How To Deal With Ringworm In Cats

Here’s what you can do if your cat has ringworm.

Ringworm In Cats

Ringworm in cats can be super irritating. And while it’s not life-threatening, there’s nothing worse than seeing your cat in discomfort, so you’ll want to treat the infection as soon as you can.

But what’s ringworm exactly, and how can you tell if your cat’s infected?

Basically, ringworm is a fungal infection where dermatophytes (the fungi responsible for ringworm) feed on keratin found in the cat’s hair, skin and nails and rapidly reproduce — not exactly the most pleasant image ever. These dermatophytes typically live in the soil, where it’s warm and damp, and can easily spread to items your cat encounters on a daily basis.

We spoke to Ashley Callihan, a licensed veterinary nurse with DodoVet, for more insight into ringworm in cats, how you can spot signs of infection and when to contact your veterinarian for help.

Symptoms of ringworm in cats

If you see your cat show any of these symptoms, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian for next steps, according to Callihan:

  • Hair loss
  • Brittle patches of hair
  • Scaling or crusty skin
  • Excessive grooming
  • Crusty or infected nail beds
  • Dandruff
  • Pruritus (itching)
  • Red, circular lesions on the skin (not always, so you’ll want confirmation from vet)

Ringworm can be diagnosed by your vet using a medical tool called a Wood’s lamp, which causes the fungi to show up bright yellow-green in color. Pretty cool, right? However, some particularly sneaky dermatophytes can still go undetected, so other testing methods will need to be administered. Your vet can examine microscopic pieces of hair taken from around the skin lesion as well as take fungal cultures to identify and properly diagnose ringworm.

How to treat ringworm in cats

Your vet will likely offer a few suggestions on ways you can treat your cat’s ringworm infection once you return home.

“Treatment of ringworm in cats typically involves topical treatments (medicated shampoos, ointments and lime sulfur dips), oral antifungal medication and even antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infections,” Callihan told The Dodo. “It’s also important to clean the cat’s environment to prevent reinfection.”

Is ringworm contagious?

In short: Yes! Ringworm is incredibly contagious for around three weeks if aggressive treatment is used, and even longer without aggressive treatment.

“Ringworm can spread between animal species, and even humans, which makes ringworm a zoonotic infection (a disease transferred from animals to humans),” Callihan said. “If your cat has come into contact with ringworm, it is recommended to keep them away from other animals and people, and to keep them in an isolated environment, such as their own room or large crate, that can be easily cleaned.”

When handling a cat with a ringworm infection, be sure to wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands and arms after any interaction.

How to get rid of ringworm in cats

While ringworm can’t necessarily be prevented, according to Callihan, there are some things cat parents can do to help lower the chance of their cats getting infected:

  • Regularly wash your cat’s bedding.
  • Clean out brushes after grooming your cat.
  • Vacuum up hair around the home often.
  • Regularly disinfect common areas in the home.
  • Limit outdoor time if possible.

Here’s to getting your cat healthy so you can snuggle on the couch together again soon — and if he starts clawing at the furniture, don’t be too concerned.

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.