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Cats - Parasites




Parasites: fleas, other skin parasites, tapeworm and roundworm infections are common problems. We recommend worming cats every 3-4 months with drontal tablets or if you struggle administering tablets there is a spot on treatment available. Maintain protection against fleas and ticks with products such as Advocate, Fiprospot or Effipro.

Skin Parasites

The main skin parasites of cats are fleas, notoedric mange, and cheyletiella mites.


Cat Flea

The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common ectoparasite of cats. When the female flea lays her eggs, they eventually hatch into larvae. The larvae pupate by spinning a cocoon and may remain in this stage for up to 140 days. Emergence occurs when ideal environmental conditions develop. In humid, warm environments, the life cycle may be completed every 2-4 weeks. When all the life stages of the flea are considered as a single population, the egg comprises 50% of the total, leaving the larvae at 35%, the pupae at 10%, and the adult flea at only 5%. As such, effective flea control programs usually focus on control of juvenile (pre-emergent) fleas, as well as the relatively small population of adults.

In most cases, flea infestation is readily diagnosed by the presence of fleas crawling through the pet's haircoat. Occasionally, owners may first notice the problem when entering the home after the pet has been removed for some time; fleas seeking a food source will bite the pet and, perhaps, humans. Heavily parasitised cats may develop anemia due to blood loss. Flea-allergy dermatitis and tapeworms are other problems associated with flea infestation.

The presence of flea faeces (flea dirt) indicates flea infestation. This may be demonstrated by combing the dark material out of the pet's haircoat and onto a moistened paper towel. The red stain of resuspended digested blood can be easily visualized.

Papulocrusting lesions of miliary dermatitis are often found on the tailhead, and around the neck of flea-allergic cats.

Treatment of this problem involves treating both the environment and the animal. We use Frontline, Advantage, Stronghold and Advocate for treating animals and recommend Acclaim and Indorex for treating the environment. The use of flea collars, combs, and shampoos as the sole agents for treating fleas is not recommended. They do not tend be as effective as the prescription insecticides and owners using these products should not have a high expectation of success.

Successful flea control can be achieved safely with careful attention to the products used. Our clients are welcome to phone for advice if required.


Notedres Cati

Notoedric mange is caused by the Sarcoptic mite called notoedres cati. It can be spread by direct contact between cats and is highly contagious. Intensely itchy cats with or without additional crusting and dandruff should be suspected of having the mite.

Diagnosis is made by examining skin scrapings microscopically for the presence of mites



This is a mite which lives on the skin surface, eggs are attached to the hair shafts and hatch as larvae, develop into nymphs, and then into adults within approximately one month. They are transmitted between animals by contact.

Some animals show little reaction to infection, others develop an itch and have an excessive amount of dandruff in the coat. The diagnosis of the problem is by finding excessive scale and the mites on the skin surface, often by microscopic examination of tape strips applied to the skin.

Treatment can be carried out using various anti-parasitic preparations, solutions such as Advocate have been proven effective.



Tapeworms are intestinal parasites, 2 types of tapeworm are commonly found in cats in the U.K., Dipylidium caninum and Taenia spp. Dipylidium has a life cycle that infects cats through fleas, Taenia spp are spread to cats through the hunting and ingestion of small mammals such as mice.

The most common sign of tapeworm infection is the finding of small 'rice grain' like segments on the hair beneath the tail and around the perineum.

The control of tapeworm infestation can be carried out with regular worming, we recommend using either Drontal Cat Tablets, or Droncit spot on, or Droncit injection. This should be routinely carried out every 3-4 months unless avid hunters in which case it may be advisable to increase the frequency of treatment. At last a Spot-on, Round and Tapewormer is available. It is called Profendor.

Good flea control will decrease the likelihood of Dipylidium infection.

Toxocara (Roundworms)


Toxocara are small intestinal parasites more commonly known as roundworms. These can infect cats through the ingestion of infected mammals or birds (through hunting activities), or by spread from queen to kittens prior to weaning.

Roundworms have a 2-3 week life cycle and during this cycle the larvae will migrate from the intestine to the lungs and liver before developing to the adult stage in the intestine.

Roundworm infection is generally much more serious in kittens than in adult cats and may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal enlargement, occasionally coughing (from lung migration of larvae) and pneumonia. Many cats with mild infections will show no clinical signs.

Treatment can be easily carried out using effective drugs such as fenbendazole. There are many poorly effective drugs marketed for worming both dogs and cats, please check with your veterinary surgeon that the treatment you intend using is effective.

Kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age and adult cats every 3-4 months throughout life.