The Best Treatment for Lice on Cats

By Susan Paretts

Lice are insect parasites that can infest your cat's skin and coat. These pests cause itchy skin, skin infections and other health issues for your feline friend. Fortunately, they are easy to get rid of using a topical insecticide. Your vet can help you decide which treatment will work best for your particular cat based on her age, temperament and the extent of the infestation.

Feline Lice

The species of lice that infects cats is Felicola subrostrata. Lice are generally not zoonotic, meaning that feline lice can't infect humans and human lice won't infect felines. These pests are passed through direct contact with an infected cat or indirect contact with bedding or grooming tools containing the lice or their eggs. Because lice chew on your kitty's skin, they can cause intense itching, hair loss, a dry coat and even anemia in severe infestations. Lice are visible to the human eye. You'll see these lightly colored bugs and their eggs on your cat's skin and coat. Once your vet examines your kitty, he can determine if she is suffering from lice and the best course of treatment for her.

Pyrethrin Treatment

One of the most common treatments for lice in felines is to bathe your kitty with a shampoo containing pyrethrin, a cat-safe insecticide. This method is useful in serious infestations to get rid of all of the adult lice on the coat immediately. After the bath, when your feline friend's fur is dry, apply a pyrethrin-based spray or powder to the coat to kill the remaining lice. You'll need to repeat the bathing and treatment within 10 to 14 days, recommends PetEducation.com. This is because the life cycle of a louse is 21 days and pyrethrin doesn't kill the lice eggs. You may need to treat her two to four times to get rid of all of the lice.

Lime Sulfur Dips

Lime sulfur dips performed every two weeks can kill both adult lice and nymphs. Although smelly and messy, dips work best for kittens because pyrethrin products may not be safe for those younger than 12 weeks old. You'll need to treat your kitty three to four times to eliminate the lice from her coat, as the dips don't kill the lice eggs. Pour the solution over your cat and allow it to dry naturally. Use an Elizabethan collar if necessary to prevent your kitty from licking the dip until it's dry.

Topical Treatments

Topical insecticides including selamectin, fipronil and imidacloprid are all effective against lice, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Apply these medications between your cat's shoulder blades. While treatment with these products is usually monthly, to treat a lice infestation, apply every two weeks for four to six weeks, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. This ensures that the products are effective in killing the successive generations of lice until they are gone. These products are easy to apply, making them a good choice for cats who don't tolerate bathing, but may not be safe for young kittens so consult with your vet about using them.

Environmental Cleanup

If one of your cats has lice, you'll need to treat all cats in your home for lice to prevent them from reinfecting each other with the pests. You'll also need to disinfect your kitty's environment. Wash all of your cat's bedding in hot water and replace items you can't wash or disinfect, including her grooming supplies, with new ones. Steam clean carpets. Use a fogger to treat your home if your cat has a severe lice infestation.