Can Cats Get Lice?

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If you have a cat or two running around your house, you might be wondering can cats get lice? After going through a traumatic experience with fleas once, I immediately started freaking out about the possibility of my cat getting other annoying infections, so this question was hot on my mind.

» You might be interested in How to Manage Multiple Cat Households and Can Cats Eat Cucumbers?

Grey cat scratching - can cats get lice?

Luckily, lice infections are not as common as flea infections or ticks on cats. Lice is species-specific, so it’s not transferred between different animals. If you only have one cat that doesn’t come in contact with other cats, then you won’t have to worry about lice.

However, it’s not impossible for a cat to get lice and it can lead to an infestation, which could cause serious health problems. Fortunately, lice infestations in cats are rare and easily treatable.

The presence of lice on your cat may cause skin itching and irritation. Body areas that are more prone to lice infestation include ears, head, shoulder, tail, and groin. So if you notice your cat itching those areas more than usual, it might be time for a vet visit.

Grey and white cat with green eyes

How Do I Know If My Cat Has Lice?

There are many tell-tale signs of an infection or skin problem in cats. You just need to keep your eye out for any of these changes in your cat.

One of the best methods is to look for nits and eggs on your cat’s fur. You can easily identify adult lice moving through the cat’s fur. However, whenever you see that something is wrong, take your cat to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

  • Scabs
  • Skin redness
  • Face rubbing 
  • Scratching of skin
  • Dryness
  • Hair loss
  • Restlessness
  • Matted fur
  • Small brown or white spots on the cat’s skin and fur

Lice infestation is species-specific, which means you don’t have to worry about getting lice from your furry friends. However, they do spread easily between cats, so if you have more than one cat it is highly possible they will spread the infection.

The simple way to avoid serious consequence is to promptly apply treatment to all of your cats.

What Are The Causes Of Lice Infestation In Cats?

Since lice are not transferred between species, your cat will not get lice infestation from kids or other pets like dogs at your home. The most likely way your cat becomes infected with lice is from exposure to infected cats.

If you let your cat outside, they are likely coming into contact with other neighborhood cats. There’s no great way to avoid this if you have a cat who goes outside. You just have to be vigilant to any occurrences.

Keeping your cat inside might not be a perfect solution, but it can prevent outbreaks of fleas and lice. See some great ways to keep your cat entertained.

Orange cat at the vet

How To Confirm The Presence Of Lice Infestation In Cats?

To confirm a lice infestation, it is important to go to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. While you can see lice and eggs in your cats fur, or small brown and white flecks in the cat’s fur, you need to rule out other parasitic infestations like ticks, fleas, and skin allergies.

Microscopic examination will help to identify the type of lice infestation, since there are two types of lice; chewing lice and sucking lice. In cats, the most commonly occurring is Felicola subrostratus which is a chewing louse. Treatment will vary depending upon the stage of life and type of lice.

Cat wearing a cone

How Do You Treat Lice?

Lice infestations are easy to treat and control in cats. The treatment should be given according to the recommendation of the veterinarian once the diagnosis is made. Always strictly follow the instructions of the veterinarian. More than one application may be needed to treat nits and adult lice.

Some things you will need to do include:

1. Isolation

Isolation might be necessary in a multiple cat household, since lice can spread easily from one cat to another. Always put the infected cat in a separate room during a treatment phase. This will ensure the safety of other cats and also save you money.

Sleeping cat

2. Medical treatment

Always get clear guidance from your veterinarian before starting any treatment plan. Several products are available in the market ranging from medicated shampoo to wash. Other medical treatments include the drugs containing:

  • Imidacloprid
  • Fipronil
  • Selamectin

Which one you use will depend on a few factors that only a veterinarian can determine.

3. Home treatment

If your cat has had lice before, you might already know how to treat it, or your veterinarian might prescribe home treatment. In such cases, you need to get specially formulated sprays and powders. And thoroughly treat both the cat and the living space.

4. Fur shaving

Black cat with its fur shaved off

In case of severe lice infestation, the cat’s fur can become badly matted, making room for other parasitic infestations. Veterinarians recommend shaving the infected fur to avoid severe skin infections.

Shaving the fur isn’t always necessary, so go on the guidance of your vet.

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Lice infestation is rare in cats but may cause skin-related issues and severe itching, the consequence of which is discomfort for your cat. However, severe infections may affect the appearance. So you have to offer proper grooming sessions and visit your veterinarian regularly. 


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