Cat Ticks and What You Need to Know

Cat at the veterinarian

If you've ever lived in wooded areas or near grassy fields, you've probably had some firsthand experience with unpleasant problems caused by ticks. These tiny parasites commonly hop on humans while they're hiking, camping or otherwise spending time outdoors. Ticks can also be a nuisance for your kitty.

Below, we cover everything you need to know about cat ticks, including how to spot them, how to treat them and how to prevent them.

What Are Cat Ticks?

Ticks are small bugs that live outside and are technically classified as arachnids. They are common in heavily wooded areas, but they can also be found in a manicured backyard. Ticks are divided into two categories: soft ticks and hard ticks. Soft ticks are most commonly found on animals such as birds and bats and aren't likely to attach to cats. Hard ticks look like sunflower seeds and have a hard body.

As parasites, ticks suck the blood from their hosts after biting. Ticks that haven't yet fed are very small. As a tick sucks the blood from its human or animal host, its body gets bigger and bigger and can swell up to the size of a pea. 

Where Can My Cat Get Ticks?

Cats are susceptible to ticks every time they are outside. Ticks can lie in wait on branches, bushes or even blades of grass; they transfer to other animals as they rub up against the foliage. Your cat can also get ticks directly from other animals. For example, if your cat gets outside and ends up encountering a neighbour's cat, that cat might have ticks that then transfer to your cat. Your cat can also get ticks from your other pets or even from you.

What Are Some Signs of Ticks on Cats?

The most common sign of ticks on a cat is visual: catching sight of the ticks themselves. While an unfed tick might be able to hide in your cat's fur, eventually it will swell up to the point that it is easily seen or felt. Ticks on a cat are usually found around the cat's head and neck area, but they can be on any part of the body. 

Ticks can pass diseases to your cat, such as Q fever and ehrlichiosis, a relative of Lyme disease. Some signs that your cat may be ill from either of these include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Lethargy and acting depressed
  • Losing litters
  • Seizures
  • Stomach upset
  • Swollen joints and glands
  • Eye discharge

How Do I Remove a Tick From My Cat?

If you see a tick on your cat, you may be tempted to pull it off with your fingers immediately, but this isn't necessarily the best course of action. Pulling a tick off without the proper tools can result in part of the tick being left behind, which can increase the risk of infection. It's best to take your cat to the vet to have the tick removed, but many pet stores sell tick-removing tools that are effective for most scenarios.

If you choose to use a tick removal tool, wear gloves to protect yourself from any disease the tick may be carrying. You'll also probably want another person to help hold your cat and keep them calm. Follow the instructions given with the tick removal tool, and make sure to get the entire tick out. If the entire tick doesn't come out, take your cat to the vet immediately to have the rest removed.

You may also want to keep the tick in a jar to show the vet so you know what kind of tick it was; such a sample might also help the vet determine if any further treatment is necessary.

How Can I Keep My Cat From Getting Ticks?

When it comes to cat ticks, the best method of treatment is prevention. Keep your cat inside so they can't pick up any ticks from the ground or trees, and keep an eye on yourself and any other pets that go outside to ensure you're not passing ticks to your cats. You can also talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention. In most cases, applying anti-tick formula is as easy as rubbing or spraying it on the back of your cat's neck. Most formulas can be combined with flea treatment for extra convenience.

If you're concerned about your cat getting ticks, talk to your veterinarian about your options. You may be able to adjust your cat's lifestyle by keeping them indoors at all times; if your cat's not particularly cooperating with that plan, consider using a monthly preventative treatment for more peace of mind. 

Browse the Purina Canada Pet Care archives for more information and tips on keeping your cat haappy and healthy.

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