If ringworm in cats is a problem for you, you probably have lots of questions. Is feline ringworm caused by a worm? Are some kitties more susceptible to it? How do you treat it? And the most important question: can you get it from your cat?
What Is Ringworm?
Cat ringworm is a fungal infection usually caused by a Microsporum or Trichophyton species. Hot, humid weather encourages the growth of the fungus, while spores can live in the environment for up to two years.
Is Cat Ringworm Dangerous?
No, it’s unpleasant, but it’s usually not life-threatening. In fact, it will usually go away on its own. However, because it’s very contagious to people, and to other pets, you’ll need to treat it, and deep-clean your home as well.
How Does Ringworm Spread?
Usually it’s spread by spores found just about anywhere an infected animal has been. This means that if a pet with ringworm visits your home, your kitty could be infected. Your cat can also get ringworm from grooming equipment, or from a boarding facility, if an affected animal has been there.
Ringworm spores can live on bedding, furniture, or anything else that an infected cat has been in contact with.
It’s important to understand that some cats can carry ringworm. Even though they’re not showing any symptoms, they can still spread the infection.
Are Some Cats More Susceptible To Ringworm?
A healthy adult feline usually has no problem with ringworm, as they develop resistance over time. However, ringworm in kittens and young cats under a year old is quite common because young animals haven’t had a chance to develop this resistance. Also elderly or sick animals whose immune systems are compromised are more at risk for becoming infected.
Some breeds, such as Persians, tend to fall victim to ringworm in cats more often, so there may also be a genetic factor involved, too.
What Symptoms Should You Watch For?
A round, circular spot with no hair on it is one of the classic ringworm symptoms in cats. It may be scaly in the middle, with zit-like pustules in it. The rash may start out small, and get bigger. These spots are usually found on your cat’s head, ears, and tail. Sometimes the fungus skips the circular stage, and spreads across your pet’s face, including his chin, lips, and nose.
The first symptom is often shedding, a LOT of it. Your cat may develop hairballs from ingesting all the loose hair, especially if the fungus spreads over his body. He or she may scratch at his ears often, too.
How Does Your Vet Diagnose Ringworm?
There are three ways to diagnose ringworm in cats:
1. Using a special black light called a Wood’s lamp. However, this is not always accurate, as nearly half of all ringworm fungus species don’t glow under black light. Also false positives are possible.
2. Pulling a few hairs from the edge of the suspected spot, and looking at them under a microscope.
3. Using scales from the spot to do a fungal culture. This is the most accurate method, plus you’ll learn which fungus is causing the problem.
Ringworm Treatment For Cats
First, any cat with ringworm probably has a depressed immune system. Your kitty needs a complete check-up to rule out any underlying conditions.
Most vets will prescribe an antifungal cream. It may be necessary to shave a long-haired cat so the medication can get to the skin. Remember that any clippers used must be sterilized to prevent spreading ringworm to other animals.
It may be necessary to give an oral anti-fungal medication to long-haired cats, or to cats who have infected nails.
Many cat owners have had success using a natural ringworm treatment for cats.
If your kitty should develop ringworm, it will be necessary to thoroughly clean your home to get rid of the spores. Avoid sweeping, as this can spread spores through the air. Carpets should be steam-cleaned, and ductwork should be professionally cleaned. Replace all filters as well. Don’t forget to vacuum the furniture and drapes. Disinfect all brushes and clippers, cat carriers, and bedding, with bleach, if possible.