Recognize parasites in cats
Small, unpleasant and annoying: This is the name given almost everywhere to the small organisms that infest our four-legged friends and live off them. Parasites sit in the grass, soil, on feces and carrion and are happy when your velvet paw crosses their path during the daily outdoor walk: Because it is not only a readily accepted means of transport, but also a tasty food source. We explain to you which parasites there are, how you can recognize them and what you can do to prevent them.
What cat parasites are there?
Does your outdoor cat also like to roam through the tall grass or hunt in the undergrowth? There are possibly external parasites (ectoparasites) lurking on your velvet paw, which attach themselves to your darling from the outside and suck blood. If she would like to consume her hunted prey with relish, internal parasites (endoparasites) can make her life difficult.
By the way, even pure house cats are not protected from an infestation. If he lives together with a dog, this can transmit the small pests. You may even bring parasites into the house yourself: if you step unnoticed into feces or come across carrion residues during a walk in the woods, you may subsequently transport eggs or larvae home.
These little pests live in your pet's fur or skin, where they feed on dander and blood. These external parasites can occur in cats.
These little arachnids settle in the fur, skin or on external sensory organs where they feed on dander or blood. They come in different shapes and colors. We explain to you which mites infest the velvet paws and what they trigger:
- Ear mites: Only with a magnifying glass you can see these whitish and lively crawlers in the ear of your cat. There, they cause painful inflammation of your furry cat's external ear canal. Infected cats often shake their heads and brush their ears more often, and small brown crumbs form inside the ears.
- Notoedres mites: They burrow superficially into the cat's skin. They prefer to move on the head, near the ears. The small bloodsuckers can survive in the environment for several weeks even without their host. Therefore, they can be transmitted even without direct contact with an infected cat. This mite causes hair loss, dandruff and severe itching. In the worst case, an infection can even be fatal if left untreated.
- Fur mites: The small "wandering scales" with their size of maximum 0.5 mm are well hidden in the fur of the cat. With your velvet paw the small biters cause strong itching. Only rarely do skin changes occur, which are then most likely to be seen on the neck and back.
- Grass mites: Grass mites infest cats between early and late summer. They sit on blades of grass and settle from there especially on the paws, legs and belly of the little tigers and lead to itching and skin crusting on the affected areas. Since the grass mite has an orange coloring, however, you can see them with the naked eye and treat your velvet paw early.
- Hair follicle mites: They live permanently in the hair follicles of many cats. However, unlike dogs, they rarely cause a local infection of the skin (demodicosis). Affected by this disease, which causes localized hair loss, are usually only immunocompromised animals. If the immune system is strengthened, the demodicosis heals on its own.
Our tip: It is best to drive to the vet and have a possible mite infestation clarified if
- your cat scratches frequently,
- shakes his head more often,
- you notice incrustations on the skin
- or even if you notice inflammatory skin reactions.
Even though many cat owners prefer natural remedies against mites (e.g. with home remedies such as lemon juice or coconut oil), a spot-on preparation is usually recommended by the doctor. If you keep more than one cat, at best you apply it to all animals and clean your apartment with an environmental spray. So you can exclude a further infection at best.
Whether wood tick, tick or the brown dog tick - they sit in the grass and infest our velvet paws from there. You will find the little pests especially often between spring and fall, but even in mild winter temperatures they are up to their mischief and suck themselves into the skin of your four-legged friend. However, cats are less susceptible to diseases that ticks often transmit to dogs, such as Lyme disease, bartonellosis, tularemia or babiosis.
If your pet does get sick, the symptoms will be mild or non-existent.
Our tip: Ticks use cats as intermediate hosts, among other things, and can possibly jump over to you. If it bites into you, it can transmit one of the diseases mentioned or even early summer meningoencephalitis (FSME) to you. It's best to inspect your cat's coat carefully after each outdoor adventure.
These small wingless bloodsuckers are widespread throughout the world and infest mainly outdoor animals. The dog flea, cat flea and hedgehog flea are particularly common in the fur of your four-legged friend. Although fleas are active all year round, they have their peak season in late summer and autumn. Fleas lay their eggs loosely in the cat's fur, these then fall into the home environment and grow into larvae, pupae and eventually adult fleas. This can take anywhere from one to five months, depending on the environment and temperature. If your velvet paw is infested, the following symptoms will show up:
- increased frantic grooming
- frequent scratching
- skin crusting
- anemia (lack of blood)
Some cats are also allergic to flea saliva, which leads to inflammation of the skin.
What to do if you suspect fleas on your cat:
First, use a flea comb and gently brush out the fur. If you find flea excrement, place it on a fleece paper or kitchen paper and sprinkle it with water: If it turns red, this confirms the flea infestation. Now it is off to the vet! There, your velvet paw will be treated with a spot-on preparation, which is usually applied to the back of the neck three to four times a month. If the flea infestation is very severe, he will also prescribe tablets that kill all adult fleas directly. Natural alternatives, which some dog owners prefer, are homemade or flea sprays made from natural substances, containing, for example, tea tree oil, lemon juice or vinegar, which are regularly sprayed on the coat or the surrounding area.
Our tip: Vacuum your home and the upholstered furniture thoroughly every day. This will remove all larvae and eggs that are lying around. Environmental sprays interrupt the development of the larvae and protect the rooms and your furniture additionally up to 6 months against renewed infestation.
If your cat likes to roam around in tall grasses and undergrowth, he may have encountered these small wingless insects. Only 1.3 mm in size, the biting louse lives up to its name: it lives in the cat's fur, feeding on dander and sticking its eggs in the hair. As with a flea infestation, your cat will preen nervously, scratch more, and possibly suffer from inflammatory changes in the skin. Spot-on treatment will cause the hair lice to die. To ensure that no eggs or larvae remain in the fur, apply the spot-on preparation for several months at best.
Our tip: Hair lice are very host-specific. They only very rarely jump from a mouse or another typical prey animal of cats to your velvet paw, but are quickly transmitted among conspecifics. If you live with several cats, it is therefore advisable to separate the infected animal from the others and to treat all the house cats with a spot-on as a preventive measure. Here, too, some cat owners swear by natural preparations or home remedies, e.g. a mixture of vinegar and water or black cumin oil.
These parasites live in secret: In the internal organs of cats, they feed on mucous membranes and the stomach or intestinal contents and eagerly lay their eggs. The larvae that hatch from these eggs re-enter the environment through the feces of their host and from there infest other animals. This is how they preserve their species. We explain to you which pests can infect your velvet paw and where they settle:
Resistant and persistent, these single-celled parasites adhere to the intestinal wall and villi, where they feed on the intestinal contents and multiply at lightning speed. In their active phase, they feed and divide. This is how they guarantee their survival millions of times over. The giardia then form a protective shell and, after being excreted in the feces, can survive in the air for weeks waiting for a new host. Cats ingest the small pests via infected feces. But even if they sniff conspecifics extensively, the parasites can be transferred from an infected host. If a cat is infested with giardia, symptoms may vary: However, they are usually more intense in immunocompromised cats, senior cats and kittens. Common symptoms include:
- dull and lackluster coat
- Loss of appetite
- Dehydration (dehydration)
You don't see them, yet they lurk outdoors and infest cats as they explore the grounds. Once they have found a host, they jump from it to other animals. So cats not only become infected through infected droppings or hunted prey, but adopt some worm species while peacefully sniffing conspecifics or defending their territory against them. These are the most common worm species in velvet paws:
- Roundworms: They reach a length of up to 20 cm. Your cat ingests them through infected feces when it sniffs them.
- Hookworms: The small pests, only about 1.5 cm long, make their way through the skin of your cat, for example, when it rolls in infected prey or cuddles and romps with other cats.
- Tapeworms: The cucumber nematode tapeworm is most common in cats. If your velvet paw swallows infected fleas, the worms enter the digestive system. Fox tapeworms and cat tapeworms also infest the little tigers. They grow up to 60 cm long and are transmitted via intermediate hosts such as mice.
- Lungworms: They use snails as intermediate hosts, infecting foraging birds and mice, which then serve as transport hosts: If your cat kills an infected mouse or bird, the worm jumps to it.
Rarely, these worms can also infect your pet:
- Heartworms: this small parasite is mainly found in the Mediterranean region and is transmitted by certain types of mosquitoes.
- Bladder worms: They belong to the group of hair worms and grow up to 6 cm long. In infected animals, they attach themselves to the urinary tract, where they lay eggs that are then excreted in the host's urine.
Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms usually cause these symptoms in cats:
- bloated abdomen
- dull coat
- increased defecation
- diarrhea (also mixed with blood)
- weight loss
Our tip: If lungworms infect your cat, the symptoms are similar to those of cat cold. Thus, a nasal and eye discharge often develops, your cat sneezes more often or, in the worst case, suffers from respiratory distress. Therefore, it is better to have these symptoms clarified by a veterinarian.
How to treat parasites in cats?
If a parasite has taken up residence and you do not yet have sufficient experience yourself, it is best to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- External parasites are usually treated with spot-on preparations. Prophylactically, you can also use special collars that contain a chemical substance that repels insects such as fleas, ticks and mites and prevents them from biting into the skin. Some home remedies, such as coconut oil, which contains lauric acid, which the pesky little animals do not like, are also considered natural defense against ticks and co.
Our tip: Spot-on preparations can also be used preventively. However, this is only advisable to a limited extent, as the worst case scenario is that the preparation is absorbed by other dogs during mutual grooming. Your veterinarian can advise you here in detail.
- For internal parasites, the veterinarian usually prescribes worming treatments. These can be fed as tablets or paste and kill the worms in the organs, which are then excreted in the feces. If you want to prevent a worm infestation, deworm your outdoor cat at best every 3 months. Alternatively, you can also have fecal samples examined four times a year and thus only selectively deworm. In this way, you avoid possibly unnecessarily administered chemical medications.
Our tip: Even pure house cats can be infested with worms. Therefore, submit the feces of your indoor cat to the vet twice a year at best. This way, you can selectively deworm if the result of the sample is positive. Some cat owners also like to use natural cat snacks that are prepared with certain herbs and food additives to eliminate internal parasites and promote intestinal health.
Do cat parasites spread to humans?
Some parasites that infest your cat can jump to us humans, such as fleas or ticks. Other ectoparasites, such as hair lice and mites, are more host-specific and do not usually seek out the cat owner. Only the grass mite also attacks humans and causes an itchy rash.
Some endoparasites pose a risk to humans:
If their eggs enter the human digestive system, the hatched larvae do not develop further into worms in the "offending host", but they feed into surrounding organs and infect humans with toxocarosis. In the process, the human exhibits different symptoms depending on which organs are affected. They range from loss of appetite and abdominal pain to bronchitis, skin rashes, seizures or, in the worst case, loss of vision.
They often enter the human organism through the skin. In most cases, they cause a rash. If they penetrate into further organs, different symptoms can be the result. Only very rarely do they enter the human digestive system, where they promote intestinal inflammation.
- Fox tapeworm
You should really be careful of this tapeworm: If a cat owner ingests fox tapeworm eggs orally, the hatching larvae cause extensive damage to the organs. They mainly settle in the liver and lungs, where they bore innumerable tube-like holes. In order for a cure to be possible, it is essential that the fox tapeworm be detected in time.
Although giardia can also be transmitted to humans, they rarely cause problems. Immunocompromised persons and chronically ill persons may experience more frequent symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract.
Conclusion: Even with preventive measures, you cannot always counteract a parasite infestation. However, if you treat it early on, you can get the little pests under control and, at best, prevent serious infectious diseases. Adequate hygiene also helps: wash your hands regularly and use environmental sprays to prevent the spread of the pesky little creatures.