Ticks can be a very dangerous parasite. These tiny parasites can transmit diseases, like cytauxzoonosis, when they attach themselves to a host and feed. To help protect your pet you should consult your veterinarian who can recommend effective products that are safe for your cat. Also, you should never remove a tick with your fingers. If the abdomen ruptures the liquid, which carries other parasites, can enter your body through a very small break in the skin.
What Are Ticks?
Many people mistake a tick as being a beetle or other insect. Some think that they are related to fleas. Both are incorrect.
A tick is a small parasite that has eight legs. To survive and reproduce they must feed on blood. Unlike other insects, or fleas, they can't fly nor jump. They are more closely related to spiders because of the eight legs (insects have six legs). There are hundreds of different species of ticks all over the world. Within North America we know of 80 different species of ticks. All of which pose a serious health risk. They will attach themselves to a variety of host including dogs, birds, cats, and humans.
Why Ticks are a Problem for Cats
Although we don't hear of cats contracting Lyme disease they can. But it's rare. But ticks carry many different internal parasites that they can transmit to your cat.
If you have a cat that is heavily infested with ticks, these parasites can drink enough of the cat's blood to cause anemia and even death. The biggest threat of ticks which involve cats is that if the cat removes the tick while in the house, the tick is most likely going to bite a family member risking their health.
One disease that ticks do transmit to cats is called cytauxzoonosis. This is an extremely dangerous disease which can kill your cat. This is a single-celled organism that can be found in the digestive tract of ticks. It gets transmitted to your cat when the tick bites its host. Cats that have this parasite in them usually show the following signs:
- High fever
- Appetite loss
Cytauxzoonosis advances very rapidly in the animal. Many cats die from this infection because they cannot get medical attention quickly enough.
Another, less common, disease that cats can contract from ticks is called tularemia. Clinical signs of this disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Oral ulcers
- A very painful abdomen
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Tularemia can also be passed on to humans. Sick cats will often bite a person or scratch them. When this happens the bacteria from an infected cat will enter the bloodstream of the human. If this happens, the person who was bitten or scratch needs to seek immediate medical attention.
Many people believer that the constant grooming and cleaning that a cat does to itself will remove ticks. This is completely untrue. Ticks tend to hide in areas of the body where cats can't groom. Ticks on the body, which is easy to groom, may be removed by the cat.
How Cats Get Ticks
Sometimes, a tick may fall out of a tree and land on their host. But this is not the usual way ticks get onto their host. All ticks can climb. What they usually do is climb onto a plant or other surface. And when a host passes up against the plant the tick will grab onto the fur. Once this happens, the tick will move along the fur to a suitable place and them burrow its head into the animal to feed.
Ticks are also present on birds and rodents. Cats that hunt these animals will acquire the ticks from these animals. However, sometimes it is us who infect the cat with ticks. When we go out, there is always a chance that a tick will catch on to our clothes. When we go home we bring the tick with us. If we don't notice it it will find a host in the house. Whether it is our pets or us.
How to Protect a Cat From Ticks
Eliminating the risk is impossible. However, keeping a cat indoors will reduce the risk that the cat will become exposed to ticks.
The first step to preventing ticks is to consult with your veterinarian. He will recommend the appropriate product that is safe for your pet. These products are great when used properly. Some require a monthly application.
If you have other animals that go outside, like a dog, they should be thoroughly checked for ticks when they come back into the house. Keeping them away from wooded areas will also help to reduce their risk of exposure.
By using both a tick-control product and checking your pets on a regular basis your pet most likely won't acquire any ticks. But if they do you should remove the tick with tweezers immediately. Also, don't flush the tick down a drain. They have been known to crawl back up and into the house.