The heat arrives, the problems arrive: cat parasites in spring are a serious concern for us owners. Let’s see how to treat and prevent them to safeguard the health of cats.
Parasites know how to be small creatures that seriously threaten pets and the people who live with us. Symptoms can be of varying intensity, and must be treated to prevent any lasting problems or discomfort. So let’s see the most common cat parasites in spring, the best methods to treat them, and how to keep our feline friends safe in order to avoid them altogether.
The types of external parasites in cats
Parasites can be divided into two main categories: external and internal. The former are those that stick to the cat’s fur or skin, often causing symptoms such as itching or skin irritation. The most common are fleas, ticks, mites, and various types of worms.
We know what happens when these little beings decide to take a walk on the back of our cat, and then make it home. But these tiny blood-sucking insects don’t just cause severe itching, extreme discomfort, and potentially severe skin reactions in both felines and humans, they can also be a potential transmission method for tapeworms (which are internal parasites) if ingested.
Fleas are also particularly dangerous for young kittens, who can become severely anemic if they become infested with them. Fortunately, keeping our cats safe from fleas is very easy if we follow an effective preventative plan for treating these parasites. With some advice from our vet we will be safe from these cat parasites, in spring and beyond.
Ticks usually live in areas full of grass or wood, and attach themselves to our cat when walking past them. The tick bite itself is not necessarily dangerous, but the feeding process it does can give rise to more serious diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, by injecting these diseases directly into the cat’s bloodstream.
While ticks usually attack outdoor cats more, they are still shrewd enough to find their way into the house without us noticing, especially through dogs or even clothes that have been outside.
Small insects that live on our cat’s skin, mites can cause severe irritation, itching, pain, hair loss and potentially nasty bacterial infections. Among the most common species are ear mites, which infest and feed in the cat’s ear canal.
If you notice the cat scratching its ears or violently shaking its head, check the inside of the ears. If you notice small dots similar to ground coffee, you may have found mite droppings.
Ringworm, despite its English name (“ringworm”), is not a worm but rather a fungus that leaves small, slightly itchy, ring-shaped spots on the skin of their host. While ringworm doesn’t cause much pain or discomfort on affected cats, it can weaken their immune systems if left untreated. More importantly, the parasite is extremely contagious and can spread very quickly to humans and other animals living in the same house.
The different internal feline parasites
Internal parasites are those that enter our cat’s organs, causing vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss, anemia and hair loss. The cat can catch these parasites in many ways, but the most common method of exposure is the ingestion of feces from infected animals (when the cat licks another animal, or when it is exposed to contaminated soil, or if it shares a litter box. ), or if it eats a host already affected by such parasites, such as a rodent or flea.
Many of these cat parasites in spring are similar in nature to worms, while others are single-celled organisms. Controlling and treating such internal parasites in a timely manner is very important, because even if they have little effect on the health of cats, they can be very dangerous for the humans close to them.
This cat parasite enters your bloodstream via mosquito bites and travels to your lungs. Once established in this organ, it becomes a very serious threat to the cat’s life. Even a single parasite of this type can lead the cat to death , and many of these unfortunate deceased cats had normal parameters up to an hour ago.
This makes a prevention program essential throughout the year, both for outdoor cats – more at risk of course – and for indoor cats or those who do not live in areas full of mosquitoes.
Known to cause abdominal discomfort and vomiting, the nematode typically grows to a length of 7 to 15 centimeters approximately once inside the cat’s intestine. Unlike other intestinal parasites, however, these swim freely within the host instead of attaching themselves to the intestinal walls.
Since this parasite’s eggs typically live in bodies of water and soil, outdoor cats are particularly prone to catching them. In any case, eggs can easily enter a home, for example it is estimated that at least 15% of the plant soil on the market contains them. So, let’s not assume that an indoor cat is completely safe.
This spring cat parasite is another long worm that lives inside the intestines of cats, causing weight loss and lethargy in the host. Cats typically ingest this parasite by eating another affected animal, such as a flea or mouse. Signs that our cat may have contracted tapeworms include scratching the rear, and pieces of the worm present in the stool.
Another worm-shaped parasite, which has a hook-shaped apparatus with which it attaches to the intestinal walls of the cat (hence the English name, “hookworm”, ie “worm with hook”). It feeds on intestinal fluids and the blood of its host. Cats typically get this parasite from the droppings of other infected animals, or by inadvertently ingesting their larvae, or when the parasite is adult and burrows into the skin of the cat’s paws.
Because hookworm feeds on feline blood, symptoms of an infection typically include anemia , weight loss, shorter coat, and the presence of digested blood in the feces of the cat affected by this feline parasite. spring, but also in the rest of the year.
Unlike the other intestinal parasites on this list, coccidia are not worms but instead of the single-celled organisms that live in the cells of the host’s intestinal tract. Like worms, however, they typically cause diarrhea. In young or debilitated adult cats this can lead to dehydration, abdominal discomfort and vomiting. Cats usually contract coccidia from the feces of other animals already affected by the parasite, or from eating an affected rodent or bird, or from their mothers.
How to treat parasites
It is not uncommon for a cat to catch one of the parasites we mentioned once in its life. Fortunately, the treatment of this problem, if done promptly from the start, tends to be quite simple. Obviously, the appropriate method of treatment will be decided by the veterinarian depending on the type of parasite.
The key is to see your vet if you first suspect our feline friend has an infestation or infection. It is not the case to treat the cat independently, because some products on the market – especially those dedicated to dogs – are not suitable for cats.
How to prevent parasites
It is usually said that prevention is better than cure, and this is totally true when it comes to parasites. Because cats are very good at masking pain and discomfort, it can sometimes be very difficult to notice parasite symptoms as long as the infection or infestation is not very severe. So the best way to make sure your kitty is happy and healthy is to limit potential contact with parasites, do regular tests for parasites that aren’t obvious, and apply preventative medication on a regular basis.
This is even more valid for younger cats, who are at greater risk and require a care plan to eliminate any internal parasites they may have caught from their mother or their siblings. Let’s look at some good practices to make sure our cat stays safe from cat parasites in the spring.
- We keep kittens indoors. While indoor cats can still catch parasites, going outside increases the risk of a kitten coming into contact with something dangerous. Those who spend time outside may also carry parasites around the house, and pass them on to their roommates who always stay inside, so it’s important that all of our cats stay indoors.
- We take the cat to the vet for regular checkups. Since the signs of a parasite infestation or infection can sometimes be subtle, it’s important to take your cat to the vet at least once a year. As a medical professional, our vet is used to looking for any indication that our beloved kitty may have come into contact with something harmful.
- We do parasite tests frequently. When we take your cat to the vet, let’s make sure that they do stool tests for internal parasites at least once a year (or more often in the case of young cats or outdoor cats). This will ensure that anything that could be a health hazard to our furry friend comes to light before it becomes a worse risk. In particular, regular heartworm checks are essential.
- We develop a preventive treatment plan. Parasites can attack our cat more easily if there are particular factors, such as age and habits, the time of year or the area in which we live. Therefore, a personalized plan must be developed with our veterinarian to determine the best combination of preventive care to provide to the cat. At a minimum, your cat should receive heartworm treatment at least monthly, and tapeworm treatment at least once as a puppy. Younger cats and outdoor cats are at greater risk of parasites, so a plan with more and more frequent preventive care should be studied with the veterinarian.
- We provide our cat with a balanced and carefully prepared diet. Even though the cat’s digestive systems know how to process raw meat, uncooked food can often be a breeding ground for cat parasites, in spring and beyond. So the safest option for our cat remains commercial food. We keep the water bowl clean, and change the water often to reduce the risks.
- We keep the cat litter box clean. Since many internal parasites are spread through contact with the feces of an infected animal, it is important to clean the litter box regularly. This is especially important if we have multiple cats sharing a litter box. Furthermore, for our safety, it would be the case that we wear gloves when cleaning the litter box.