It's tick bite prevention week, and we know first hand how unwanted these pesky pests are. Dr. Grant, our in-house vet, is here to help you out with your battles with these tiny but impactful enemies, and what to do if you think your cat has a tick living on them.
What is a tick?
Ticks are blood-sucking external parasites that commonly affect cats. Ticks tend to live in woodland and grasslands, but can just as easily be found in your garden. When your cat is roaming around the outside world, ticks climb onto your cat’s coat and then decide it's feeding time.
They initially start off very small, about the size of a pinhead, but over the next couple of days they get bigger and bigger as they fill with blood, eventually becoming the size of a pea. They have well developed mouths that allow them to hook onto their host for several days, once they have finished their all you can eat buffet, they fall off and go about their business.
The tick life cycle:
Ticks are more likely to be seen in the spring and autumn months, but have been spied in the summer - who can resist tanning season, after all?
It might surprise you to read that the average lifecycle of a tick is about 3 years. That's 30 in cat years! They spend most of their life in the environment and only feed for about 3-4 weeks of these 3 years.
Like other arachnids, ticks start off as eggs, hatching out as larvae and feeding on a host, usually small rodents, like mice. Once ready they moult into nymphs, who feed on larger animals such as rabbits. Nymphs then moult into their adult form, the female will lay thousands of eggs after feeding.
Why do we worry about ticks?
Tick bites alone can become irritated, sore and can become infected, requiring veterinary treatment. They can also carry infectious diseases such as lyme disease, which can pass to cats and humans. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can result in lethargy and loss of appetite in cats. It can also cause joint disease and therefore some cats may look stiff or have a limp. Luckily for UK-based cats, lyme disease is rare!
I've found a tick on my cat, what should I do?
Ticks are often seen when they become much larger after feeding. You can remove a tick yourself at home, but it's important to make sure the head of the tick doesn't get stuck inside your cat’s skin, as this can result in infection.
The best method is to twist them off gently, and we'd advise buying a tick-removing tool to help - they can be easily accessed from your vet or local pet shop. To be safe, wear gloves when removing ticks as they can potentially carry disease.
Place the tick-twisting device between the ticks body and cat’s skin and gently twist, twist, twist and the tick should come off. We'd recommend the O Tom Tick Twister, which you can find through their website.
If you are unsure of how to remove a tick, get in touch with your vet and they'll be able to teach you.
If you spot a tick, it’s important to search for more all over your cat’s body. They often attach around the head, ears, armpits and groin. But be sure to look everywhere!
Can I prevent my cat getting ticks?
Spot-on treatments are available that kill ticks once they have attached to your cat, collars are also available. Have a chat with your vet about which is best for your cat. It's still important to remove any noticeable ticks from your cat, to reduce the chance of infection.
Never use treatments that are designed from dogs on your cat, they can be very toxic and can kill your cat.
If you have any more questions about tick removal, we've shared a video about it on our Instagram channel, or get in touch with us directly: email@example.com