Ticks are little blood-sucking parasites that our cats can easily pick up while they’re out and about exploring. They can cause nasty diseases if they’re not removed quickly.
Ticks can usually be found in woodland and grassland but can even be in your garden if you live somewhere near deer or sheep. Your cat can pick them up while they are outside at any time of year although you’re more likely to find them between spring and autumn.
Ticks aren’t like fleas and they don’t jump. Instead, they drop onto your pet as they’re brushing past.
You should regularly check your cat for ticks, especially if they go outdoors a lot. You should run your hand over your cat and feel for any lumps or bumps. A tick on your cat will feel like a little lump at first.
Ticks can be different sizes from as small as a millimetre up to a centimetre in length. They have a white body until they have fed (which is when it turns darker and grows much larger).
You need to be really careful removing ticks from your pet. Make sure the whole tick has been removed as often the head can get left behind and cause infection.
Don’t squeeze the tick’s body. This can push blood back into your cat and cause disease.
The best way to remove a tick from your cat is to:
If you’re unsure about removing a tick yourself, it’s best to get in touch with your vet and they can remove it for you.
While ticks are less common on cats, if you live in an area where there are lots of ticks, you should regularly treat your cat with a tick treatment from your vet. This will help to prevent ticks from latching on to your cat as it will kill them when they do.
You should avoid an off-the-shelf tick product as these tend to be less effective than prescription products available from your vet. Never give your cat a tick treatment for dogs as these contain chemicals that are harmful to cats.
If you’re worried about removing the tick yourself, or your cat is showing signs of illness, you should take them to the vet straight away. You can read more about recognising the signs of illness in cats in our free guide.
It’s fairly rare for cats to get ticks, so if they have more than one on their body or are getting them frequently, you may need to visit the vet as this could be a sign of illness.
While Lyme disease isn’t common in cats, they can potentially get the disease from ticks in the UK.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious problems if not caught early. Symptoms of Lyme disease in cats include:
Unlike people, cats don’t get the typical bullseye mark that humans get when we have Lyme disease, so it’s important to look out for other symptoms. If your cat has any of these symptoms, get in touch with your vet straight away.
If it’s caught early enough, Lyme disease can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Humans can get ticks, so if your cat has a tick on them it’s important to get rid of it properly once it has been removed. Although ticks can’t survive as long on humans, they can still feed from us and we can still get Lyme disease from any ticks which carry the bacteria.
Download: our guide to parasites