Signs your Cat has a Parasite

Dr Kate Mornement - Vet and Pet Behaviourist profile picture

Dr Kate Mornement - Vet and Pet Behaviourist

PhD in Companion Animal Behaviour, BSc(Hons) in Zoology

Dr Kate Mornement is an Applied Animal Behaviourist, Consultant and Educator to pet parents, industry, government and media. She has a PhD which focused on companion animal behaviour from Monash University and a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Zoology (Animal Behaviour) from Latrobe university.

Signs your Cat has a Parasite

Keeping your cat or kitten parasite free is important for their health and happiness. Fleas, mites, ticks and worms can cause discomfort and can lead to serious illness if left untreated.

You may notice changes in your cat’s behaviour caused by common parasites.

Being able to recognise the symptoms of parasites will ensure you can treat them appropriately. So what are the behaviours you should look for?

The most common cat behaviours that can indicate the presence of parasites include:

1. Your Cat is Scratching

Occasional scratching is a normal behaviour in cats; however, excessive scratching can be a symptom of fleas and mites. If you notice your cat scratching more than normal, check their fur and skin for signs of fleas or mites. Some common signs include: flea dirt, live fleas or mites, eggs or redness and blood spots on the surface of the skin. If you cannot find any signs of fleas or mites, your cat may have a different health issue, such as an ear infection or sensitive skin due to an allergy.

2. Your Cat is Scooting

Scooting is when a cat drags his bottom along the ground, and it is a common symptom of worms. Although scooting is not as common in cats as compared to dogs, it can still occur. Scooting can indicate discomfort associated with the anal glands. When the anal glands are impacted, some cats may scoot on the carpet to help alleviate the itching and discomfort. This behaviour may require a visit to the vet to ensure the anal sacs don’t become infected, which can be extremely painful for your cat.

3. Your Cat is Licking

Licking is also a normal behaviour in cats; it is the way they keep themselves clean. However, if you notice your cat’s licking has become excessive, it could indicate the presences of parasites - such as worms or fleas. If your cat has worms, they may lick their bottom more often. Excessive licking due to fleas or mites may result in bald patches or thinning fur in the most licked areas.. Again, if you cannot find any signs of fleas or mites on your cat’s fur or skin, they may have a different health problem, like a skin allergy.

4. Your Cat has Weakness or Difficulty Breathing

Common symptoms of tick paralysis may include vomiting, weakness, collapse, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation or a change in your cat’s meow. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any of these changes in behaviour, as tick paralysis can be fatal. Fortunately, tick prevention is very effective in avoiding tick bite paralysis.

5. Your Cat is Vomiting or has Diarrhoea

Vomiting and/or diarrhoea in your cat could indicate the presence of parasites, particularly worms; however it can also be signs of other serious health issues. If vomiting or diarrhoea is severe or persists longer than 24 hours, take your pet to the vet.

6. Your Cat is more Lethargic than Normal

Reduction in activity levels or lethargy in your cat could be due to common parasites, particularly worms and ticks. Worms feed on blood and nutrients, and can cause your cat’s energy levels to drop. Similarly, a tick bite can cause fatigue and lethargy, in addition to other symptoms. This can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Common parasites are easily treated at home.

But it’s important to remember that although these behaviours may indicate the presence of parasites in cats, they may also be signs of other illnesses.

For this reason, it’s best to take your cat to the vet for a thorough check up if you’re unsure, the symptoms persist, or your cat is in pain and discomfort.

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