Ticks carry disease-causing germs that can threaten the life of your cat. These can include Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Hemobartonellosis, Tularemia, and Cytauxzoonosis, among others. All that these germs need is for one tick bite to initiate the cascade of physiological reactions. It is for this reason that all cat owners should check their pets whenever it ventures outdoors. They should also learn how to remove a tick from a cat as a matter of prevention. Here’s how.
Distinguish a Tick from a Flea
It is very important to distinguish a tick from a flea. While both organisms can carry disease-producing germs, they differ in the type of diseases that they produce. Fleas carry tapeworms that can infest the cat’s intestines. On the other hand, ticks carry viruses and other microorganisms that cause more serious health problems. In humans, ticks can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. In cats, they can produce Tularemia and Ehrlichiosis, among others.
Fleas are prolific jumpers because they have very powerful hind legs. Ticks, on the other hand, do not have such an anatomy. Instead, they rely on their powerful mouth parts to latch onto the skin of their hosts. Most species of ticks wait for their hosts to pass by. Once they do, they grab onto the host’s coat and start working their way into the skin.
So, what does a tick look like on a cat? Ticks are larger than fleas. They can grow as large as 0.2 inches. Kitten ticks will be smaller, however. The largest fleas can only be about 0.12 inches long. Some ticks have a soft, oval, gray body. This can grow in size right after having a blood meal. There are also ticks with a flat and dark-colored body. Fleas will look like tiny black specks on your cat’s skin.
You may also like our articles on Flea Collar for Cats and Flea Treatments For Cats.
Prepare Your Materials
How to get a tick off a cat requires you to prepare a few materials. You will need latex gloves. You don’t want to grab and hold the tick using your bare hands. The disease-causing germs are in the blood of the tick. If you accidentally squish it and you have a small cut in your fingers, then it is possible that these germs can enter the bloodstream.
You also need a pair of small tweezers. Removing cat and kitten ticks involves grabbing the mouth part of the parasite. You are not supposed to hold the body and pull it out. Doing so can detach the mouth part from the rest of the tick’s body. This leaves the mouth part still embedded in the cat’s skin.
A cat comb is also important. This will help you part the pet’s fur so you can check every square inch of its body for ticks. You also need to prepare a container that you can fill with rubbing alcohol. You will use this to kill each tick that you remove from your pet by dropping them into the alcohol. You will also need a cotton swab, in case the site on the skin bleeds with the removal of the tick.
It is always recommended that you have someone else to assist you. He or she can hold your cat while you get to work on how to remove a tick from a cat. He can soothe and calm the animal to make the tick removal process less stressful.
You may also want to purchase a topical anti-inflammatory medication for your cat. The removal of the tick can cause skin irritation for a couple of weeks. You can help minimize the resulting inflammation by applying an anti-inflammatory cream right after the tick removal process.
You can also ask your veterinarian if he can recommend a topical antibiotic. This is more as a preventive measure than it is a treatment. Removing the tick will leave an opening on the cat’s skin. Germs can enter through this opening. Applying an antibiotic in the area surrounding the tick bite can help kill the germs present.
Prepare Your Cat
There are some cats that do not like tick removal sessions. It makes them very anxious. That is why it’s best to schedule the activity at a time when your pet feline is calm. You can play with it for about 15 minutes to help tire it a little bit.
Bring your cat to the makeshift ‘treatment’ table. Give it a few treats to help it settle down. This is where having an assistant can be very useful. He can soothe or restrain your kitty so you can go about the business of removing the ticks from its body. The assistant can hold the cat by placing the animal’s rear against his tummy. He can also use his forearms to restrain the cat’s body around the shoulders and the front limbs. An alternative is to position the cat sideways. One hand will support the cat’s body while another will hold the shoulders.
Make sure to perform the procedure in a well-lighted room. It would also be ideal if there are no distractions that can make your cat more nervous.
Inspect the Cat’s Skin
Put on the latex gloves before you start handling your kitty. You never know what kind of disease you can get if ever you get in contact with ticks.
Use a flea comb for cats to part your pet’s fur. You can start on the animal’s body right at the back of its neck and then move down towards its tail. Take your time. Pay special attention to certain parts of the cat’s body. Ticks love to hide in dark areas like the space in between the cat’s toes, the groin, and the armpits. You can also see ticks hiding in the fold of ears, where the lower part of the ear meets the skin of the cat’s head.
As already mentioned, a tick will look like a small, oval-shaped organism. It has a grayish to brownish color; although there are some have a darker color. Depending on their state of feeding, you may find them fully engorged. This tick has already had its blood meal.
Remove the Tick
How to get a tick off a cat? You need to use your tweezers. There are also tick removal tools on the market. These often have a small loop at the end where you can insert the body of the tick. At the end of the loop is a narrower section that is perfect for latching onto the tick’s body. This allows for easier removal of the tick.
If you do not have such a device, an ordinary pair of tweezers will do. Make sure to position the tips of the tweezers between the neck and the head. The width of the tweezers will help secure both of these tick body parts. Don’t grab the tick by its body. The pressure on the tweezers might cause the tick to burst and spill its blood.
Position the tweezers as close to the cat’s skin surface as possible. This will give you a much better chance of removing the cat and kitten ticks.
Once you have positioned the tweezers, pull it straight out. Do it slowly while being firm. Resist the temptation to twist the tweezers. Doing so can detach the tick’s body from its head, leaving the mouth part still embedded in your cat’s skin. This can cause irritation and inflammation.
In case you were not able to remove the mouth part, do not attempt to gouge it out. Bring your cat to the veterinary clinic so they can remove the embedded mouth part.
Kill the Tick and Disinfect the Cat’s Skin
Right after removing a tick, you should drop it in the container filled with rubbing alcohol. This will kill the parasite. Do not apply alcohol directly on the tick while it is still latched onto your pet’s skin. Doing so will make the tick release its toxins. These can spread onto the skin of the cat and cause irritation or inflammation. As such, every time you remove a tick from the cat’s body, you should drop it into the jar of alcohol.
Be sure to apply a disinfectant on the same area where you removed the tick. As mentioned, the mouth part leaves an opening for bacteria and other germs to enter. That is why it is important to disinfect this area. You can moisten a piece of cotton ball with alcohol and use it to disinfect the area. You can also use tincture of iodine or hydrogen peroxide. If you want to be sure about it, you can apply a topical antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties.
Praise Your Cat and Clean Up
Don’t forget to praise your kitty for being so calm and relaxed while you were removing ticks from its body. This will make the cat feel that such an activity is very pleasant. Keep all of your materials and dispose of the dead ticks. You can flush them in your toilet. Make sure all of them are already dead before you do that, though.
Knowing how to remove a tick from a cat can help you address some of the diseases brought about by these organisms. Make this a regular routine to safeguard your pet as well as yourself.
- Ticks and Your Cat – Cornell Feline Health Center
- Ticks and tick removal – international cat care