“My cat is an indoor-only cat, so I don’t need to worry about ticks.”
While we would all like to think that an indoor-only cat isn’t susceptible to ticks, the fact is that just like other creatures, cats can also pick up ticks.
Why Worry About Ticks?
There are over 800 species of ticks worldwide and at least 15 species of ticks in North America. Of those 15, your cat is only likely to come into contact with a few of these species, including the American Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, Deer (or Blacklegged) Tick, and the Brown Dog Tick. Although ticks are most common in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, it’s not uncommon to find them in winter months as well since they can be active when the ground is above freezing. It’s one of the reasons we recommend year-round flea and tick preventatives.
Ticks are also fantastic disease carriers and can pose a serious risk to cats, dogs, and humans alike. The most common and well known is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that, if left untreated, can lead to joint damage, kidney failure, neurological issues, and cardiac complications.
In addition are hemobartonellosis, cytauxzoonosis, and tularemia. All can cause anemia, fever, lethargy, and other serious complications that can sometimes be fatal.
How Would My Indoor-Only Cat Get Ticks?
Ticks hold on to the tips of grass and shrubs, waiting for a potential host to walk by. When one does, such as a dog, other cat, bird, or human, the tick will let go and climb onto the host. Ticks cannot fly or jump, only crawl.
If you have dogs, children, or adults in your household that travel outside and spend any amount of time in the grass, you could accidentally bring ticks into the house where they could unfortunately find a host in your cat.
But My Cat Grooms Itself
Cats are fastidious groomers, but if you’ve ever tried to remove a tick that’s latched on, you understand just how difficult it can be sometimes to get all the pieces removed safely. Just because a cat grooms itself does not mean it’ll be able to remove a tick that’s latched on.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the infectious agents such as Lyme Disease, hemobartonellosis, and others can be contracted by simply handling infected ticks. If your cat was to groom and remove an infected tick, it’s still likely that they’ll contract whatever disease(s) the tick was carrying.
How Do I Remove a Tick?
If you find a tick on yourself, children, or pets, use a fine tipped tweezers and disposable gloves to handle the tick. If you must use your fingers, try to shield them with a tissue or paper towel as to not come into contact with the tick directly.
Grasp the tick with your tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible to reduce the possibility of the head detaching from the body. If the mouth parts break off and remain in the skin, this will increase the chance of infection.
Once you’ve got the tick grasped, pull the tick straight out with even, steady pressure. If the tick does not release immediately, continue to use steady pressure to loosen and remove the tick. Once removed, disinfect the bite area and wash your hands.
We recommend preserving the tick if possible so that it can be referenced in the event you or your pet starts to feel ill or shows symptoms of diseases the tick may possibly have carried. You can do so by putting the tick in a container of rubbing alcohol or taping it to an index card. Note down the date, time, and place where the tick bite occurred and where you removed it from. All of these details can help doctors and veterinarians quickly diagnose and treat potential diseases.
Never use a home remedy such as petroleum jelly or a hot match to remove the tick. Doing so can cause the tick to salivate even more and increase the chance of you or your pet getting a disease.
How Do I Protect My Cat?
To protect your feline friends from fleas, ticks, ear mites, heart worm disease, and intestinal parasites (round worms and hook worms), Dr. Shea recommends Revolution Plus. Never use flea and tick products intended for dogs on your cat. This can be toxic and fatal to your cat. If you have questions about parasites and products and how to best care for your feline family members, please contact us and we will be able to help!