Ticks on Cats

Claire Dunling

Ticks are a type of parasite that can feed off of any living creature. They are usually small, spider-like creatures that have a pebble-shaped body that fills up and gets bigger from consuming blood from its chosen host. Ticks on cats will survive by climbing from host to host and drop off once sufficiently full.

Ticks on cats

There are two types of ticks: soft and hard ticks. Soft ticks have a pear-shaped outline and have a leathery appearance. Typically, the feed for shorter amounts of time, similar to a flea or bedbug. Hard ticks are larger and have the tell-tale pebble-shaped back. If unfound, they can feed for much longer periods of time and are most commonly found on cats, rabbits and hedgehogs.

An unfed tick will look like a tiny spider. Their colouring can range from black to brown and red to tan. When they latch onto a host and begin filling up with blood, their bodies will swell to the size of a pea.

Where is my cat likely to pick a tick up?

A ticks’ preferred location is usually in woodlands, heath or long grass areas. However, it isn’t uncommon to discover tick in your garden if you live in a fairly rural area. Places that have high levels of sheep livestock also tend to be affected by tick infestations.

It’s even possible for an indoor cat to have a tick. This could happen when owners go on woodland walks and bring the ticks home on their clothing, which can then be transferred to the cat.

What are the dangers of ticks?

Now, we know ticks have a bad reputation but this is for very good reason. In scientific terminology, ticks are described as vectors. By definition, this means they are an organism that transmits diseases. Lyme’s disease is a serious bacterial infection which poses as one of the highest risks for animals and humans. It is very uncommon to see Lyme’s disease in cats; however, it can happen. Some of the symptoms of Lyme’s disease in cats or dogs are:

Other tick-borne diseases that uncommonly affect cats are ‘Q fever’ (some of the symptoms to look out for include depression, anorexia, fever and miscarriages) and Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms are similar to ‘Q fever’ but vomiting and diarrhoea may also be a sign.

How can I remove a tick safely?

Many cat owners first instinct is to go “urgh a tick, pull it out!” – this is not the way to remove a tick safely as the mouthpart can remain and cause inflammation or infection. Removing the tick by burning with a lighter or match is also the wrong way to do it. Next time you’re at the vet’s or buying your essentials online, pick up a specially designed tick remover, like the Frontline Pet Care Universal Tick Remover or an O’tom Tick Remover. These products enable you to twist the tick off. Once the tick is removed, cleanse the area with an antiseptic spray or wipe and keep a close eye on them for any symptoms.

Preventative measures

We’d always advise protecting your cat from ticks, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. You can opt for a tablet, a spot-on treatment or a collar. Popular products which protect your cats against fleas and ticks are the frontline plus range. Or, pop a Seresto collar on your cat for complete flea and tick protection for up to 6 months.

We’d like to remind you to never use a tick treatment, designed for dogs, on your cat. This could make them incredibly sick, or in a worse can scenario, cause death.

Ticks are often hard to spot so make it a part of your routine to check around your cat’s head, neck, around and in their ears, under the belly and armpits. It’s especially hard with long-haired cats but the sooner a tick is found and removed the less likely an infection or diseases will occur.

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!