How to protect your cat from nasty parasites

September 11, 2023

Do you let your cat wander outdoors? If so, there’s a very high probability that they’ll bring back tiny stowaways capable of ruining their life—and, indirectly, yours.

What are the most common cat parasites?

Hands down, of all the parasites that can affect your cat, the one you should fear the most is ctenocephalides felis. An infestation of fleas is no walk in the park and can be equally irritating for you and your cat.

In the same category of external parasites, second place goes—without a doubt—to otodectes cynotis—a repugnant, tiny crab-like bug that can surreptitiously and painfully take up lodgings in your poor feline’s ears.

And let’s not forget the increasingly common threat from dreaded ticks and the worrying presence of mites, such as demodex and cheyletiella which target both your little companion … and you!

It would be bad enough if we only had to worry about these external parasites. Alas, we must also consider internal parasites, too small for our naked eyes to see, which reside deep inside our cats. At least 10 varieties can be found in your cat’s intestines, including the unsavory round worm and the well-known flatworm, frequently referred to as tapeworm. And let’s not forget heartworms which are now also a danger for cats.

How do I know if my cat has parasites?

Cats are clever at hiding pain and discomfort, which helps explain why it can be so hard to identify symptoms caused by the presence of these minute invasive species.

When it comes to external parasites like fleas and body mites, the most common sign of infection is excessive licking—frequently of the abdomen or rump. With ear mites, you may observe recurring, frenetic scratching of the ears and back paws.

With internal parasites, depending on the type, your cat’s symptoms may be related to the digestive system—for instance, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include anemia, loss of weight, lethargy and even pulmonary-related complications.

How can I help my cat stay safe from parasites? 

Frequent brushing and petting are no doubt the most pleasant ways of identifying the presence of external parasites on your cat. Both will help alert you to loss of fur, red spots, bumps and skin irritations which may be an allergic reaction to parasites or the sign of a secondary bacterial infection.

Concerning fleas: the presence of flea feces (small black specks in your cat’s fur) is the best indicator of trouble. Fleas travel quickly and are more likely to be found around your cat than actually on your cat.

The presence of brownish crusting on the inside of your cat’s ears can indicate the presence of mites.

Frequent examination of your cat’s stools in their litter box can help identify certain types of internal parasites. However, the best way to identify these and ear mites is through microscopic analysis.

How to treat parasites? 

Treatment protocols vary depending on the type of parasite.

In the past, it took a specific medication to eliminate each parasite. These days, a wide range of products are available for cutaneous application, in liquid and pill format, to be administered orally or by injection, for the rapid relief and—importantly—the prevention of an eventual infestation of numerous parasites at the same time.

Nevertheless, each medication has a specific mode of action and it’s essential to consult your veterinarian before beginning a treatment. And even though products are increasingly safe and effective, remember that certain substances can be toxic for cats. Always proceed with caution.

How to avoid these inconveniences? 

Keeping your cat indoors is, of course, the most effective preventive measure. Barring this, it’s critical to seek your veterinarian’s advice and to start a preventive medication in spring—or even all year long if your cat goes out during the winter!


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