Everything You Need To Know About Ticks And Cats

Your ultimate guide.

tick on a cat

Ticks can be total pests for your cat, and it can be super scary to see one on him for the first time.

All cats should be on a reliable tick prevention medicine in order to prevent ticks from latching on to them, especially since ticks can transmit diseases. But if you ever do see a tick on your cat, it’s important to remove it quickly and properly so your cat doesn’t get sick.

We reached out to Dr. Michael Henricks, a veterinarian and owner of Faithful Friends Veterinary Clinic in Ohio, to find out everything a pet parent should know about ticks on cats, including how to find them and remove them, and how to prevent ticks from latching on to your cat in the first place.

Can cats get ticks?

Ticks can attach to and feed on most animals, which unfortunately includes cats.

And since ticks can travel on other pets into your home, your indoor-only cat is still susceptible to tick bites (as well as flea bites) even if he never goes outside.

“All pets should be on flea and tick prevention because an indoor/outdoor cat or household dog that is not on prevention could bring fleas and ticks into the house,” Dr. Henricks told The Dodo.

Your cat’s best defense against tick bites is using tick control products (more on this later).

What do ticks on cats look like?

Ticks are small brown bugs, and have eight legs like a spider.

A tick that’s fully engorged (aka full of blood) will be easy to spot on your cat, and will look like a round wart on his skin. You’ll likely first notice fully engorged ticks while petting him since it will feel like a bump under his fur.

A tick that hasn’t been feeding might be more difficult to locate, especially if the tick is in larva form, since it’ll be super tiny.

Brushing your cat with a fine tooth comb (like a flea comb) can help identify whether or not your cat has ticks in his fur.

“Frequently checking your cat for fleas and ticks can help identify any issues, and a flea comb should be used over the cat's entire coat on a regular basis, but especially when a cat comes in from outdoors, to try to physically identify and remove any fleas and ticks before they can bite,” Dr. Henricks said.

You’re most likely to spot ticks behind a cat’s head and neck since cats can’t reach those areas when they’re grooming, so be sure to check those areas with the comb.

How to remove a tick from a cat

It’s super important to remove any ticks you see on your cat as soon as possible because the longer the tick feeds on your cat, the higher the chance the tick will transmit disease.

It’s also important that you remove the tick correctly since it’s super easy for the tick head to get stuck on a cat’s skin, which can cause infection.

To remove a tick from your cat, you can use tweezers or a special tick-removal tool.

If you use tweezers, you should pull the tick out using a twisting or arching motion (instead of pulling the tick straight out), which prevents the head from breaking off. (Be sure not to squeeze the tick too hard while removing it since part of the tick can get left behind in your cat’s skin, which can cause an infection.)

Tick-removal tools also make it pretty easy to effectively pull the whole tick off your cat, but just make sure to follow the directions on the packaging.

Try Tick Twister tick remover set from Amazon for $7

It’s good to have a pair of tweezers or a tick-removal tool on hand before you need them because if you ever do find a tick on your cat, you’ll want to remove it ASAP to reduce the chance of your cat contracting a tick-borne disease.

After removing a tick from your cat, use a pet-safe antiseptic wipe to clean the area.

Try Pet MD antiseptic wipes for pets from Chewy for $14

You’ll also want to kill the tick after removing it from your cat by flushing it down the toilet. But before you do that, take a picture of the tick that bit your cat so you can show it to your vet later in case your cat develops symptoms of a tick-borne illness (more on that below).

If you’re worried you removed the tick improperly, take your cat to the veterinarian ASAP.

Tick prevention for cats

The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your cat is with a reliable tick prevention product.

Tick prevention medicine can be in the form of a topical ointment, chewable tablet or collar — and you need to treat your pet regularly in order for the product to stay effective.

Most tick prevention products are also combined with flea prevention products for a two-in-one parasite protection medication. The parasite prevention products that Dr. Henricks recommends include the following:

Dr. Henricks recommends Bravecto for tick prevention for cats because it’s long lasting.

“I like Bravecto for cats because it provides the cat with 12 weeks of flea and tick prevention with each application of the topical ointment, meaning the patient only needs to be treated about four times a year,” Dr. Henricks said.

Revolution is a good option since it can protect your pet against parasites beyond just fleas and ticks.

“Revolution Plus is topical ointment applied every 30 days that I recommend because it is labeled for fleas, ticks, heartworm, ear mites and some of the most common types of GI parasites,” Dr. Henricks said.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the best flea and tick prevention product for your cat.

Tick diseases in cats

Tick prevention is super important because not only are ticks annoying for your cat, but they can transmit a ton of diseases that can make him super sick.

“Control of external parasites (fleas and ticks) for my feline patients is a very important discussion I have with my clients not just because of the ‘gross-out’ factor when thinking of bugs crawling on their pet, but also because of the health risks posed by the presence of these parasites,” Dr. Henricks said.

Fortunately, diseases from ticks aren’t very common in cats — and that includes Lyme disease, the best-known tick-borne disease.

“Tick-borne diseases are not very common in cats,” Dr. Henricks added. “Interestingly, Lyme disease, which is a relatively common tick-borne disease of dogs and people in endemic areas, is rare in cats because they are highly resistant to the bacteria that causes the disease.”

However, cats can still get diseases from ticks. Some tick diseases in cats include the following:

If your cat was bitten by a tick, he might have the following signs of a tick-borne disease after having a flea attached to him:

  • Anemia (indicated by pale gums)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abscesses (in the case of tularemia)

Keep in mind that it can take up to a month for these symptoms to show up in your cat.

“If a cat shows any of these signs after having a tick found attached to them, it should be seen by a veterinarian, and remember to mention to them [that] a tick was found on the patient,” Dr. Henricks said.

You should also take your cat to the vet if he displays these signs and you haven’t found a tick, since it’s totally possible for a tick to bite your cat and fall off before you even notice.

Ticks can be total pests for your cat, you and your family. So to keep your cat safe, make sure he’s up to date on his tick preventatives, that you take special care to check for ticks on your cat often, and that you remove any ticks you see swiftly and correctly.

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