Outdoor cats tend to enjoy taking full advantage of their freedom. They’re natural scavengers and explorers, often finding bushes and grasses to hide in where they’ll wait for their prey. These unfortunately happen to be the places where ticks also like to lie in wait for your cat.
With ticks comes tick treatment, so what’s the best way to protect your cat from ticks? What are the dangers of these parasites? Our team of veterinarians is more than ready to tackle these questions for you.
How to Spot a Tick
Ticks are a problem year-round, which means that there’s a good chance your cat will run into ticks throughout most of the year. These small parasites feed on blood as their main source of food, which also makes their hosts vulnerable to diseases.
These creepy crawlies have actually been around for thousands of years (yuck!) and come from the same family as scorpions, spiders and mites. With just a few millimeters in length, Ixodes Ricinus is the most common tick found on cats in the Netherlands.
Because ticks keep close to the ground and crawl their way up, there’s a good chance your cats will pick them up at some point even from simply rubbing up against a hedge. So how do you recognize a tick in your cat?
- Are shiny and round in shape
- Have mouths that resemble a small head with larger, flattened bodies
The ticks you’ll find in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe are normally grayish-blue, pink, or brownish-purple in color. When a tick first fastens itself onto your cat it’ll appear to be the size of the pinhead. As it feeds itself with blood, it can get as large as a pea.
Lyme Disease, Pets and Humans
In the Netherlands, a bacterial infection that ticks can carry is Lyme disease. The illness can cause serious symptoms in 5 to 10 percent of infected dogs but it’s rare for cats to catch Lyme disease or other illnesses from ticks. Nonetheless, the illness is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world.
If a cat has Lyme disease they may seem lethargic, lose their appetite, suffer skin issues, become lame or have sore and stiff joints. Lyme disease can also affect the kidneys, nervous system and heart. Lots of cats do not display obvious symptoms despite getting infected.
Although ticks do not pose a huge risk for cats, it is still really important for you to protect your cat from ticks. The problem is that as tick carriers, cats can bring these parasitic ticks into your home. Once they’re there, they not only pose a danger to you but also to other pets you may have, especially when you have dogs.
With more than 360,000 human cases of Lyme disease reported in Europe over the past 20 years, ticks can pose a serious risk to your health. Protect your cats from ticks means that you’re also protecting yourself from ticks. Although treatable with antibiotics, left unattended Lyme disease can cause serious long-term issues such as:
- Joint swelling and arthritis
- Neurological problems such as meningitis and Bell’s palsy
Some of these symptoms can flare up weeks, months or even years after an initial infection by a tick.
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Lyme Disease Treatments
The treatment for Lyme disease in cats is typically a course of antibiotics. It may last for at least 4 weeks and, as always, it’s very important to complete the course. Vets may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory.
Antibiotic treatments don’t always completely eliminate the infection. A future kidney infection is always a concern. In the Netherlands, remember that Lyme disease in cats is uncommon. If you are in doubt, consult a vet straight away.
Ticks and Cats
One tick is unlikely to drain your cat of a significant quantity of blood. That doesn’t mean that ticks don’t pose a risk! After all, there’s a danger in numbers and many ticks could cause your cat to become anemic. Although this is not the norm, left unattended this is not impossible. Make sure to protect your cat from getting too many ticks.
Ticks are likely to always be a constant source of irritation. When a cat picks up ticks, they will most typically attach themselves to the face, neck, ears, feet, and legs.
Although ticks are most commonly present during “the tick season,” from March through November, there is no guarantee that a cat might not pick one up during the colder, winter months. Under the right conditions, ticks are able to survive in cold temperatures.
Other Types of Ticks and Diseases
The brown dog tick, known as a house tick or kennel tick, tends to select dogs as its host but it’s not unheard of for the occasional one to choose a cat. These ticks very rarely bite humans but can survive indoors to complete its life cycle.
While the brown dog tick is not known to transmit any diseases to humans, it can carry the organisms responsible for ehrlichiosis and a form of anaplasmosis in dogs and cats.
Ehrlichia can cause a variety of symptoms like:
- Anemia and bleeding episodes
- Lameness, swollen limbs, eye and neurological problems
The most commonly observed clinical signs of anaplasmosis in cats include:
- Lethargy, anorexia, fever and eye abnormalities
The simplest course of action to protect your cat against ticks is to prevent these ticks from spreading diseases in the first place. As a responsible pet owner, you should treat your cat regularly with a product that protects against all types of parasites.
The range of products for cats out there can be somewhat confusing. Holistic products, for example, may have a certain appeal but what you should go for is a product that has evidence-based success in getting the job done.
No product will ever be 100 percent effective. What matters more than anything is to follow all instructions carefully so that the treatments are as effective as they possibly can be. Here are some products that come highly recommended:
Unlike the chewable variety for dogs, Bravecto for cats is a “spot-on” product – meaning it’s a liquid you apply to the skin on the back of the neck. Each treatment lasts for around 3 months. It’s highly effective and will protect against lots of other external parasites, including mites and fleas.
You should apply a single dose of the solution to the skin on the back of the neck by separating fur if necessary.
This is another “spot-on” treatment that comes in liquid form applied to the skin on the back of the neck. Also effective against fleas, it lasts for only around one month. This is an older product, and there is some evidence that many parasites have build up some resistance to it. It thus might be less effective than newer products.
The Seresto cat collar claims to offer up to 8 months of uninterrupted tick and flea prevention. The collars work through contact, so fleas and ticks do not have to bite your cat to die. They have the advantage of being convenient, odorless, and claim to provide longer protection than their “spot-on” rivals.
Checking Your Cat for Ticks
If you want to protect your cat from ticks, you should try to check your cat for ticks regularly. It typically takes around 24 hours after a tick has attached itself to your pet for an infection to take hold.
When you find a tick on your cat the best course of action is to get rid of it straight away. This lessens the danger of it transmitting an illness. It’s equally vital to remove the tick properly so that none of the creature gets left behind on your cat’s body.
You should never pull a tick off by crushing, pulling or squeezing it. That can cause some of the tick’s body parts to get left behind increasing the chance of disease transmission.
As with most fiddly jobs, you need to use the correct tools. Tweezers are a possibility but they can also cause more problems if not used in the right way. There are lots of low-priced, tick removers with hooks available that will do a far better job. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure about the best product to use.
How to Remove Ticks From Your Cat
- Slide your specialist tick-twisting tool under the tick. Get in as close to your cat’s skin as possible. Ensure you get hold of the tick firmly. Twist your tool 2 to 3 times in the same direction.
- Do this until you feel the tick loosening from your cat. It’s important not to pull it at this point. The tick will let go once you’ve twisted sufficiently.
- Gradually lift the tool away as you sense the tick loosen. If you’re using a specialist tool, the tick should stay on the hook.
- Dispose of the tick so that it doesn’t infect anyone else or other pets. Once you’ve removed the tick from your cat, clean the area where the tick had attached itself. Keep an eye on your cat for any signs of illness.
Speak to a Qualified and Experienced Vet Today
If you have worries about any of the symptoms that may be the result of a tick infestation, it’s time to talk to a vet. You may be uncertain or worried about removing ticks yourself. Whatever the issue, one of our highly-qualified team can help.
Do you still have any questions about ticks? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets! There’s always a qualified vet on hand to give you reassurance and advice. Discover more about all our highly competitive pet insurance products too.