HEALTH & CARE

How to Remove a Tick from a Cat: Keeping Your Cat Protected From Tick-Borne Infections

Image of a cat scratching herself
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Although cats are usually capable of maintaining their own cleanliness, one challenge that they need your help to deal with is that of mites and ticks. Ticks can be a real pain if they’re not detected and removed on time. Not only will they cause some severe itchiness that could lead to rashes and sores, but you will also need to watch out for tick-borne infections. To help you tackle this problem once and for all, we have prepared a detailed how-to article that will inform you on exactly how to remove a tick from a cat.

Imagine that you’re just innocently lounging on the couch with your cat. You run your hand through their silky hair, and suddenly, you see many black and small creatures freely making their way across your cat’s exposed skin. Oh no, your cat is infested with ticks!

A beautiful tabby kitten scratching its fur

Don’t panic. Taking your pet to the vet immediately is all well and good, but you can actually treat tick infestations at home effectively. With some time, effort, and tender loving care, you will free your cat of the pesky ticks with your own two hands. Who knows? You may end up enjoying the tick-plucking exercise. I know I do. It’s quite fun, actually!

Ticks are resilient. They don’t die easy, and even if you manage to squeeze one to death, from the dead body of the tick will arise hundreds more. Even if the mother dies, the eggs and larvae won’t. Different opinions abound on how to properly eliminate ticks without making the infestation worse, but don’t worry because we’ve tried them all and singled out the solutions that really work. Before we explain how to kill them off for good, however, we would first like to help you understand a bit more about ticks.

The Dangers of Tick Infestation

It is important to treat a tick infestation in cats seriously. Ticks are dangerous parasitic creatures that are members of the Acarina order. Although most people might classify them as insects, these parasites are eight-legged and mostly resemble a young spider when fully grown. While feeding on your cat’s blood, a tick’s body gets inflated with time, making it bigger and bigger.

Ticks are mostly found in grassland areas, near large bodies of water, or places with wildlife around. Rural cats or cats that enjoy outdoor activities are the ones running the highest risks of attracting ticks.

An orange cat scratching herself while is laying down

Now, even if your cat spends most of their time indoors, there is still much to worry about. This is because ticks can be transferred to your house via other cats, dogs, or maybe yourself in case the ticks happen to cling to your garments on your way home.

These blood-sucking creatures are very infectious and dangerous. Once they have found their way to your cat’s skin, they won’t easily let go. Similar to how mosquitoes spread malaria, ticks too transfer infections from one animal to another. Among the most common infections your cat could catch from ticks include:

Lyme Disease

This infection is very common in cats and is passed on by ticks which had earlier fed on other infected animals. This infection is caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which is common in specific mammals such as deer or raccoon. Common symptoms of this infection include fever, lethargy, and joint swelling.

Cytauxzoonosis

Another fatal but less common infection caused by ticks is the Cytauxzoonosis. This infection is also known as bobcat fever and is most common in South Central and Southeast parts of the United States.

White and orange cat laying down and looking at the camera

This infection is transmitted when a tick feeds on the blood of a bobcat before moving on to the next host (which in this case is your domestic cat). What happens next is that your cat will ultimately hemorrhage before dying. Among the most common symptoms you’re likely to see here include fever, loss of appetite, enlarged spleen, difficulty in breathing, and lethargy.

Tularemia

Another deadly tick-borne infection is the tularemia or rabbit fever. Caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, this bacteria could be transmitted by four species of ticks, namely: the wood tick, American dog tick, lone star tick, and the coast tick.

Grumpy Cat Promotes "No-It-All: Everything You Need To No"

This infection is passed on when a tick feeds on an infected mammal before moving on to your cat. Among the most common symptoms you’ll notice with your cat include dehydration, high fever, loss of appetite, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Haemobartonellosis

Another highly infectious disease is the haemobartonellosis. Also known as feline infectious anemia, this illness mostly targets the red blood cells of the domestic cat. Among the most common symptoms you’ll notice with your cat include high fever, lethargy, increased pulse rate, and a pale mucous membrane.

Babesiosis

Another rare infection that’s caused by a tick bite is the Babesiosis. Caused by a single-celled parasite protozoa, this infection could result in anemia in the long run. Although this infection is not as serious as the rest we’ve highlighted, common symptoms you’ll see include poor coat condition, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

Sick cat at the vet control

Now, the only good thing about these deadly infections is that they’re mostly transmitted within 24 hours. This means that cat owners will have ample time to identify, remove, and dispose of the ticks before they can cause any harm to your feline friend. With that being said, this guide will, therefore, go ahead to give a detailed how-to procedure on how to remove a tick from your cat.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Remove Ticks from a Cat

If your cat is badly infested, removing all of the ticks one by one will take time. So get comfortable. This won’t be easy, but it could be fun for both you and the cat. Plucking out the ticks will start to feel like a game once you’ve gotten used to it and your cat will appreciate the bonding time.

Step One: Identify the Problem

First things first, make sure that your cat really is suffering from a tick infestation instead of other problems. For pet owners who don’t know much about ticks, it’s good to understand that these arachnid creatures have a large flat or rounded body with a small head and eight tiny legs.

They come in a range of different colors such as grey, brown, and black depending on the region. Since they enjoy staying in warm areas, ticks tend to burrow under cat’s armpits, around the ears, neck, toes, and between the paws.

Orange cat scratching itself on a bench

Ticks are not easy to see with the naked eyes unless they’re fully grown or have fed on enough blood to make them inflated. The saliva of a tick has properties that eliminate pain or discomfort when it’s feeding. This means that your cat may be unable to detect any pain or discomfort even when there are ticks on board, but you should know better than to dismiss the threat even if your cat doesn’t seem to be bothered.

Having said that, the first thing you need to do is to finger-comb your cat’s fur in search of ticks. For those cats with longer hair, extra care is required as ticks can easily bury themselves deep inside the fur, making it difficult to identify. Cats with shorter hair are easier to check.

Earlier on, we had mentioned the hotspot areas that ticks enjoy most. Therefore, begin the process by finger-combing the cat’s fur starting with the ears, the neck, on the belly, the tail, and finally between the toes. When you’re done, check the entire body slowly to avoid missing anything.

A cat scratching fleas.

Finally, check inside the ear canal. In case you notice that your cat is shaking her head often, visit the vet as you won’t be able to handle an infection inside the inner ear canal on your own.

One advantage of ticks, however, is that they usually don’t move around much once they have identified a proper location to feed. This characteristic, therefore, makes it easier for you to identify and eliminate ticks as compared to flies.

Step Two: Observe Your Cat

Before you start the tick removal procedure, look for any notable symptoms. You see, when a tick is attached to your cat’s skin for over 24 hours, chances of tick poisoning are very high.

Image of a cat lying down

This is something that might force you to visit a veterinary immediately for medical treatment. However, if there are no signs of infections, you can move on with the removal process at home.

Step Three: Gather the Supplies

Once you’ve identified that there are indeed ticks on your cat’s fur, it’s time to remove the parasites to eliminate the chances of your cat getting infected. As usual, the first step you need to take before commencing with the process is to gather all the supplies you’ll need throughout the process:

  • A pair of disposable gloves (latex gloves in particular)

  • Tweezers (or any other tick removal tool of your choice)

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Antiseptic wipes or antibiotic ointment

  • A container with a lid (for tick disposal purposes)

Oftentimes, pet owners find themselves in a dilemma when choosing the best tick removal tool. To avoid such challenges, we’ve included an affordable and safe tool cat owners can consider.

The TickEase Tick Remover is what we’re talking about here. Made from 100% stainless steel, these tweezers are thin and sharp at the tip—making them the best for removing all types of ticks safely without twisting off the head.

TickEase Tick Remover for pets

With the TickEase Tick Remover, pet owners have the option of using either side to remove ticks from the cat’s skin. One of the sides features a thin tip that’s perfect for removing smaller ticks while the other has a slotted scoop for removing larger ticks such as the American Dog Tick. The TickEase Tick Remover is affordable and comes highly recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Step Four: The Prep

Begin the process by wearing latex gloves to protect your hands from possible dangers. Ticks are very dangerous and contain infectious bacteria that can easily seep into your bloodstream if touched with bare hands.

Step Five: Steady Your Cat

Here, you’ll require the help of an extra hand—maybe a friend, your spouse, or a family member to aid in holding the cat down in a soothing way. Cats are very sensitive creatures.

Woman Holding a ginger Cat

Even though the tick removal process shouldn’t hurt them, they will need some frequent petting to calm their nerves. When the cat is held in place, light up the room/area to make sure the visibility is perfect.

Step Six: Find the Tick

Start by parting your cat’s hair gently to search for ticks. Keep in mind that ticks love attaching themselves to joint areas such as around the neck, around the ears, on the armpits, between the paws, and around the anus.

Step Seven: Grabbing the Tick

Once you’ve identified the location of the tick, whip out the tick-removal tool you have previously prepared (in this case the tweezers). Look closely and grab the tick without pinching the cat’s skin.

Image showing TickEase Tick Removal Tweezer Tool

Don’t twist the tweezers when removing the tick to avoid detaching the head from the body. If the head is accidentally embedded in the skin, remove it immediately or simply take the cat to the vet if you can’t do it on your own.

Step Eight: Kill the Tick

Once the tick has been successfully removed from the cat’s skin, place it in a jar or a ziplock bag with rubbing alcohol in it. The alcohol is used to kill the tick safely as it’s not advisable to squeeze it or flush it down the toilet as this might expose the entire family to possible infections.

Step Nine: Disinfect the Bite Area

Once the tick is successfully removed from the cat’s skin, rub the bite wound gently with alcohol followed by an antiseptic spray, a triple antibiotic ointment, or simply use wipes to disinfect the bite site. Through this, you’ll be able to keep the cat from contracting any air-borne infections.

A cat and a concentrate desinfectant next to her

However, this step doesn’t just end there as you’ll have to monitor your cat for signs of swelling or redness. If you detect any, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible for treatment and advice.

Step Ten: Finishing Touches

Now that you’ve accomplished your goal, remove the latex gloves carefully without touching the areas where the gloves got into contact with the cat’s skin. When you’re done, wash your hands thoroughly with a disinfectant for proper hygiene purposes.

A persong washing hands for proper hygiene purpose

In addition to that, remember to award your cat with some treats for being patient. Play with her to see whether she’s responsive and please, don’t forget to monitor her behavior for any signs of infections.

Wrap Up

It’s often said that prevention is better than cure. One way of protecting your cat from ticks is by checking the cat frequently and making sure that the environment they live in is clean. Since cats are prone to contracting ticks while playing outdoors, most pet owners prefer to keep their cat indoors.

Finally (and this is important), cats should always be monitored for any signs of infections after the ticks are removed. Always keep track of your cat’s eating habits, appetite, and skin/coat condition for several weeks to ensure that everything is going smoothly.

A woman holding her cat while walking

We’ve covered everything you need to know regarding ticks and how they affect your cats. Now, for those pet owners who’ve already tried following this step-by-step guide, how did you find the process? Was it helpful? If so, we would really like to hear your story by sharing your views and experience in the comment box below. If we missed anything important, don’t hesitate to give us a shout!

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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