Cat Parasite ID and Treatment Chart

Figure out what's bugging your cat and fight cat pests with this CAT FANCY exclusive chart.

By Dusty Rainbolt

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Have an itchy cat? See if one of the parasites below has a hand in your cat's scratching.

Cat fleaThe CAT FLEA (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common external parasite, annoying cats and dogs worldwide. Fleas are small brown wingless insects with hard-shell bodies and tube-like mouths that feed on blood. Their bites are also responsible for flea bite allergy dermatitis. Cat flea stool, called flea dirt, can transmit tapeworms. The stools can also transmit zoonotic Bartonella.
Treatment: Fortunately, fleas are relatively easy to eradicate with monthly applications of spot-on flea treatments available either from your vet or over the counter. Many of the products available from your vet’s office also prevent new heartworm infections and kill internal parasites. Use flea preventatives year-round. Never put dog flea treatments on a cat as these products can cause fatal side effects. Natural flea remedies also present problems: garlic causes life-threatening Heinz hemolytic anemia. Essential oils and extracts can be toxic to both pets and people. Keep your cat inside, wash bedding frequently and vacuum your carpet, then throw away the vacuum bag.  
TICKS, living on the skin of animals and feeding on their blood, are actually arachnids, like spiders. Some species have hard shells while others have soft bodies. Ticks act as vectors for numerous potentially deadly feline diseases, as well as diseases that can be transmitted to humans.Cat tick
Treatment: Frontline Plus (containing fipronil: 9.8%, methoprene) is the only product labeled to protect cats against ticks, as well as fleas, but it doesn’t prevent new heartworm infections, so talk to your vet. You can best protect your cat against ticks and tick-borne diseases by making your cat an indoor cat. Keep the environment clean, as you would with fleas. Because ticks prefer moist dark hideaways, keep the brush and weeds surrounding your home to a minimum.
MOSQUITOES belong in the fly family. Even the word mosquito means “little fly.” More than an itchy nuisance, these blood-feeding insects act as vectors for numerous diseases including deadly heartworms.MosquitoTreatment: Bringing your cat inside will offer some protection against mosquito bites and heartworms. A study reported by the AVMA showed, however, that 23% of the cats who tested positive for heartworms lived inside exclusively.  Mosquitoes need water to breed, so treat or dump all standing water sources. Monthly heartworm preventatives will not stop the mosquitoes from biting your cat, but they will prevent new heartworm infections.
EAR MITES are tiny white parasites that resemble microscopic ticks. They make their homes in the ear canals of cats and dogs and feed on scaling skin. A black discharge, resembling coffee grounds, accumulates in the ear. This residue consists of ear wax, blood and ear mite stool. These little beasties cause itching, so you may notice your cat shaking his head and scratching his ears.
Treatment: Fortunately cat parents have numerous options, many quite inexpensive. Topical ear drops can be purchased over the counter or from your vet. Some drops a require 30-day treatment regimen, while others need only 10 days. Prescription monthly heartworm/flea spot-ons also kill ear mites.
Notoedric mangeCAT MANGE is usually caused by either burrowing mites (notoedric mange, also known as feline scabies) or cheyletiella (called walking dandruff), which is found on the hair shaft. Both forms result from contact with an infected animal and can be transmitted to humans, so keep infected pets isolated. All mange causes intense itching. Depending on the mite species, it can also cause hair loss, crusty and thickening skin and dandruff-like scaling.
Treatment: Fortunately, vets treat all types of mange the same way. Most cats can be treated at home with lime-sulfur dip and prescription medication like ivermectin or selemectin. Because cats are sensitive to insecticides, follow label instructions. Follow up all treatments by washing or throwing out your cat’s bedding. Use commercially available disinfectants to kill the mites around your home.

BedbugBEDBUGS are wingless brown, flattened insects that grow to about 3/16-inch long. By day, they live inside bedding and come out at night to feed on blood of warm-blooded hosts. Signs of bedbugs include blood spots on the linens, empty bedbug shells, bedbug stools and bodies. They most likely enter the home on luggage or clothing.
Treatment: Your pest control company may bring in a specially trained dog to sniff out the parasites.  Because they don’t live on your pets, you need to treat the environment. Traditional at-home pest control methods such as foggers will not kill them, and monthly topical spot-ons will not protect your cat against bedbug bites. You will have to treat or throw out mattresses, bedding and other affected furniture. Pesticides have to be applied to furniture, particularly mattresses. Make sure your pest control company knows you have cats. Drying linens and bedding on high heat for 30 to 45 minutes should kill these parasites .
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Cat Parasite ID and Treatment Chart

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Reader Comments

Carol    New Albany, IN

6/13/2015 11:08:36 AM

The article was interesting, but I didn't see the type of parasite that my 2 year old cat has. I looked at one he scratched off under a magnifying glass, and it appeared to be ant-like, about half the size of a flea. I have been bathing him weekly, but he still scratches and compulsively washes. Could one of your experts offer any help?

cbcats    Pine Mountain Club, CA

4/16/2013 6:49:48 PM

We, in the Cat community, can never get enough information regarding keeping our felines healthy.
Thank you for the report Cat Channel and, please, keep this kind of news coming.

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

9/25/2012 9:35:43 AM

Beth -- That is a good idea. We will look into this.

Beth    Pittsburgh, PA

9/24/2012 4:55:21 AM

What about the different types of worms. Would like to see pictures and treatment options.

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