Ticks like to bite cats just as they like to bite people. How to get rid of ticks on cats is slightly tricky because a cat's hair can be difficult to part, the ticks embed their mouthparts into the skin like fish hooks, and some cats tend to be wiggly when humans try to intervene with their grooming schedule.
Follow these helpful steps to learn how to remove a tick from your cat successfully.
- Prepare for tick removal
Gather your supplies: latex gloves, cat comb, small tweezers, a jar or plastic bag with rubbing alcohol, and a cotton swab. If possible, enlist another person to help hold the cat while you remove the tick.
- Pat the hair down
Wet the cat's hair a bit with rubbing alcohol or water so it can be patted down or parted for better visualization of the tick. Hold the hair back with one hand so you can see it clearly. Know your limits, though: If the tick is in the cat's ear, particularly deep into the ear canal, you may need to take your cat to the vet for removal.
- Remove the tick
With a gloved hand, use the tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it out firmly without twisting. Avoid quick, jerking movements. You want a slow, methodical pull. Check the tick to make sure you've gotten all of it out of your cat's skin. Ticks can be harder to remove than you might think, and the cat may get tense at this stage.
Sometimes, a tick might break in half during removal, leaving its mouthparts still in the skin of your cat. This is not uncommon. If there is enough of the mouthparts that are still seen and can be grasped by the tweezers, go ahead and try to pull the remaining part out. If this is not the case, or if a good grasp cannot be had, it is best to leave the area alone and let the body work the mouthparts out on its own, just as a splinter does in human skin.
Simply wash the area with warm soapy water and keep an eye on it to make sure it is healing and not becoming red or inflamed. Continual prodding of the area with tweezers, may not only be painful for the cat, it could push the mouth parts further into the skin, causing irritation and potential infection.
Even if the tick is gone, your cat might not be in the clear. Ticks can leave organisms behind in the cat that can make them sick. In the following days and weeks, look for signs of lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the ears and white parts of the eyes), lack of appetite, or heavy breathing. Alert your vet if you observe any of these.
- Save the tick
Rather than dispose of the tick, place it on a piece of paper, covered with clear tape. Take the paper with the tick to the vet for helpful identification. You can also put the tick in the rubbing alcohol so that it dies.
- Treat your cat
Give your cat a treat for being such a good patient!
No one wants to remove ticks from their pet's skin. Avoiding discomfort for your pet and for you is the ideal scenario, so help avoid the situation by using a preventive tick product.