Cat external parasites are tiny creatures that infest a cat’s skin, such as cat fleas, ticks, lice and mites. Saliva from their bites can irritate the skin, and the parasites can also transmit disease. Fortunately, most of these difficulties can be ended or avoided entirely through careful maintenance and prompt medical attention.
The most common external parasites in cats are the fleas – There are many different kinds of fleas, each of which prefers a different host animal- that feed the cat’s blood. So flea can cause anemia in cats due to blood loss. In some cats, fleas can cause dermatitis or severe allergic reactions. A cat with fleas can be scratched and over grooming, causing hair loss and inflammation. You can see fleas or black spots (fleas feces) in the fur. Your veterinarian may recommend treatment for effective flea control. You will need to treat any other pets you have, and you may have to spray your carpets, fixtures, and cars.
Note: Never treat your cat with products designed for dogs. They can poison the cat. If you buy flea-killer products from the cat store, make sure it’s labeled for cat. Many dog flea repellents are not safe for cats. Also, do not use more than one product at a time. You do not want to intermingle chemicals, especially if this is your cat’s first exposure to flea medication. Be aware that cat fleas are also an intermediary host for tapeworms.
Like fleas, ticks feed on blood, but they are much larger. These eight- legged creatures are most commonly found in long grass, woodland, or moorland, mainly in spring or fall. They hold onto the skin and feed with their mouthparts.
Ticks that have not eaten recently look like tiny mites. They are more agile in this form and can easily get onto the hair of an animal. Then they bury their heads in the skin and suck blood. When they are full to capacity, they look like gray or brown lima beans.
Ticks can cause anemia due to blood loss, and the mouthparts can irritate the skin. Ticks can also pass on bacterial and other infections, some of which can be serious – such as Lyme disease and tularaemia (rabbit fever). Your vet can show you how to remove a tick using a tick hook, twisting gently to persuade the tick to let go to ensure that the mouthparts are not left behind. To prevent infestation, ask your vet for advice on tick-repellent products.
Lice are another blood-feeding insect. They can bury themselves into the hair or fur of any warm-blooded animal. Some lice prefer the head, some the body, and some the pubic area.
Most experts suggest shampooing, combing, shaving, hot air, and silicone-based lotions available for cats at a vet’s office.
Smaller even than lice, there are several kinds of mites that infest cats, and they can cause several different diseases.
Ear mites are one common form. Bright orange harvest mites, which feed on tissue fluid, are another. These can cause intense itching, and pimples or crusting, on thinly furred areas such as the head in front of the ears and between the toes. The latter causes feline scabies, an uncommon but serious condition that results in itching and raw, crusted, thickened skin.
They are actually minute in size (almost invisible), and they are more difficult to eradicate than fleas or lice. In most cases, you’ll need veterinary help. A vet may take skin scrapings to identify the mites and recommend species-specific treatment.