Work, social life, exercise — your normal routine keeps you on the go! It’s probably one of the reasons why you have a cat in the first place. Their self-sufficiency and independence are legendary for those with hectic schedules.
But being busy can lead to problems with your cat’s health. One study in domestic Australian cats found that 18.4% had some kind of gastrointestinal parasite that their owners were unaware of.
Parasites, like fleas and tapeworm, aren’t nearly as cute as your snuggly friend — they are important threats you need to know about. Zoonotic parasites, or parasites that affect the health of both people and animals, can cause everything from a painless rash to blindness.
In other words, parasite protection for cats is also parasite protection for you too. To keep everyone healthy (and your home infestation-free), learn more about common parasites and how to prevent them.
Types of Parasites that Harm Your Cats
There are countless potential parasites in Australia that could potentially harm your pet, but there are four very common threats you need to remember.
Some cat owners think that their indoor cats are relatively safe from fleas, but the truth is that fleas can infest all cats. People and pets can bring in fleas from the outdoors or the vet where they can easily jump from one warm body to the next.
These parasites are more active during the summer, but they can live all year round, thanks to the magic of indoor heating.
One of the reasons why cats groom so often is that they evolved to take care of their own flea infestations. Grooming just keeps fleas at a minimum though and doesn’t always eliminate the problem. This means your cat may be infected, even if you can’t see the bugs.
The more exposure a cat has to fleas, the more likely they are to scratch themselves so much that their wounds become infected. Some cats are also prone to getting flea allergy dermatitis. In these cases, only one flea can cause an itch that lasts for days.
Fleas can also cause anemia because they feed off your cat’s blood; they can also be carrying tapeworms that they could transfer to your cat.
So how can you tell if your cat has fleas? Here are some signs:
- Grooming changes. Your cat may not groom themselves as usual; instead, they would obsessively lick or even bite at their hair and skin.
- Hair loss. If you see unexplained bald patches or skin irritation, especially at the base of the tail, this could be a sign that they have fleas.
- Flea dirt. This term refers to the flea’s droppings; it resembles specks of black pepper. If you see an unexplained black speck, transfer it to a piece of white paper. Flea dirt should start to look red or rust-coloured after a few minutes.
These are the most common parasites in cats. Oftentimes, they get worms when they come in contact with with eggs or contaminated particles. For example, they’d step on to infected faeces and ingest them when they groom themselves. Or they could get infected by eating infected rats or fleas.
All cats will get gastrointestinal worms at some point in their lives. Cats can get different types of worms:
Because the eggs can live practically anywhere, cats can get roundworm regardless of whether they’re indoor or outdoor pets. Other sources of these worms include rodents, insects, or their mother’s milk.
Roundworms are typically not a serious parasitic infection. As long as the numbers aren’t out of control, intestinal worms may not show any symptoms before passing away harmlessly on their own.
But if the roundworms continue to multiply, they can cause stomach problems, weight loss, and even death.
Keep an eye on your cat for the following symptoms of roundworm:
- Reduced appetite
- Potbelly formation
- Long white or light brown worms in cat feces of vomit
We’ve already covered that fleas are the main reason why cats get tapeworm, but they may also get tapeworms from infected rodents.
These parasites live in the small intestine of a cat and can grow up to 20 inches long. Tapeworms lose pieces of themselves as they get older. These pieces are similar in size to a rice grain and pass through the cat’s feces.
Similar to roundworms, tapeworms aren’t always bad for your cat. For some, they won’t experience any lasting harm from having this parasite. But the tapeworm is essentially stealing nutrients away from your cat, which can cause stomach problems, eventual weight loss, or perpetual appetite.
Tapeworm symptoms include the following:
- Vomiting of a live worm
- Rice-size particles in a cat’s feces/vomit
- Weight loss
This type of worm is named as such because of their hooklike mouths, which they use to attach themselves on the intestinal wall. They feed on a cat’s blood and tissue fluids. When hookworms lay microscopic eggs, they are deposited into the digestive tract and will pass in the cat’s stool.
Dogs tend to harbour hookworms more than cats, and hookworms infecting cats are less hostile than those infecting dogs. Still, there are cases of severe infection, and this can end the life of kittens.
Hookworm symptoms include the following:
- Lesions found on the bottoms of the feet and in between the toes
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Dark stool
- Poor appetite
- Pale linings on its nostrils, lips, and ears
A fungal disease that affects keratin-containing tissues, like skin, hair, and nails, ringworm infection occurs when there are lesions in the skin, exposing the wound to moisture and damage.
Malnourished and sickly cats are at risk. So are long-haired cats. Ringworms thrive in moist and humid conditions and in crowded environments like shelters and catteries. They spread fast, and they can be passed on to you too.
Ringworm symptoms include the following:
- Small patch of hairless skin
- Scaly red rings on skin
- They appear anywhere, but common on the front legs, ears, and head
How to Protect Your Cats from Parasites
As you’ve probably already guessed, many parasites are sneaky enough that pet owners can be forgiven if they don’t spot the signs. However, there are ways you can prevent parasites in cats, so there are fewer chances for the problem to spin out of control.
Regularly take your cat to the vet; this way, your vet will more likely catch the parasite — even without symptoms present.
Some parasites may not be particularly harmful to your cat, but you don’t want to play Russian roulette with their health either. Vets can test your cats for parasites and ensure they get the care they need.
We recommend every six months to be on the safe side. If you do suspect they have a parasite though, you should take them to a vet immediately.
With proper diet and good nutrition, you can be confident that your cat is in tiptop shape. Next to vet visits, food for your cat is one of your most important expenses. It’s important that you feed your cat with quality food. It doesn’t matter if it’s homemade or store bought. What matters is that it’s cooked or prepared in a way that’s safe and clean.
Get a Wellness Plan
Your cat can’t tell you when it’s not feeling well, so it’s important to follow the standard preventative health regime. A customised wellness plan is a yearly health care plan for your pet. The plan is designed to keep track of what your cat needs (and when they need it). This could be anything from check-ups to deworming to vaccinations. They best part? Getting the flea, tick and worming medication delivered to your door.
A wellness plan will give you significant savings over one-off costs for treatment and medication. You and your vet build a custom wellness plan together so that you get the right care for you pet, at the right cost. Find out more about our wellness plans.
A Healthy Cat Is a Happy Cat
Having a cat means having someone there for you through thick and thin. Show them a little love back by making sure they don’t get infected by parasites. By taking them to a vet regularly, keeping on top of parasite prevention and doing it with ease by creating a wellness plan. You’ll be able to go on with your day-to-day knowing your feline friend is healthy and happy.
Let us help you take the guesswork out of pet care. Here at Knose, we believe pet care should be simple, easy, convenient both for you and your pet. Get in touch with us today to learn how you can get the best for your pet without the stress.