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Managing Ticks on Cats

You should check your cats regularly for ticks, especially if they go outside often. Tick season in the UK is between March and October but, if the winter is not severe, you should actually check for ticks on cats throughout the year. Here you can learn about removing a tick from a cat and steps you can take to prevent ticks on cats.

How do cats get ticks?

Many people associate ticks mainly with dogs because they often take walks in wooded areas. Unfortunately it is not uncommon to find a tick on your cat and they can even get them while walking around in your own backyard.

So it’s not surprising for a cat that goes outside to come home with a tick now and then. You should check for ticks once it is warmer than 7 degrees outside because this is when ticks become active.

Before feeding, ticks are so small that you usually can’t see them with the naked eye and this is why checking for ticks in your garden is pointless. A tick is only visible once it attaches itself to an animal and is filled with blood.

How to check for ticks on cats?

During the season when ticks are active, you should preferably check for ticks daily. Obviously this task is a bit easier with a friendly cat than with one that doesn’t like being touched. It is probably even more important to check cats that don’t enjoy being handled daily for ticks because you are less likely to see or feel a tick while petting them.

Ticks like to settle in the warmest parts of the body so you definitely need to check your cat’s armpits, belly, ears, groin area, paws, toes, neck and underneath their tail. Follow these steps:

  • Pet your cat to feel if there are any irregularities on their skin
  • Look whether you can see any movement in their fur
  • Be careful not to accidentally break a tick in two, leaving its head under the skin

You could always combine grooming and checking for ticks by intentionally looking out for ticks while you are brushing your cat. You should be familiar enough with your cat’s skin to know when a bump is not necessarily a tick bite.

If you are not sure what to look out for, search the internet for images of ticks on cats.

Why removing a tick from a cat is important

A tick is a parasite that settles on your cat's skin and then sucks itself full of blood. Not only will this annoy your cat, but it could cause skin irritations and even anaemia in the case of a severe tick infestation.

The consequences could be even more serious if the tick is carrying an infectious disease. Ticks attach themselves to a variety of animals and can carry infections for one host to the next. As soon as your cat is bitten by an infected tick it is at risk of contracting the infectious disease.

This is why it is important to remove ticks on cats as soon as possible because infections can be transmitted very quickly.

As with humans, the most common tick-borne infection in the UK is Lyme disease. Consider this possibility if your cat has any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Signs of pain and stiffness

Contact your vet right away if your cat shows any of these symptoms. Also keep in mind that your cat could develop these symptoms days after you have removed a tick.

Removing a tick from a cat

You should always use a special tick removal tool for removing a tick from a cat. There is a good chance that you will not remove the whole tick if you use normal tweezers and this could have serious consequences.

Follow these steps for removing a tick from a cat:

  • Clear the area around the tick by holding the surrounding hair to one side
  • Grab the tick with the tick removal tweezers as close to the skin as possible and turn the tweezers until the tick pulls away from the skin
  • Check that the whole tick has been removed, in other words, that its head is no longer under the skin
  • Clean the area with water. Don’t use alcohol because this could irritate your cat’s skin.

When you are done, disinfect the tweezers with boiling water. Make sure that you dispose of the tick properly, like in a tightly closed container or between two pieces of tape.

How to prevent ticks on cats

It is better to prevent ticks than having to remove them. There are various products on the market that help to prevent ticks on cats, including collars, tablets and drops you put on their neck.

Even if you are using these products you should still check your cat regularly for ticks because they are not 100% guaranteed to keep ticks off your pet.

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