thing your vet may do is examine your cat’s skin under a Woods light. Ringworm will generally fluoresce under the light. However, some species of ringworm do not fluoresce, and some other types of infections may fluoresce, so other tests may be needed in order to confirm the diagnosis.

Your vet can examine some hairs from your cat under a microscope for ringworm spores. However, spores can be very difficult to see, for if they are not observed, this does not mean your cat does not have ringworm.

A fungal culture will identify ringworm and other fungal infections. The disadvantage to this method of diagnosis if that it take about ten days. However, if the above methods don’t work, it may be necessary.

Ringworm Treatment for Cats

Ringworm can be difficult to treat and should involve a consultation with your veterinarian.

Ringworm treatment for cats is generally treated with a combination of oral and topical medications. Preference is for oral medications and the use of a lime sulfur dip such as Naturasil for Ringworm. Topical ointments are often not as effective since your cat will be tempted to lick it off.

The oral cat ringworm medication of choice is Itraconazole. Other options include Ketaconazole and Griseofulvin. Griseofulvin is usually not used since it is associated with side effects in some cats.

You can also try a natural skin cleanser that is safe for cats such as Clenzor.

You’ll also need to treat the environment, because otherwise your cat will just become re infected and the problem could spread to you. First thoroughly vacuum all areas which will pick up infected hairs and skin flakes. You can also mop the surfaces of your home with a product that uses disposable pads such as a Swiffer. Do not touch the pads after cleaning.

To disinfect surfaces in the home, purchase a product that contains Benzalkonium Sulfate such as Benzarid. Other options include chlorine bleach (diluted 1 part bleach to 10 parts water), or a strong detergent. Note that products which contain chlorheidine or povidone iodine are not as effective as other approaches.

References Cat Ringworm:


Ringworm Infection in Dogs and Cats
R.A. Cervantes Olivares
Departmento de Microbiologia and Inmunologia
Laboratorio de Micologia, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico DF, Mexico

Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine, Feline Health Center

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine


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