How do I remove a tick from my cat?

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Are you worried your cat might have a tick? Here's our advice on how to know if your cat does have ticks, where they can get ticks from, how ticks affect your cat, and how you can remove a tick from your cat...

What are ticks?

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites which feed on warm-blooded mammals and are normally found in long grass or wooded areas. The main species in the UK affecting pets are ixodes ricinu (sheep ticks — the most common type), ixodes hexagon (hedgehog ticks), and ixodes canisuga (dog ticks), although 15 species exist in Britain. A tick will attach itself by burrowing its mouth into the skin, and will remain attached until it has sucked enough, before dropping off to digest the meal. Where can cats get ticks from?

Dogs are more prone to picking up ticks, as they often do so while walking in pasture and woodland. However, cats can pick them up in the garden from wild animals, or areas of long grass if they like to stray further from home. If you’ve been walking in areas infested with ticks, you can also pick them up on your clothes and then inadvertently pass them on to your cat.

How do ticks affect my cat?

Ticks can cause skin irritation, including localised swelling. Some ticks also carry diseases in their saliva, the most common being a debilitating, chronic infection called Lyme disease. Symptoms of this deadly disease include lethargy, fever, lack of appetite, and repeated episodes of arthritis. Ticks don’t usually transmit disease for 24 – 48 hours after attachment, so early removal is paramount.

How can I treat my cat for ticks?

Ticks tend to attach themselves to areas around the head, neck, ears, or paws. If you find a tick on your cat, don’t panic or try to pull it off, as often the head can remain attached to your pet. A tick removal tool is the most effective way of removing the whole tick, and it pays to have one of these kept in your house at all times. Once you remove the tick, make sure you place it in a tissue and flush it down the toilet. Monitor your cat for the next couple of days to check for any signs of illness.

How can I prevent my cat from getting ticks?

The most important thing to do is regularly check your pet for ticks when you groom or stroke him. There are products available which kill and repel ticks. Discuss with your vet which would be best for your cat. If you have a long-haired cat, you should be particularly vigilant — it may be harder to spot a tick, as they are very small before they fill with blood. Thankfully, ticks can’t infest your home like fleas can so they are easier to control.

Facts about ticks

  • Ticks only need to eat three times during their lifetime.
  • Ticks can detect their host via its body odour, temperature, and vibration.
  • Ticks are not insects; they are actually arachnids, which means they are closely related to spiders, as they do not fly or jump either.
  • Ticks vary in size from a millimetre up to about half a centimetre in diameter.