Cats are not just pets. They are treated like members of the family. And like any member of your family, it’simportant to keep your companion animal healthy and free of parasites. Monitoring for any changes in behavior, appetite, or water consumption and regular visits to your veterinarian are important to the care and well-being of your cat. Your veterinarian can accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites and other health problems that not only affect your cat, but also the safety of you and your family. It is fairly common for a cat to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point in its lifetime. Parasites can affect your dog in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to causing life-threatening conditions if left untreated. Some parasites can infect and transmit diseases to people. By following our recommendations and having your pet tested for parasites annually, you can protect your cat and your family from potentially harmful parasites all year long. Click on the parasite below for information on the signs they cause in pets, where they are located, how they affect your cat, the health risks to people, and prevention tips.

Fleas on catsFleas are the most common external parasite found on cats. (Parasites are “freeloaders” that live in or on another creature.) Although fleas are more likely to be a problem during warm-weather months, they can also cause problems during cooler seasons due to their ability to continue their life cycle indoors.

How will fleas affect my cat?

You will probably first notice the effects of fleas when your cat repeatedly nibbles at and licks its hair coat and skin. On occasion you may actually see tiny brown fleas moving quickly through your cat’s hair coat. Cats are very skilled groomers, however, and may remove fleas so well that you do not see them. Your cat’s constant nibbling and licking may lead to noticeable patches of hair loss, tiny crusts (called military dermatitis by your veterinarian), and reddened, irritated skin. Fleas may also cause skin allergies and can transmit other parasites, such as tapeworms, to your cat.

How do I check my cat for fleas?

Adult fleas are usually more difficult to find on cats than on dogs. One of the best methods for checking your cat for fleas is to look for flea dirt (actually flea feces) in your cat’s hair coat. To check for flea dirt, briskly comb or rub a section of the hair on your cats back while your cat is sitting or lying on a white piece of paper. If your cat has fleas, black flecks that look like dirt (as a result, we use the term “flea dirt) will fall onto the paper. If you transfer these black flecks to a damp piece of paper, in a short time they will appear red or rust-colored. The red color results because blood sucked from your cat is passed in the flea’s waste matter. If the dirt specks do not turn red, then they are probably “regular” dirt. Flea dirt on a moistened piece of paper.

How do I prevent my cat from getting fleas?

Indoors: To control fleas, you must stop them from reproducing. We recommend a monthly flea preventative such as Frontline or Revolution that is applied to your cat’s skin. Ask us about which product will best suit your cat’s situation. Carpets, pet bedding, furniture, and other indoor areas where your cat spends much time will contain the highest number of developing fleas. Frequent vacuuming of these areas and frequent washing of pet bedding can greatly reduce the number of developing fleas inside your home.



Outdoors: Fleas also develop in shady, protected outdoor areas, although the outdoor areas are usually of less concern to pet owners who only have cats and do not have dogs. Most flea problems can be managed by treating and preventing fleas right on your cat by using Frontline Plus or Revolution that is applied to your cat’s skin. Ask us about which product will best suit your cat’s situation. Remember that dogs and cats can share fleas, so be sure that dogs in your house are treated, too. It is important to remember that flea problems may be different from pet to pet or between households, and each problem may require a special method of control.

Steps to Take: See your veterinarian for advice on your specific situation. Your veterinarian can recommend safe and effective products for controlling fleas and can determine exactly what you need. Your veterinarian can also determine whether you should consult with a pest control specialist about treating your home and yard.

Ticks on cats

Ticks are a common pest for animals that are outside for any period of time and are found throughout theUnited States. Tick species tend to vary in different geographic regions so check with your veterinarian about the common tick in your area. Typically, ticks are most prevalent during the warmer months, with peaks in the spring and fall, but this may vary depending on the tick species in question. Environmental conditions may extend the peak season.

Ticks bury their heads in the skin of your cat and gorge themselves on blood, causing mild irritation; however, ticks may also carry several debilitating diseases that pose a serious threat to animals and humans.

How will ticks affect my cat?

Ticks rarely cause clinical signs unless a disease has been transmitted. Symptoms of infection may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or depression

How do I prevent my cat from getting ticks?

We recommend a monthly tick preventative such as Frontline Plus that is applied to your cat’s skin. Most ticks, approximately the size of a pinhead prior to feeding, are not spotted until they become engorged with your cat’s blood. Regardless of how long the tick has been feeding on your pet, you should remove it immediately with tweezers while wearing gloves. Any contact with the tick’s blood can transmit infection. Ask your veterinarian for proper tick removal methods because simply pulling the tick off of your animal can leave the mouth, head, or other body parts attached to your cat.

If you live in areas that contain heavy populations of ticks, check your cat often and consult your veterinarian for the latest methods of control.



Heartworms in cats

Cases to date at CCAH- 1 positive feline

Heartworms represent an increasingly recognized problem in cats. As in dogs, heartworms are transmitted by feeding mosquitoes and, once mature, take residence in the right side of the heart and the large vessels of the lungs. For cats, the prevalence of heartworm infection is directly related to the number of infected dogs in the area.

While infection rates in cats (not the typical host for heartworms) are lower than in dogs, studies have shown prevalence as high as 10-14 percent in shelter cats. In most cases, the effects of heartworm infection in cats are more severe.

How will heartworms affect my cat?

Symptoms of infection are variable but most often are related to the respiratory system. A veterinarian may suspect that a cat has been infected in cases of coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, vomiting or weight loss; however, several tests conducted by your veterinarian may be necessary to determine whether or not your cat has heartworms.

The heartworm larvae, which enter the cat’s bloodstream after it is bitten by an infected mosquito, eventually migrate to the heart or vessels of the lungs. Here the larvae cause a severe reaction, resulting in lack of oxygen exchange and cough. Sudden death of the cat may occur and is typically associated with the death of a worm.

How do I prevent my cat from getting heartworms?

We recommend a monthly heartworm preventative such as Revolution that is applied to your cat’s skin or Heartgard for cats that is a chewable tablet. Ask us which product would best suit your cat’s situation. Heartworms are found in cats in all 50 states, so all cats are at risk, even those animals that live indoors. However, heartworms are preventable.


Ask your veterinarian about heartworm prevention. Preventive treatment should begin after a blood test has been conducted to determine if your cat has already been exposed or is infected.

Is heartworm disease treatable in the cat?

At the present time, there are no acceptable treatments for eliminating heartworms from infected cats. Your veterinarian may treat your cat’s symptoms if it is displaying signs of disease. Because of the potential for serious or fatal consequences of infection, and lack of approved treatment, preventing heartworm is the best strategy.

Can humans contract the disease?

Isolated cases of human infection have been reported. However, the heartworm is generally not considered a risk to human health.

Hookworms in cats

Similar to tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of your cat (or dog). The hookworm attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on your cat’s blood. Its eggs are ejected into the digestive tract and pass into the environment through your cat’s feces.

Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil and can infect your cat simply through contact with and penetration of the skin and through eating the hookworm larvae. It is common for hookworms to infect the host through a cat’s belly or feet as well as to be ingested during the cat’s routine licking (cleaning.)



How will hookworms affect my cat?

Hookworms will cause bleeding into the intestinal tract resulting in internal blood loss. They may cause death in young kittens. Blood transfusions may be necessary to keep young animals alive long enough for medications that kill the worms to take effect. Adult cats may also suffer blood loss from hookworms and can have diarrhea and show weight loss.

If you think your cat is infected with hookworms, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis, and safe, effective treatment.

How do I prevent my cat from getting hookworms?

Similar to steps for prevention of other intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep your cat’s surroundings clean and prevent the cat from being in contaminated areas, if possible.

Kittens should be treated for hookworms every 2 weeks between 3 and 9 weeks of age, followed by administration of a monthly treatment. Fecal examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times per year in adults. Nursing mothers should be treated along with their kittens.

Several heartworm medications also treat hookworms. Consult your veterinarian for safe and effective prevention and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by hookworms?

Some hookworms of cats can infect humans by penetrating the skin. This is most likely to occur when walking barefoot on the beach or other areas where pets deposit feces. Infection usually results in an itching sensation at the point where the larvae enter the skin and visible tracks on the skin. The condition is easily treated but can cause mild to extreme discomfort in the affected person.

Cutaneous Larval Migrans due to hookworm infection

Tapeworms in cats

Tapeworms are long, flat worms that attach themselves to your cat’s intestines. A tapeworm body consists of multiple parts, or segments, each with its own reproductive organs. Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by finding segments-which appear as small white worms that may look like grains of rice or seeds-on the rear end of your cat, in your cat’s feces, or where your cat lives and sleeps.

There are several different species of tapeworms that may infect your cat, each with stage(s) in a different intermediate (in-between) host, which the cat eats. Some use fleas as the intermediate host; others use small rodents, such as mice and squirrels, as intermediate hosts.

Tapeworms look like grains of rice

How will tapeworms affect my cat?

Cats rarely show any signs associated with tapeworm infection. Occasionally infection with uncommon tapeworms results in disease, however.

How do I prevent my cat from getting tapeworms?

Try to keep your cat from coming in contact with intermediate hosts that contain tapeworm larvae. Because fleas are an intermediate host for the most common kind of tapeworm, flea control is an essential prevention measure.

If you think your cat is infected with tapeworms, call your veterinarian for an appointment to get an accurate diagnosis and safe, effective treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by tapeworms?

Certain tapeworms found in dogs or cats may cause serious disease in humans. Fortunately, these tapeworms (Echinococcus species) are uncommon in the United States and are readily treated by prescriptions available from your veterinarian. There are rare reports of Dipylidium (a common tapeworm in pets) infections in children, but these infections are not associated with significant disease.

Roundworms in cats

Roundworms are the most common of the parasitic worms found inside a cat (or dog). Almost all cats become infected with them at some time in their lives, usually as kittens. Roundworms may be contracted in different ways, making them easy to spread and hard to control.

Your cat may take in (ingest) infective roundworm eggs from the area where it lives or by eating mice or other small animals (“hosts”) carrying young worms (larvae). Infection in kittens may occur through the mother’s milk.

Roundworms look like pasta

How will roundworms affect my cat?

Adult roundworms live in the affected cat’s intestines. Most cats will not have signs of infection; however, cats with major roundworm infections commonly show weight loss, dull hair, and a potbellied appearance. The cat may cough if the roundworms move into the lungs.

You may notice adult roundworms in your cat’s feces or vomit. They will appear white or light brown in color and may be several inches long.

How do I prevent my cat from getting roundworms?

Because roundworms can enter your cat’s body in many different ways, it is essential to keep your cat’s living area clean (regular cleaning of the litter box) and, if possible, prevent your cat from eating wild animals that may carry roundworms.

Kittens should be treated for roundworms every 2 weeks between 3 and 9 weeks of age and then receive a preventive treatment monthly. Fecal (stool) examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 or 2 times each year in adults. Nursing mothers (queens) should be kept on monthly preventive and treated along with their kittens. Many heartworm medications also control roundworms. Ask your veterinarian about prevention and treatment choices.

Can humans be harmed by roundworms?

Roundworms do pose a significant risk to humans. Contact with contaminated soil or feces can result in human ingestion and infection. Roundworm eggs may accumulate in significant numbers in the soil where pets deposit feces. Children should not be allowed to play where animals have passed feces. Individuals who have direct contact with soil that may have been contaminated by cat or dog feces should wear gloves or wash their hands immediately.

Ocular Larval Migrans due to roundworm infection

Ear mites in cats

Ear mites are tiny mites that live on the surface of ear canal skin of cats (or dogs). They are barely visible to the human eye. An infestation produces tiny black specks, similar to coffee grounds. Ear mites can multiply quickly prior to detection.

How will ear mites affect my cat?

The mite infestation is usually detected because the cat displays irritation in the ear by scratching. The ear may become red and inflamed, and skin diseases may result from the ear mite infestation.

How do I prevent my cat from getting ear mites?

Ear mites can multiply quickly prior to detection, so it’s important to check your cat’s ears if it is scratching them often or if the ears appear red and inflamed.

Ear mites are transmitted through social interaction with other infested cats, so all pets should be checked regularly at home and by your veterinarian for possible ear mite infestation.

Ear mites are treatable with a number of products currently on the market. Because the infestation is easily transmitted between animals, all animals in the household (both cats and dogs) should be treated for ear mites. Consult your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by ear mites?

Ear mites are not generally considered a risk to humans

Coccidia in cats

Coccidia are tiny single-celled parasites that live in the wall of your cat’s (or dog’s) intestine. They are found more often in kittens, but they can also infect older cats.

Cats become infected by swallowing soil that contains coccidia or other substances in the environment that may contain cat feces Also, it is possible that rodents could eat the coccidia and contract a “resting” stage of the parasite. Cats that are old enough to hunt could then be infected when they hunt and eat these animals. Cats are more likely to get infected with coccidia by this method than dogs are.


How will coccidia affect my cat?

Coccidiosis, the disease caused by coccidia, is usually more serious in kittens but can occur in older cats. The most common sign of coccidiosis is diarrhea. Severe infections, especially in kittens, can kill them.

How do I prevent my cat from getting coccidia?

Coccidial infections can be prevented by cleaning your cat’s litter box regularly and by preventing your cat from hunting. Because coccidia are found most often in kittens, it is important to have kittens examined for the parasite as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform a fecal test to diagnose coccidiosis. If your cat is infected with coccidia, your veterinarian is able to give it effective medications.

Can my dog get coccidia from my cat?

A cat that is infected with coccidia cannot pass the infection to dogs and vice versa. Coccidial infections occur only by swallowing the coccidia in soil or cat feces or by eating intermediate hosts.

Dandruff in cats

Cheyletiellosis, also called walking dandruff, is a highly contagious skin disease of cats, as well as dogs and rabbits, caused by Cheyletiella mites. The mites cause excessive scaling of the skin. Young cats, and those more frequently in direct contact with other cats through boarding and shelters, are more susceptible.

How will cheyletiellosis affect my cat?

Scaling of the skin (excessive dandruff) is the most common symptom. Infested cats also may exhibit unusual behavioral changes, such as excessive grooming. However, underlying irritation of the skin may be minimal. Long-haired cats are common carriers of this disease.

How do I prevent my cat from getting cheyletiellosis?

Limiting contact with other cats, especially long-haired breeds, and those coming from shelters or boarding / grooming establishments can reduce the risk of infestation.

Can humans be harmed by cheyletiellosis?

Yes, humans can become infested with this mite species. Identification of this infestation may be suspected after symptoms appear in humans.

Mange in cats

Demodex is a parasitic mite that causes a skin disease often referred to as mange. The microscopic Demodexmites live in the hair follicles and oil glands of your cat’s (or dog’s) skin or at the skin surface. Cats are also host to a sarcoptic mite called Notoedres. The resulting disease is often referred to as scabies.

Although animals often harbor Demodex mites, most healthy animals are able to suppress the populations.

How will mange affect my cat?

Demodex mites create patches of hair loss that may cause mild irritation and itching. Notedres mites create inflamed areas that are extremely irritated and itchy to the cat.

Diagnosis of mites is made through skin scrapings of the affected areas. Most common infestations are found on the head and neck and less commonly on the trunk and limbs.

How do I prevent my cat from getting mange?

First and foremost, maintaining your cat’s overall health is critical to creating immunity to mite infestations. A good diet and clean environment can greatly reduce the opportunity for your cat to develop mange. Because some mites are transmitted by other cats, areas where cats congregate can create greater risk for mite infestations.

Infestations can be treated. Consult your veterinarian for additional prevention strategies and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by mange?

Demodex mites pose no threat to humans. Certain scabies mites can cause temporary lesions in humans but this occurs infrequently.

Toxoplasmosis in cats

Sometimes cats are infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. In its simplest form, this infection in cats is a lot like the infection caused by coccidia. The cat becomes infected by swallowing cysts (“capsule like sacs”) that are in soil or other substances containing the forms of the Toxoplasma gondii organisms that resist nature. Then, more adult stages of the parasite develop in the wall of the cat’s intestine and eventually produce more cysts that pollute the cat’s surroundings in its own feces.

Cats can also become infected by hunting. If birds or mammals swallow the cysts passed in cat feces, stages of the organism multiply in their tissues and stay in their bodies for their whole lives. If cats eat these carriers (“hosts”), the same stages of the Toxoplasma gondii are also capable of infecting the cat.

For unknown reasons, possibly due to other infections or an inherited tendency, cats can also develop infections from the tissue stages of the parasite. Usually, the infections do not cause disease; but sometimes cats with these infections can have serious outcomes that result in general ill health and eye problems.

The greatest concern with toxoplasmosis is that cysts released into the surroundings can infect people.Toxoplasma gondii infection is a moderately frequent event in people. In the United States, approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of people have the organisms in their bodies in much the same way that birds and rodents do. These organisms do not usually cause disease in the infected human beings.

There are two times, however, when the organisms can be dangerous to people. One is when the disease occurs in people because their immune (disease protection) system is somehow damaged by other diseases or weakened by the use of drugs given to control other medical conditions. In those situations people can become very ill due to the rapidly multiplying organisms in their bodies.

The second dangerous situation occurs in women who are pregnant. A Toxoplasma gondii infection can have severe consequences for a developing baby if the mother is infected with toxoplasmosis for the first time during her pregnancy. The disease in the growing baby and, later, the child can show up as severe generalized illness, as eye disease, or it may actually remain hidden.

How will toxoplasmosis affect my cat?

Cats that are infected with Toxoplasma gondii usually do not have any signs of infection, although they may sometimes have diarrhea or soft feces accompanying the intestinal phase of the disease. In cases where cats develop generalized toxoplasmosis, the infection may show as serious general disease that may be associated with damage to the intestinal wall, liver, lungs, or nervous tissue. Some cats develop eye lesions.

How do I prevent my cat from getting Toxoplasma gondii?

Toxoplasma gondii infections can be prevented by removing your cat’s feces regularly from where the cat goes to the bathroom (be sure to wear gloves or use a long-handled scoop to avoid touching the litter when doing this). Cats also need to be prevented from hunting because they can get this infection from eating small birds or animals infected with the tissue stages of the parasite.

Can humans be harmed by Toxoplasma gondii?

People can be infected with Toxoplasma gondii, and they can develop severe disease. Individuals whose immune systems are weakened or who are undergoing immune system therapy for another condition and are concerned about toxoplasmosis should talk to both their physician and their veterinarian. Women concerned about the potential effects that Toxoplasma gondii might have on their developing baby and the safety of having a cat in their household during a pregnancy should discuss the situation with their obstetrician and their veterinarian.

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