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Ticks on Cats: How to Check for, Remove and Prevent Them

Stephanie Glover
June 27, 2017

It's important you know how to check for ticks on cats, how to safely remove them and, most importantly, how to prevent them!

If you've ever known anyone who's been bitten by a tick, you know how unpleasant it can be. Ticks on cats can carry some of the same potential problems and diseases. To prevent tick bites and the transmission of diseases, it's important to check your cat before the tick has the chance to really do some damage.

How Can You Check for Ticks on Cats?
It's always a good idea to run a quick check over your pet, especially if she's an outdoor cat. It may be difficult if your cat has long hair, but it's important to do it thoroughly. Ticks can be seen by the naked eye and look like a poppy seed. "Gently comb through your cat's fur," says Dr. Denise Petryk, veterinary consultant at Trupanion.

"Ticks are most often found around the ears, head and paws." They like dark, hidden areas on the body, so make sure to check under the collar, under the tail and around the anus, between the toes, as well as inside the groin and front legs. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, another sign that your cat may have a tick is if he's anemic and has a fever.

The longer ticks feed on your cat, the more blood they fill with and the larger they become. Use your fingers like the teeth of a comb over your cat's body or have your groomer use a brush or flea comb. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says to always wear gloves. If you hit a bump, stop! Don't pull the comb over it. Stop to check and see what the bump is. You don't want to pull part of the tick's body out as it can be damaging.

You Found a Tick, Now What?
"Never remove it with your bare hands," says Dr. Liz Hanson, a veterinarian at Corona del Mar Animal Hospital. "Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull to remove."

There are special tick removal tools you can purchase at the pet store. If tweezers don't cut it for removal, you can try a specifically designed product like Ticked Off, Tick Twister or TickEase. Don't try to burn the tick with matches, and don't apply anything to your cat's skin to try to get the tick to show itself. You will end up doing more harm than good!

"If you or your cat are squirrely about removing a tick, consult your favorite veterinarian to do the job for you," suggests Dr. Petryk. "It takes patience to properly remove a tick correctly." It may hurt your cat when you remove it, so try to keep her as still as possible by holding her and keeping her calm.

After successfully removing the tick, place it in a small amount of rubbing alcohol to kill it. It's common for your cat to have a small wound or swelling where the tick was attached. If you have any concerns about the affected area, consult your veterinarian.

How Can You Prevent Ticks?
"There are limited products that are safe for cats," says Dr. Petryk. "First, talk to your veterinarian that knows you, your specific area, the risks of ticks in your area, the types of ticks in your area and knows your cat." She recommends Frontline Tritak, Frontline Plus and the Seresto collar. Make sure you read the directions closely.

Spot-on medication you can buy at the pet store or from your veterinarian can be effective in controlling ticks for up to a month. "Some brands can be harmful and even dangerous to cats, so make sure you using a medication specially for cats," says Dr. Hanson. Dr. Petryk agrees. "Products meant for canines can be fatal."

A popular preventive measure is a tick collar. One downside is they often only protect the cat's neck and head from ticks. Make sure the collar makes contact with your cat's skin so the chemicals are transferred onto the cat's fur and beyond.

One of the easiest ways to prevent ticks is to make your yard less attractive to them in the first place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends mowing your lawn frequently and clearing tall grass. Ticks are more likely to be found in tall lawns. Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees, and remove any old furniture, mattresses or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

You always give your cat the best care possible. And cats give back to you, too! Check out 6 Ways Cats Make Your Life Better.

Stephanie Glover is the blogger and photographer behind A Grande Life. She lives life with her two boys and husband, taking it one latte at a time!

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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