Parasites affect pretty much any organism. From trees to humans, there is always a freeloader that has evolved to feed off the biological success of others. By definition, parasites are any living organisms that live on, or in, another organism by acquiring nutrients at the host’s expense.
Cats are not immune to parasites! Fleas, ticks, ear mites and worms will all be waiting to jump on board! But don't worry, there are easy ways to protect your cat from these critters:
A lovely young ginger and white kitten itching - possibly due to fleas?
Fleas are very common, and if your cat spends time outdoors she is bound to come home covered in fleas… unless you take precautions! Cat flea collars or contact treatments are a cheap and easy deterrent, and there’s no earthly reason why you shouldn’t fit one to your pet.
NOTE: Flea preparations made for dogs are NOT suitable for cats, and some can even be fatal to felines.
There are many different species of flea, but the commonest culprit on cats by far is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis.
If your cat gets a flea infestation, it’s not just the cats who will need treating. Cat beds, carpets, drapes and furniture will need treating with a cat-safe flea killer too; and you’ll have to repeat, as per the instructions, to catch any critter that hatches from an egg after you’ve zapped the adults.
Cats pick up ticks during the summer and fall. The blood-suckers lie in wait in woodlands, grass and other greenery, hitching a lift and then attaching themselves to the cat like far draculas. They can be grey, brown, black or cream coloured, and come in all sizes from pin-head to pea. Once they start sucking, they soon swell. Once gorged, they drop off, digest, and wait for the next victim to pass by.
An engorged cat tick - not a pleasant sight!
Tick-zapping spot on treatments will kill individual pests, or you can remove them. Checking your cat’s coat is the best way of isolating ones that have slipped through the defences. You can buy tick-removal kits, but you need to know what you’re doing, as a messily removed tick can leave the mouthparts in the skin, which can lead to infection. If you’re not confident, ask your vet to remove the parasite.
These irritating little critters infest the ear and feed off the skin and oils secreted by the ear. They are easily passed between cats, or contracted from other infected animals. These are the symptoms:
- Regular shaking of the head
- Constant itching of the ears
- Raw, bloody and sore patches around the ears (from incessant scratching)
- Smelly ears
- Waxy or dirty ears
Your vet will prescribe some ear drops which will soon clear up the problem; or you can buy treatment in pet stores.
Outdoor cats can easily pick up intestinal worms, and there are many different species. Like it or not, puss has a taste for small birds and mammals, and this is the usual source of the infestation. Regular worming with a standard treatment will act as a cure and a preventative.