Ticks are not just a dog concern. Your cat can encounter ticks when venturing outdoors. And even indoor-only cats can come into contact with ticks brought inside by people or other pets.
Once a tick manages to pierce your cat’s skin and attach, it can feed on your cat’s blood for several days, potentially transmitting diseases in the process. While cats are known for their cleanliness, even a serious grooming session isn’t likely to dislodge an attached tick.
What’s more, ticks are on the move, expanding their reach into more areas of the country. Take the Lone Star tick, a tick that can transmit diseases to cats. Once considered to live mainly in the south, the Lone Star tick is increasingly found in the Midwestern and Eastern sections of the United States. So it’s becoming increasingly important to learn how to prevent ticks on cats.
Major tick threat: Cytauxzoonosis
Because tick bites do not generally hurt, your cat may not show any obvious signs of ticks. So why the focus on how to treat ticks on cats? Because just one bite from the wrong tick can infect your cat with a fatal disease called “cytauxzoonosis.” Transmitted by the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick, cytauxzoonosis is a cat-specific infection caused by the organism Cytauxzoon felis.
Symptoms of cytauxzoonosis include severe fever, lethargy, anorexia, difficulty breathing and jaundice. Severe illness involving multiple organ systems can progress into coma and death. Cats can survive with treatment, but even with aggressive medical care, cytauxzoonosis is usually fatal and can kill cats within one week of the first symptoms.1
Cats also are at risk from other tick-related issues. If your cat experiences a large tick infestation, anemia (too few red blood cells) could result. Cats can be temporarily paralyzed from a toxin some ticks release through their salivary glands. Ehrlichiosis is a tick-transmitted disease that’s more common in dogs than cats, but cats are not immune to it. Lyme disease is a condition caused by ticks that affects dogs but is unlikely to affect cats.
How to help prevent ticks on cats
Ticks can be scary. So what’s a pet owner to do? Veterinarians recommend tick control for cats. Use of a tick-prevention product is important for all cats that might be even occasionally exposed to ticks.
We suggest using a feline tick-prevention product that kills and repels ticks, such as Seresto®. Seresto® for cats kills and repels ticks for eight months. If a tick is repelled, it cannot bite and transmit diseases like cytauxzoonosis.
1. Bondy PJ, Cohn LA, Kerl ME. (2005). Feline Cytauxzoonosis. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet. 27(1):69-75.