Lice in Cats: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
When it comes to reasons why your cat may have an itch that they can’t scratch, lice are the less common explanation than ticks or fleas. However, they are a possibility, nevertheless. While they cannot be transferred between different species, if your cat does get an infestation, this can lead to other issues such as tapeworms and other complications.
Lice on cats are different to lice on people, but the type of irritation that they cause is similar by chewing on the skin or sucking blood. Cats often bite or scratch the areas that have been affected, which can be various spots all over the body including the head, shoulders, and groin. So, in this guide, we are going to look at the subject of lice in cats in greater detail to help you diagnose the problem and get treating it in the best way that you can.
Cat Lice vs Fleas
Some people think that fleas and lice are interchangeable, but there are some differences that are worth discussing. What they have in common is that they are both parasites that live off their host, but they are totally different in color. Fleas are black and lice are white. If your cat has been infested with fleas, you will often see jumping black dots, but if lice are the issue, they will appear white and still. It is often the eggs that you see first, which are sticky pale dots that form in the hair near the skin. Lice may resemble grains of rice when you see them around your cat’s coat and on their skin. Fleas are around three times bigger than lice too. There are also more health complications associated with fleas, but this doesn’t mean that you should leave a lice problem to fester.
How Do Cats Get Lice?
Cantryin cats get lice? The short answer is yes. Fleas are much easier to pass on as they jump from one host to another, but lice tend to stay close to a cat’s skin, only dropping off when they die. So, direct physical contact with another cat is the main way of passing them on. This often happens from a mother to her children. Sometimes, they may transfer if cats are in very close proximity to one another. For example, if they share the same bed. Another possible way that they can transfer between cats is on grooming tools that have not been washed properly. These can include scissors, brushes, or bed combs. They may also be left on cat furniture such as scratching posts and bedding.
Can Cat Get Lice from Humans?
Lice cannot pass between humans and cats as the ones that live on felines cannot live on human beings and vice-versa. So, if your child suddenly gets a case of headlice, it’s not the fault of your kitty cat! This means that you can still get close to your cat to give them cuddles and reassurance when they are suffering and going through treatment.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Lice in Cats
How do you know if your cat is suffering from a case of lice? It can be more difficult to identify if your cat has lice as they tend to not cause the same level of irritation as fleas.
Well, you will often notice that your cat is biting or scratching at their fur more than usual. They may appear to be in some sort of discomfort like they have an itch that they just can’t seem to scratch. Sometimes, cats will experience hair loss or fur matting as they overgroom themselves in an attempt to get rid of the problem. If your cat is looking particularly unkempt and/or they are starting to get bald patches on their fur, the alarm bells should start ringing.
You can spot lice by parting your cat’s cur and looking for mature lice or their eggs. As long as you have decent eyesight, you can often spot them quite easily. Check the common problem areas more carefully such as around their tail, groin, head, and shoulders.
You may be able to see them moving through your cat’s fur. They appear around the size of a sesame seed with an oval-shaped body. But it is often the case that you can spot the sticky white eggs. You can try combing out some of the lice onto a dark surface to see whether or not they move around. Your vet will be able to provide confirmation and suggest the best treatment options for you to take. There are different types of lice which may require a range of treatment. These can be broadly categorizied into chewing or sucking lice. Of course, your vet will be best placed to tell you which type of infestation your car is suffering from.
Causes of Lice in Cats
Knowing the main causes of lice can help you to prevent the problem from arising in the first place. Sometimes, it can be down to your cat living in conditions that can be described as unsanitary or unhygienic. It may be that your cat is unable to groom themselves. Perhaps an illness or injury is preventing this. As we have discussed earlier, cats transfer lice between one another, so it may be that your kitty has been in close proximity to other felines recently. Or it may even be that your cat has been in contact with the things of another cat. For example, their scratching post or grooming equipment.
Treatment of Lice in Cats
Once the diagnosis has been made, treating lice in cats is usually not all that complicated. Your vet may have different suggestions of cat lice treatment, so it is important that you listen to all treatment options and act accordingly. Follow all instructions provided as closely as possible to give yourself the best chance of sorting out the issue.
Isolate Your Cat
Isolation of your cat may be required if you have multiple cats living in your house or you allow your kitty to go outdoors and they may spread the parasites onto other felines in the neighborhood. If you isolate your cat, this also helps to reduce the amount of cleaning up that is required to get rid of the lice.
It may be that your vet suggests an insecticide treatment for your feline, which could include a medicated wash or shampoo. It is worth getting your vet’s recommendation before purchase as some store-bought treatments can be toxic to humans and animals. One of the common treatments contains fipronil, which interferes with an insect transmitter that is not present in humans or animals. Another one contains selamectin.
If you have been directed to apply the topological treatment yourself, you need to choose a place where your cat is not going to able to lick it off. The back of your cat’s neck is a common spot. You should be applying it on the skin rather than the fur. You will need to leave it to dry for a period of hours to reduce the risk of wiping it off.
As well as treating the problem directly on your feline, you may also be looking for a product that gets rid of any lice that are lingering around the home. Sprays and powders are a couple of common examples of these types of product. You will want to treat any affected areas such as the bedding that your cat has been sleeping in. You can either dispose of these things entirely or wash them with hot water and soap, as well as vacuuming around the place thoroughly. You will also need to disinfect any grooming tools and litter boxes. Steam cleaning may also be required, so you might want to enlist the help of professional cleaners to make sure that a good job is done.
Use a Fine-Toothed Comb
A drug-free way of cat or kitten lice treatment is by using a fine-toothed comb. However, this is an approach that takes a great deal of patience. You need to comb every inch of your cat’s fur as it is all too easy to miss a bit, which will lead to the lice spreading all over again. You need to think in hours rather than minutes, and you also need to think about whether your cat is going to accept sitting still for such a long period of time. You should take a methodical approach, starting at your cat’s head and working your way down towards their tail. It may help to have someone else assisting you who can distract your cat and hold them when necessary.
Shave Your Cat’s Fur
Shaving your cat’s fur is usually only necessary in extreme situations when your cat’s fur has become badly matted, but again, you should take your vet’s lead on whether or not you need to take this action. You may just be able to trim the worse areas to help things get back to normal.
Potential Complications of a Lice Infestation
Without proper treatment, further issues can occur as a result of a lice infestation. First, there are secondary skin infections, which means that your cat scratches themselves into getting cuts and sores. These open wounds can become magnets for bacteria and germs. There is the potential for serious matting that we have discussed earlier, but your cat’s skin can also get into bad condition, gradually darkening and thickening.
Another issue that can arise is the risk of the lice spreading, which can be very difficult to prevent. There are anti-lice collars available for purchase which can help to stop the parasites from passing from feline to feline. At the moment, there are currently no vaccines or repellants that have been created to stop the spread of these pests. However, despite your best efforts, it may be impossible to stop lice from spreading from one cat to another, so expect to have all your cats treated at once to eliminate the problem once and for all.
Recovery from a Lice Infestation
You should schedule a follow-up appointment with your vet to ensure that the treatment is working and there are no negative reactions in your feline. A thorough cleaning of your home will prevent your cat from getting reinfested. Thankfully, once you have disinfected your had and cleansed your home, it is very unlikely that the issue is going to reoccur. Continue to maintain your cat’s conditions, feeding them a healthy and balanced diet.
If your cat is unable to groom themselves properly, it is important that you help out by brushing their fur regularly. You should remove any tangles before combing as the mats are where problems can arise. If the knots won’t shift, you may be able to snip them out with scissors, but you should be especially careful not to nick or cut your cat’s sensitive skin. You might even have to start giving your cat baths – though they may not enjoy it very much! If you don’t think that you can take care of these jobs yourself, you could enlist the help of a professional groomer.
During the treatment and afterwards, you can continue giving your cat plenty of TLC, safe in the knowledge that they cannot transfer their lice infestation over to you.
While lice infestation may not be all that common amongst cats, it is still important what you watch out for the common signs and take action quickly if you notice anything amiss. Not only could they be irritating to your cat, but they could also cause secondary diseases. They could also spread amongst other cats. Your vet is the best port of call to help manage a lice infestation, so get the problem treated as soon as possible. The only thing to do after that is to take all steps possible to prevent this from becoming an issue in the future.