Can I Get Lice From My Cat?
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Lice are one of the external parasites which most affect cats. However, they often not discussed as much as fleas and ticks in cats. They most commonly affect strays or cats with access to the outdoors, but they can occur in indoors cats also. However, cats which are young, old or have a compromised immune system are particularly vulnerable.
Although not as contagious as ticks and fleas in cats, lice can be very annoying for your feline friend. At AnimalWised, we not only look at the causes, symptoms and treatment when your cat has lice. We also ask, can I get lice from my cat?
How do cats get lice?
The louse is an apterous insect, meaning it does not have any wings and it cannot jump like a flea. They live in the fur, skin or feathers of almost all bird and mammal species. They are members of the order Phthiraptera, which contains about 5,000 individual species. There are two main types of lice, chewing lice which feed off the animal's skin and sucking lice which survive off their blood.
Each individual species of louse is selective about their hosts. This is why there are many lice which will only attack one type of animal. The louse species which attacks cats is called Felicola subrostratus. This is also known as the cat biting louse. It mainly affects young cats which have not yet developed their immune defenses. Elderly felines which have stopped grooming themselves are also prone to this type of lice infestation. Cats with poor diet, illness or suppressed immune systems are also vulnerable.
Presence of Felicola subrostratus is more common during cold times of the year. Since the louse cannot jump or fly, they are most commonly transferred when animals come in contact with each other. They do not normally lurk in the cat's environment, as happens with ticks. All stages of their life occur on the host body, but they have a short lifespan and die after 1 or 2 days.
Can cat lice be spread to humans?
The cat biting louse is from the genus Felicola. This has 55 genera which mainly attacks members of the Felidae family. Animals in this family include domestic cats, but also all types of cat such as lions and tigers. The vast majority affect cats, but a few affect some canids and even one primate species.
Fortunately for us, none of the genera in the genus Felicola feed on humans. This means cats cannot give us lice, even if they have a severe infestation. The lice will not be interest in us.
Symptoms of lice in cats
The presence of lice on your cat's coat is usually quite clear. Unlike some parasites, especially internal parasites in cats, they can be seen easily with the naked eye. This is due to their dark color and their size. Large enough to be seen in the cat's coat, the lice walk through the hair and leave eggs, otherwise known as nits.
With long-haired cat breeds, you can hold the cat's hair in between your fingers and see the lice walking between the strands. The nits, or lice eggs, are white and do not move the same as the adult lice. If you cannot see the lice easily, you can use a nit comb to brush through the hair and see more clearly.
Other characteristic symptoms of a cat with lice include:
- Matted and/or dirty fur.
- Scratching due to intense itching. The cat will try to scratch and even bite their fur which has been affected.
- Cuts or wounds due to inadvertent self-mutilation when scratching.
- Scabs on areas where the wounds have begin to heal.
- Hair loss.
Treatment of lice in cats
On the market we can find various options to eliminate lice from your cat. However, none are specifically formulated for these parasites since they are relatively uncommon compared to other louse species.
In any case, if your cat has a lice infestation, the first type of treatment is an antiparasitic shampoo. Check out our guide to bathing a cat with fleas or check out our video below if you need information on how to use it. Once you have bathed the cat with the medicated shampoo, use an anti-lice comb to remove any insects which still remain. We can also use this comb to remove any remainging eggs. Once removed, drown the lice in a hot water and alcohol solution. Make sure to check all over the cat thoroughly.
If there is a problem with bathing the cat or you cannot do it for any reason, there are other options. An antiparasitic medication can be taken orally to kill the lice. You will need to speak to a veterinarian for the correct treatment.
Two days after the application of the antiparasitic product, either shampoo or tablets, we need to deworm the cat. This will come in the form of a pipette or spray, although anti-parasitic collars are also available. This deworming is used to help prevent the lice from returning.
If there are other cats in the home, preventive measures will have to implemented. Firstly, examine them for any of the symptoms of lice. Fortunately, lice do not survive for long off the host's body. However, you should clean the places they sleep, as well as their toys and other accessories just in case. Separate any affect cats until the treatment has been proved effective.
Preventing lice in cats
It is very important to prevent the appearance of parasites in cats that have access to the outside or those that live with other pets that do have access outside. This does not only mean cats which live with other cats. Dogs in the home can promote the presence of lice.
Ideally, deworming treatment will be used periodically. Pipettes are some of the most effective and common. However, to find out the right kind of antiparasitic prevention and a schedule for application, you will need to take the cat to a veterinarian. They can determine the most suitable deworming schedule for your cat.
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