What are ticks? How to prevent and get rid of ticks on cats
Ticks are nasty little critters that are second in line to mosquitoes in spreading infectious disease to both pets and people. There are several species of tick in the UK alone, and numbers are on the rise. Ticks are particularly prevalent in the spring and summer, though they can be found in the UK countryside all year round.
Where are ticks found?
Ticks are less likely to be a problem to cat owners in rural urban areas, but if you live near open fields or woodland you need to be aware of the risks.
Usually found in fields, meadows or woodland areas, ticks lurk in long grass, waiting to latch themselves on to passing animals – or humans. These pesky parasites need a host to feed from, and to provide somewhere to find a mate for breeding. They often transmit disease from one host to another, which makes them particularly efficient at spreading disease.
If you live in a rural area and your cat has access to fields, woodland or long grass around your home, it’s wise to know what to look for.
“If you live in a rural area and your cat has access to fields, woodland or long grass around your home, it’s wise to know what to look for.”
Being tiny, ticks can be hard to spot: though they’re generally oval and flat, they swell to the size of a pea once they’re engorged with the blood of the host creature they’re feeding on. Like the spiders they’re related to, ticks have eight legs which you may be able to spot if you look closely.
Identifying ticks on your cat
Groom your cat thoroughly after they’ve been outside, gently brushing against the direction of hair growth to make any embedded ticks easier to spot but beware that your cat will not like this so use sparingly. Pay close attention to the inside of the ears, around the chin, eyes and muzzle, and between the pads and toes – just watch out for those claws!
As well as causing your cat to itch, UK ticks can carry a serious condition called Lyme disease, which affects humans as well as animals. Lyme disease is hard to diagnose in cats, so if you have any reason to suspect your cat has been bitten by a tick, get her to your local vet fast.
The most obvious signs of Lyme disease in cats include swelling, irritation and redness around the area of the tick bite, fever, lameness, and inflamed lymph nodes. If in doubt, always consult your vet.
How can I prevent my cat from getting ticks?
There are many tick-prevention products out there, ranging from spot-on treatments and sprays, to impregnated collars. Your vet will advise you on the best method of tick prevention for your cat.
What if I find a tick on my cat?
If you do find a tick on your cat, it’s vital to remove it with care – or ask your vet to do it for you. It’s best to use tweezers or a tick-removal tool, sometimes called a ‘tick twister’ – as embedded parts can be left behind in your cat’s skin. You may want to wear disposable gloves or use kitchen towel when handling these horrible hitchhikers. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.
Cat ticks – advice and treatment
If you suspect your cat has ticks, or is carrying a tick-borne disease, call or visit your local vet immediately. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.