Common cat parasites: Easy ways to keep puss happy

How to rid your pet of common cat parasites such as fleas, ear mites and walking dandruff.

common cat parasites
Autumn is the perfect time to check your cat for unwelcome guests.

Fleas, ear mites and walking dandruff can cause your cat discomfort, here are some tips to help rid your pet of common cat parasites.

These parasites represent 99 per cent of all external parasites in catteries and households. If you are a cat owner you should know at least the basics about them.

Common cat parasites – Fleas

Flea control is an annual battle for many cat owners. Effective flea program treats the infested cat, all contact animals and the environment. Fleas are blood suckers that will cause your cat to itch and maybe get a skin infection. Not only do cats itch when they get fleas, they also shed flakes of flea dirt, which is the dried blood left behind by the fleas.

You might associate fleas with the summer months, but once winter arrives and you start up your central heating, you provide an ideal home. A house heated between 21 and 25 degrees can cause dormant pupae (cocoon stage), that have been shed into your carpets and soft furnishings, to hatch into adults.

To get rid of fleas, vacuum the carpet before applying insecticides and discard the vacuum cleaner bag immediately. Each week, wash the places the cat spends most of its time, and use a spray
or fogger in the environment.

In the environment, use an insecticide to kill the adult fleas and an insect growth regulator to inhibit the growth of the flea eggs and larvae. Reapplication will probably be needed in one to two weeks, because less than 20 per cent of fleas in the pupa stage can be killed with this treatment. The pupae are what make getting rid of fleas so difficult. Fleas in this stage will continue to hatch for two to four weeks after treatment begins.

The cat should be treated simultaneously with the environment. Use only flea products labelled for use on cats.

common cat parasites ear mites
A trip to the vet might be needed to treat ear mites.

Common cat parasites – ear mites

Ear mites, also called otodectes cynotis, are usually seen in kittens within a few weeks after owners bring them home. Dryden says 90 per cent of all cats get ear mites. Cats under one year of age are more vulnerable, because they haven’t built up resistance.

Mites will spend their entire life in ears, but could also be on the feet, face, neck and tailhead. They have a three week cycle and they can survive off the host for several weeks. Unlike fleas, they aren’t blood-sucking, nor do they pierce the skin.

The signs of ear mites are head shaking, scratching the ears, coffee-ground-like discharge, big sores behind the ears, epilepsy-resembling fits and ear infections. The treatment for the mites is to clean the ears with a solution your vet recommends, treat the ears with a mite-killing drug for three weeks and treat the whole body with flea shampoo or powder.

Common cat parasites – walking dandruff

Walkking dandruff, which is called cheyletiella blakei, lives its whole life on one host. This also tends to be a young animal parasite. The life stages are egg, larva, nymph and adult.
The larvae and nymphs die after 24 hours of being away from the host, but the adults may survive 10 days.

The parasites burrow into the skin, attach to the skin and become engorged with a colourless fluid. The signs of walking dandruff come on slowly. Symptoms are itching and scratching, a gradual increase in miliary lesions or generalized dandruff, hair loss, and red papules on the head, neck and back.

Walking dandruff is also a pathogen for humans. It won’t reproduce on them, but the bites will cause itchy pustules. The lesions will usually go away after ridding the environment
of the parasites.

Once walking dandruff has been diagnosed on a cat or human in the household, all animals and the entire environment should be treated. Cats can be asymptomatic carriers and the environment is probably contaminated. The cats’ treatment is three treatments of insecticidal dip or shampoo at two- to three-week intervals. The environment should be sprayed with an insecticide.

If you found rid your cat of common parasites interesting, you’ll find more cat welfare content like this on our pets channel.

Last modified: October 3, 2021

Written by 9:24 am Pets