Now is the time of year when certain species of ticks are most active and looking for hosts to feed from. These parasites can carry potentially fatal diseases that are transmitted when the tick bites your cat. To prevent the transmission of diseases, it's important to check your cat periodically for any unwanted hitchhikers. This is especially important if you have an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat. If you do find a tick, it's also important to know how to get rid of it. Here's a guide to help you through the process of tick inspection and removal.
So, how do you go about checking your cat over for ticks? Some breeds of cats are easier to check than others. Longer hair coats tend to give ticks a better opportunity to hide deep in the fur where they can stay for a long time undiscovered, while shorter hair coats leave the surface of the skin more visible and easy to finger comb.
That being said, ticks are a bit easier to spot on a cat’s body than fleas. They are usually dark, and large enough to see easily (unless your cat’s hair is very long and/or full). Ticks do not move around much once they find a location on the body and bury their head into the cat’s skin to feed. The longer they feed, the larger their bodies become as they fill with blood.
Starting at the head, run your hands over the cat’s body, checking under the collar, and using your fingers like the teeth of a comb, thoroughly check all of the body, making sure to look under the tail and around the anus. Ticks are drawn to the dark, hidden areas on the body. Be sure to check between the toes, as well as inside the groin and front legs (armpits).
The ears are another particularly attractive area for ticks to lodge, as they are dark, moist, and hidden. Check the ears thoroughly, inside and out, during every inspection. If your cat is shaking its head continuously and you can’t see anything in the outer ear canal, your veterinarian can inspect the inner canal of the ear more closely with a special instrument (otoscope).
Removal of any embedded ticks should be done carefully to be sure you get the entire tick out. You may wish to wear a pair of disposable gloves or use a paper towel when handling ticks. Using tweezers or special tick removal tool, you want to grip the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out, slowly and firmly without squeezing the body. Do not twist the tweezers when pulling out the tick, do not try to burn the tick with matches, and do not apply anything to the cat’s skin to try to get the tick to “back out,” as none of these methods will work.
Once you get the tick off the cat, place the entire tick in a small amount of rubbing alcohol to kill it. Do not squash the tick with your fingers. The site where the tick was attached will leave a small wound. You may clean your cat’s skin with a disinfectant or apply a dab of triple antibiotic ointment once the tick has been removed, if so desired.
After removing the tick, examine it to make sure you got the head and mouth parts. If not, take pet to veterinarian to remove what's left in the pet's skin.