3 external parasites that can cause trouble for our cats
External parasites are living organisms from different families and species that grow on the surface of another living organism’s body, thriving off of them for survival. As they have very complex life cycles and are adapted to climatic conditions, their cycles tend to be seasonal. They usually start to appear when the weather warms up, so we can expect to see more of them in spring. However, some parasites can live throughout the entire year, thanks to modern heating in homes.
“But if my cat lives indoors and never goes out, how will it catch parasites?” This is a frequently asked question among indoor-cat owners. It makes sense that cats that go outside carry the risk of contracting parasite infestations, but indoor cats are also at risk: though we may not see them, there are animals very near our homes that don’t have any parasite control (pets that aren’t dewormed, rodents, birds, etc.). So when we come back in from the outside, there is a possibility that we’re bringing parasites in all stages of their life cycle (adults, larvae, and eggs) back in with us. Therefore, it is important to comply with the deworming protocols set out by our vets (see the article on external parasite prevention).
Which external parasites can affect our cats?
- Fleas: the most common parasite, and sometimes nearly undetectable on the animal. They can live their whole life cycle in the house, as their eggs, larvae, and pupae are all highly resistant and seek refuge in carpets, sofas, cushions, cat beds, scratching posts, etc. Once an outbreak occurs inside a home, it is very difficult to control. When this happens, we must make sure to apply a range of products, both on the cat and on all surfaces where the parasite could reproduce. Ideally, we should use antiparasitic products to prevent this from happening (there are lots of types available on the market) as flea infestations can be extremely irritating for animals, causing intense itchiness. They can also have an effect on humans.
- Mites: in the case of cats, they mostly produce mange that affects the ears, causing a very irritable otitis (inflammation). However, they can also produce other types of mange which can be contagious for humans. Therefore, it is extremely important to apply preventive products to stop this from happening. Mites are microscopic and can’t be seen with the naked eye. Only vets are able to diagnose and treat them properly.
- Ticks: they are less recurrent in cats, but due to climate change, they are becoming increasingly common, and remain active longer throughout the course of the year. In their reproductive cycle, during both larval and adult phases, they hang from plants to then fall onto cats. They are also able to move and climb across long stretches. For these reasons, cats who have access to a window or balcony with plants on it carry the possibility of contracting a tick. Again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to take preventive measures. Ticks are also transmitters of very serious infectious diseases.
Are your pets up to date with the external deworming protocols offered by vets?