Cat Grooming

Lice in Cats Biting Lice Sucking Lice



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Lice in cats can rapidly cause a very dry and scruffy coat in your pet, severe hair loss, as well as severe itching. But this will be no ordinary itching, as it can very easily stress your cat to the point that they can easily hurt themselves trying to get relief. There are several frightening aspects about lice, but one of the most frightening facts is that once they attack your cat, they will spend their entire life on their body.

Although lice infestations are not nearly as common in cats as they are in dogs, it is a misconception that cats cannot be affected by lice, and once they are, it can be very contagious in some circumstances.

What are Lice?

There are over 3,400 different species of lice in the world, and they are classified into two major groupings; sucking lice and biting or chewing lice. Anoplura is the name given to sucking lice and they make up a much smaller group than the chewing or biting forms, as there are only 460 different species. In the chewing or biting group, there are a whopping 3,000 different species, and they are referred to as the Mallophaga grouping.

Dogs are attacked by either form of this insect, but in the vast majority of all cases of lice in cats, it is the biting or chewing form that does most of the damage. The actual name for the species of lice that will affect your cat is referred to as Felicola subrostratus.

Lice can be seen with the naked eye and at first glance they look almost like dandruff or very small grains of rice. However, dandruff or rice does not move, but these very nasty insects do. They are flat and oval in shape and unlike other insects, they have no wings. For this reason, they are extremely host-specific in their attack and will not leave your cat. In fact, in most all cases they will live their entire life cycle on your cat’s body and they have one objective, to bite your cat and survive.  

Once they have infested your cat’s body, they start to lay eggs, which are commonly referred to as nits. This breed of lice is quite particular on where they lay their eggs, as they specifically target the shaft of your cat’s hair. Their complete life cycle is only twenty one days, but if they are not treated once they have started to infest your cat, this cycle will continue and can become very contagious. 

In the vast majority of cases they are transmitted in one of two ways; by direct contact with another cat, or by some type of a grooming instrument. Since they do not have wings and do not fly, the contact with another cat has to very direct, as they will have to make actual body contact. However, as any cat owner knows, cats love to rub against each other, and if they rub against an infected cat, it will be passed very easily. A grooming comb or any other type of grooming instrument is also a very common cause of spreading this infestation.

Lice in cats can be transmitted to humans, but it is extremely rare. Although head lice can easily be transmitted from human to human, it is a misconception that lice in cats are also easily transmitted. The major reason again is quite simple, they target a specific host, in this case cats, not humans.

Symptoms:

Lice in cats do not show a lot of symptoms, and as such, they are very easy to spot and then identify.  Lice on your cat will be very easy to spot once they have hatched and their life cycle process has begun. The first sign that you will see if the lice themselves, and they are easily confused with dandruff. However, if you look very close, they will appear much different than dandruff. They will be oval in their shape and about the size of a small grain of rice. However, there is one major difference; they are moving.

Once you have spotted them, if you take an ordinary magnifying glass used for reading, you can see them much clearer. They will definitely appear as oval shaped and they will have three distinctive characteristics; they are flat, they have no wings, and they are wiggling.

However, if you do not spot them, the next signs will begin to appear in your cat as these insects start to inflict their damage.  Their fur coat will begin to dry out, and after a very short period of time it will become very scruffy in appearance. As this is intensifying, your cat will also start to lose their hair, usually in small patches. Dermatitis, which is a generalized term for skin allergies, may also start to develop. The allergy is usually the result of a hyper-sensitive reaction by your cat’s body to the lice.

All this is laying the groundwork for the next symptom that is about to occur; itching. However, this will not be an ordinary form of itching. The itching will become so severe that your cat may also start to twist excessively as they are trying to get rid of this intense itching. In some case, the itching is so dramatic that your cat becomes stressed and may claw at themselves in an attempt to relieve the itching. This can be very dangerous, especially if they attack the areas where the skin has become exposed.

There may be one other symptom that may occur; pale gums. This will only occur if your cat has become infected by a sucking species of lice and they are sucking their blood, but this is extremely rare in cats.

Treatments:

Lice in cats have some very effective treatments, but in most cases, this is not a condition to try home remedies on, as they can be very difficult to kill. In fact, in most cases, it will take several treatments. For this reason, once you have identified that it is lice that is infesting your cat, you need to seek professional help.

Your veterinarian will usually prescribe a medicated shampoo, such as pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is a natural product that is made from extracts of the chrysanthemum plant and it is extremely effective in killing lice including the nits. There are some countries where you can buy this over the counter, but in most cases it must be prescribed.  Once you have this medicated shampoo, thoroughly wash your cat and let them dry completely before the next step.

It will also be extremely important to wear gloves throughout this process just to be safe. Once your cat has dried thoroughly, there are pyrethrin sprays or powders that you will use next. This will help to kill any of the nits that may have survived the medicated shampoo. Some veterinarians may also prescribe a gel worm medication to use on your cat’s fur, to help mediate it as well as sooth it.

However, even with these two processes, in some cases you will not kill all of the nits and you will have to repeat the process in about ten to fourteen days. If the second process does not work and your cat is still showing signs of lice, two percent lime sulfur treatments may be required. However, this has to be done by your veterinarian in most countries.

In the most severe cases of lice in cats where none of these treatments are effective, there is one other option. Your veterinarian will shave your cat and remove the nits one by one.

Summary:

Lice are not just a problem with dogs and people as these nasty insects can also affect your cat as well. In most cases, you can spot them very early, and if you do, the earlier the treatments are done, the more effective they will be.




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