Does my cat have ticks?
Ticks are widespread in our environment and reside mainly in low vegetation (long grass, bushes). It is therefore very important to check your cat for ticks after it has been outside. Ticks can occur anywhere on the body, but they have a preference for warm, moist places such as armpits and groins. A large tick is easy to spot, but also check specifically for small ticks or immature stages (larvae, nymphs). If you find a tick on your cat, it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible (within 24 hours), because in this timeframe there is a minimal risk that diseases are being transferred. You can remove a tick with help of a tick-remover. Don’t drug the tick in advance! Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible with the tick-remover and pull it straight up from there. It’s not necessary to make a turn movement. Verify that all parts of the tick are removed and disinfect the wound with Betadine iodine solution or 70% alcohol. You can prevent tick bites on your cat by regularly treating against ticks.
Which ticks can my cat be affected with?
Ticks are small, spidery parasites with 8 legs. Ticks have four different life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult tick. Each stage feeds on a human or animal (host), after which it could develop into the next stage or starts laying eggs. Ticks can’t survive without hosts. Ticks can carry pathogens that they may transfer during feeding. A tick bite also causes mild skin irritation and inflammation. Ticks that are very common in Europe:
• Sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus). The sheep tick is the most common tick in Europe. It also occurs in neighbouring parts of North Africa and the Middle East. The sheep tick can transfer Lyme disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi bacterium). The various life stages of the sheep tick use different hosts to feed. The larvae usually feed with blood of rodents and birds, and sometimes also of our pets. Nymphs can be found on most mammals and birds. The adult ticks feed mainly on large mammals, such as deer and wild boars, but also on dogs and cats. People can become infected with all stages.
• The tick Dermacentor reticulatis originates mainly in (sub) tropical regions, but has now also permanently based in more northern areas of Europe. This tick can transmit the serious disease Babesiosis to dogs. Cats seem to be less susceptible for Babesiosis than dogs.
How often should my cat be treated against ticks?
Most ticks are active from March till the end of October. During this period it is very important to treat your cat regularly with anti-tick products to prevent tick bites and disease transmission. There are many kinds of anti-tick products available. There are spot-on applications (pipettes) which are generally administered monthly. Furthermore there are sprays and tick collars which work from 1 week to 8 months against ticks. There are also products that work both for ticks and fleas. Depending on your own situation, you can choose the product that suits you best.