Ticks on Cats

"Ticks on cats can be easily removed. If you find and remove a tick in under 24 hours there is virtually no risk of infection. Most cats that have a tick attached for a longer period of time will not show any symptoms of tick borne illnesses such as rocky mountain fever, parasites or cat lyme disease. Tick can be removed individually or with a dip if many are present. Prevention should include a liquid treatment such as Frontline Plus and outdoors prevention."

Ticks on cats attach themselves when your cat is walking through high grass or brushes against plants outside. Most ticks do not cause disease, however, all should be removed as soon as possible in order to prevent infection. If you do this in less than 24 hours, there is a good chance that your cat will be fine.

If you notice that your cat has many ticks attached, then you might want to consider purchasing a dip that is specifically made to kill ticks on cats. Be sure to check that the product purchased is made for cats since certain ingredients that are dog safe, are not safe for cats.

Steps for Removal - Ticks on Cats

If your cat has a few ticks, then removing them yourself is easy.

Step 1 - Prepare:
First prepare a small clear canister that can be sealed for holding any ticks. If you have it, fill it with rubbing alcohol to kill the ticks if they are still alive. Save the ticks after removing in case your veterinarian needs to test them for disease.

Write down the date and time you are removing the tick. Symptoms may take weeks or months to appear and tracking back to the date of the tick bite may help your veterinarian make a lyme disease diagnosis.

Step 2 - Protect:
Wear gloves and have some cotton balls soaked with hydrogen peroxide available. Do not touch the tick with your bare hands.

Step 3 - Clean The Skin:
Take a hydrogen peroxide soaked cotton ball and wipe around the tick cleaning your cat's skin. This will remove any bacteria that is in the area, it will not kill the tick.

Step 4 - Remove the Tick in Cat
Using the tweezers, pull the tick, grasping near the head. Don't squeeze the tick, but pull firmly away from your cat's body. Don't pinch the skin with the tweezers, but press against the skin when pulling away. You could also purchase a tick removal tool for under $10 such as the Tick-off Remover and the Tick Nipper: Tick Removal Tool.

tick removal picture
Picture of Tick Removal From Cat (Source: CDC)

Step 5 - Disinfect Area:
Wipe the area where the tick was removed with hydrogen peroxide to sterilize the area. You could also apply an antibiotic ointment for added protection.

It is possible that parts of the tick's mouth remains on your cat. If this happens, then a small bump may form at the site. The bump should go away in 2 to 3 days. If it doesn't, or if the area becomes red or infected, then consult with your veterinarian.

Ticks on Cat - Symptoms and Diagnosis

If your cat gets a tick transmitted illness, then the most prevalent symptom is the appearance of arthritis. You may see your cat having difficulty walking due to lameness in one of the legs, or from swelling in the joints. Other symptoms include fever, no appetite and weakness.

When making a diagnosis, your veterinarian will consider a variety of factories including a blood test, antibody test (to see if your cat's body is fighting off any type of lyme bacteria), and physical symptoms such as arthritis. A positive test result does not mean your cat has lyme disease, it only means that your cat has been exposed to the lyme bacteria.

Ticks on Cat - Treatment

Treatment for ticks on cat is with antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection from the bloodstream, as different types of lyme bacteria target the white blood cells and the platelets. Antibiotic treatment should eliminate the symptoms, although the bacteria is never completely removed from the body. In severe cases it is possible that the disease will relapse.

There is also a homeopathic remedy that can provide extra support to the liver and blood. It is called PetAlive TF-Defense Formula and is made to help with the natural treatment of acute lyme disease or other tick borne diseases in pets. The company is a good source for additional research on tick in cat illnesses.

Ticks on Cat - Prevention

There are easy ways to prevent your cat from getting ticks. One of the easiest is the use of a product like Frontline Plus for cats which is applied once every 30 days. The product is applied to the back and then seeps into the skin creating a layer of protection. 1800-PetMeds is a reliable low cost source for tick prevent information and products. Only use products that specifically say they are cat safe. Sprays and shampoos can also be helpful for a quick bath after being outdoors or for protection before going outdoors.

You can also try and protect your cat when outside by eliminating areas of over grown grass and the presence of small animals like mice. Ticks, especially young ones, like to feed off of mice. Consider using a humane product like Eco Health Damminix Lyme Control Packs. These are small packs that are spread around your backyard. They attract mice that will use them as nests. It will not kill the mice, but will kill the ticks that live with the mice.

References for Ticks in Cats:

Center for Disease Control

Washington State University
College of Veterinary Medicine


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