Though ticks don’t bother cats with the same frequency that they do dogs, cats can still get ticks. Just as with dogs, ticks feed on the blood of your cat once they attach. They gorge on your cat’s blood until they are full and then drop off to continue their life cycle and produce more ticks.
Why Worry About Ticks?
Ticks are a threat for a number of reasons. Though one tick will likely not drain your cat of a significant amount of blood, large numbers of ticks can cause your cat to become anemic. Granted, it takes a lot of ticks to do this, but it is not impossible.
One of the other potential threats is the possibility of tick-borne diseases. Ticks can carry diseases that pose a threat not only for your cat but for you and your family as well. It is possible for your cat to transport disease-carrying ticks into your home or yard, where these ticks may then attach to you or your family members, spreading diseases which, in some cases, can be quite serious.
Myths About Ticks and Cats
It is a myth that ticks do not bother cats. Cats can and do pick up ticks. Ticks are most commonly seen around the face, neck, ears, feet, and legs of your cat. However, they can attach anywhere on your cat’s body.
Another myth commonly encountered about ticks is that they are only present during certain seasons. Though ticks are most commonly encountered in spring, summer, and fall, colder temperatures do not guarantee that ticks are not a threat. Under the right circumstances, ticks can survive cold temperatures.
In fact, I spoke to a well-known parasitologist a while back who recounted a story about some hunters. These hunters were out on a relatively cold day and, being tired after a long hunt, they decided to sit and rest for a few moments. They sat under a tree with their backs against the trunk amid the fallen leaves and other debris on the forest floor. When they rose, they found themselves covered with numerous ticks. Apparently, their body heat had been enough to “waken” the ticks and encourage them to seek their blood meal.
What to Do if Your Cat Has a Tick
What should you do if you find a tick on your cat? Grasp the tick firmly near the head where it is attached to your cat’s skin and pull it gently but steadily backwards away from the skin. You can purchase a special device to help you remove ticks, or a pair of forceps also works well for grasping the tick’s body.
Once removed, place the tick in a container of alcohol to kill it. Do not crush the tick between your fingers. Do not handle ticks with your bare hands; wear gloves when removing ticks.
It is not unusual to see a minor swelling of your cat’s skin where the tick was attached for a few days after removal. However, if you are concerned that the tick’s mouthparts were not completely removed, consult your veterinarian.
What About Flea & Tick Preventive Medications for Cats?
There are a number of products that can help prevent your cat from getting ticks. Most of them also help prevent fleas as well. None of them, however, are 100 percent effective in keeping ticks away from your cat, though some are more effective than others. If your cat goes outdoors, you should check your cat regularly for ticks regardless of whether you are using a flea and tick prevention medication.
Consult your veterinarian for advice about what type of flea and tick preventive medication is best suited to your cat. When using any flea and tick prevention medication, always read and follow label directions carefully, and never use a product with a label that does not specifically state that it is safe for use on cats, since many dog products are dangerous for cats.
Dr. Lorie Huston