Types of Bugs Found on Cats

Having bugs around is an inevitable part of life, but bugs aren't something you want on your skin, and you certainly don't want them on your cat either. These parasitic critters carry disease and can cause a variety of health issues for your feline, so at the first sign of bugs on your cat, you will need to get rid of them pronto!

Woman using a comb brush the Persian cat
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To prevent bugs on your cat, your veterinarian can recommend one of many topical products you can apply to your cat regularly to keep bugs away for good. There are several types of bugs that can infest your cat's skin and coat including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. Keep an eye out for telltale signs of infestation and get your cat checked regularly by your veterinarian.

Fleas are most common

The most common bugs you may find on your cat are fleas. Your cat can pick up these blood-sucking pests from a variety of sources, including other pets in the household, contact with flea-infested outdoor areas, and even from you if you accidentally pick them up on your clothing while outdoors. Although the fleas that infest cats and dogs don't infest people, they can quickly become a nuisance and may end up biting you if the infestation is large enough.

Fleas cause extreme itching in cats, and you might notice your cat scratching at her coat if she has them. To check, run a fine-toothed flea comb over his coat to see if you find any live fleas or their small white eggs. You might also find reddish flea dirt on his coat.

The best way to prevent fleas on your cat is to administer a topical flea preventative that kills both fleas and their eggs when applied to the skin, according to WebMD. Your veterinarian can recommend a product that is appropriate for cats. Or, there are oral medications that kill fleas, too. And, don't forget to thoroughly vacuum your home and wash all your cat's bedding in hot water if she has fleas since these pests can reinfect your cat if not eliminated from her environment.

Fleas are carriers of diseases like bartonellosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and parasites like tapeworms, which is why getting rid of them is so important. They can also cause anemia in extreme cases due to blood loss.

Ticks can cause disease

Ticks are a type of arachnid, an eight-legged bug, that can infect your cat. These pests are typically found in wooded areas and your cat might pick them up outdoors, or they could hitch a ride on your clothing. Ticks can infect both cats and people, warns Animal Planet.

Ticks, like fleas, feed on the blood of your cat and they latch onto his skin until they are fully engorged before they drop off. Because they are larger than fleas, you'll likely be able to see and feel these pests on your cat's coat by gently running your hand over her fur.

Because ticks carry a variety of serious diseases like Lyme disease, it's important if you find ticks on your cat to get them tested by your veterinarian. You can remove ticks yourself with fine-tipped tweezers and place them into a cup of rubbing alcohol to kill them. Or, simply take your cat to the vet right away for tick removal.

Fortunately, many of the same topical medications that prevent fleas in cats also prevent ticks. Your vet can recommend the right one for your cat.

Lice are itchy pests

Just as with people, cats can become infected with lice. The type of lice that affect cats is called Felicola subrostratus, which don't infect people, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. These yucky pests can infest your cat's coat, causing itching, hair loss, and a dull coat. Less common than fleas, these pests are usually present in cats with poor hygiene.

Lice chew on your cat's skin, which leads to itching and hair loss. To get rid of them, you'll need to wash your cat with a special insecticidal shampoo or use a topical medication like selamectin or fipronil to get rid of the lice. These medications are also useful against fleas and ticks.

After a lice infestation, wash all your cat's bedding in hot water and disinfect his grooming utensils with rubbing alcohol. Vacuum carpeting and seal away items that you can't wash, like toys, in a plastic bag for several weeks until any signs of lice are gone.

Mites aren't nice

Whether in the ears or on the skin, a mite infestation can cause a lot of trouble and itching for your cat. Mites typically feed on your cat's skin. The Cheyletiella mite can infect cats, dogs, and even humans, according to PetMD. It's highly contagious between pets and will cause scaly skin and itching for your cat.

If your cat is infested with the Cheyletiella mite, you may see flakes of skin on her coat that appear to move due to the mites, which is why this condition is commonly known as "walking dandruff." Your vet can diagnose a mite infestation with a skin scraping and treat it with a topical insecticide or lime-sulfur dips.

Your cat might also suffer from an ear mite infestation with Otodectes cynotis mites, according to PetMD. These mites primarily infest the ears rather than the whole body and feed on the wax inside the ear. While more common in kittens, these mites can affect cats of any age, and you'll likely notice your cat scratching at her ears or shaking her head if she has them.

Your vet can properly diagnose ear mites with an exam of the ears and give you topical medication to rid him of these annoying pests that can cause a variety of ear issues if left untreated.