There are two categories of parasite that can affect your cat – endoparasites (worms) and ectoparasites.(fleas and ear mites).
Endoparasites live within your cat and include roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms.
Kittens can have roundworms (Toxocara cati) from as young as 6 weeks of age. Roundworm infection in kittens causes lethargy, bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss. This type of roundworm can also infect people and children are particularly at risk. Cats can be infected from contaminated soil and from eating infected prey or raw meat.
The most common tapeworm of cats is Dipylidium and is transmitted via fleas. Any cat that has had exposure to fleas will be infected. Other tapeworm species can infect cats through scavenging, hunting or eating uncooked meat.
Hookworms can cause diarrhoea in cats. Hookworms can infect humans leading to skin disease.
It is almost impossible to prevent your cat from becoming infected with worms throughout its life and worms can live within your kitten without your knowledge. Indoor cats, although they have lesser exposure, can still pick up tapeworms and roundworms, especially if fed an uncooked diet.
Different worms can also pose risks to humans and children. A regular worming regime tailored to your kitten’s needs and lifestyle will help protect the health of your kitten and family and reduce contamination of the environment. We recommend worming your kitten at 6, 9 and 12 weeks of age.
The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) recommends all pets are wormed at least every 3 months. However, young animals and those in a higher risk environment may require worming more regularly. Our staff will be pleased to advise you about a suitable worming regime for your needs.
Ectoparasites live on your cat’s skin and include fleas and ear mites.
Flea infestations cause intense irritation and scratching. Some cats will become sensitised or allergic to flea saliva leading to a syndrome called “flea allergic dermatitis”. High flea burdens in kittens can lead to anaemia (low numbers of red blood cells) and in severe cases death. One flea can lay vast numbers of eggs which survive in the household for up to two years. Once these eggs hatch your home will be contaminated with a high population of fleas. Just a few fleas can become a huge infestation with a very short time!
It is important to treat your home regularly with a suitable spray to control the flea population.
Fleas transmit cat tapeworms and other bloodborne diseases such as FeLV, Bartonella henselae and Mycoplasma felis. Bartonella henselae is a disease that can also be transmitted to humans causing “cat scratch disease”. Many of these diseases can survive in the flea faeces present in the cat’s coat aiding transmission of disease from cat to cat and cat to human.
Fleas also can pose a direct risk to humans as they are not host specific and will bite all members of the household. It is worth remembering that fleas were responsible for transmission of the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the cause of the plague!
Ear mites commonly affect young kittens. They are transmitted from animal to animal via close contact and live on the skin of the outer ear canal. They cause irritation to the ear canal leading to excessive wax, scratching and head shaking. If you suspect your kitten has ear mites please arrange an examination at the Practice, as effective and easy to use treatments are available.
Regular ectoparasite treatment can prevent infestations developing and will reduce the risk to your cat from other diseases. Our staff will be pleased to advise you about the most appropriate ectoparasite control for your needs.