Whilst we enjoy sharing our homes with our cats, unwanted guests in the form of feline parasites are much less welcome! Whilst many parasites are specific to cats, some can also be damaging to human health so it is important for both the people and cats in your household to try to prevent parasitic infections from occurring.
What are Parasites?
According to the dictionary, a parasite is “an organism that lives and feeds on a different species and causes harm to its host”. Common parasites to affect cats include external parasites like fleas and ticks- and internal (intestinal) parasites like roundworms and tapeworms.
How do they get into my home?
Fleas and ticks usually get into the home as a passenger in your cat’s fur (or in the fur of other cats or dogs visiting your house). You can even potentially bring fleas into the house yourself on your shoes and clothes. Fleas lay eggs which can lie dormant in your carpets for months before hatching and infecting your pet.
Ticks live in long grass and attach to cats as they brush alongside. They can look like small warts when attached to your cat. Some ticks can also transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease. Most tick species live entirely on your cat andwill not infest your home.
Roundworms caninfect your cat either when she ingests worm eggs from an area which has been contaminated with infected cat faeces or when she eats a rodent which is itself infected with roundworms. Kittens also can catch roundworms from their mothers via her milk.
Tapeworms infect cats when they either ingest an infected rodent when hunting or infected fleas when grooming.
What can I do to prevent them?
You can get the best anti-flea and anti-tick medication from your vet which can help with prevention . “Spot on” treatments which are applied on the back of your cat’s neck are very popular due to their ease of use but other treatments such as tablets and sprays are available.If your cat already has fleas you will also need to treat your house with an insecticide spray. Follow the instructions carefully and never spray these onto your cat or near fish tanks as they can be harmful. If your cat already has a tick, it can be removed using a tick removal tool. Never just pull on the tick as you may leave its mouthparts in your cat’s skin causing in infection.
Intestinal parasites: Your cat will need regular deworming medication from your vet to help prevent intestinal parasite infestation. Because roundworms are initially caught from their mother, kittens require deworming from an early age (3 weeks old). If your cat has fleas or is a hunter, she must also be treated for tapeworms. The good news is that many worming medications treat both types of worm- so only one dose is needed! Ask your vet to recommend the best wormer for your cat and how often to treat her.
Whilst parasites are unpleasant both for your cat and for you, following a flea and worm prevention programme recommended by your vet means they will not become troublesome for your feline friend.