There are all kinds of weird and wonderful parasites that can live in or on your cat, but which are the most common, can they affect humans and what should we do to prevent them? Rest assured that here at Orchard we provide comprehensive advice and complete coverage for your pet.
Which are the most common? Do they affect humans?
Some of the less usual parasites only bother cats in times of disease or stress. The important ones to be aware of and easily prevent are:
- Fleas: cats and dogs have different species of fleas, but they will live on both. Fleas do not live on humans but they will bite us, which may be noticeable as small itchy red bumps, often around the ankles. Adult fleas on your pet will lay eggs that drop off and develop in the environment through larvae and into pupae from which new adult fleas emerge. In cozy, centrally heated houses this can occur all year round. The life cycle is temperature dependent but at its quickest is still 3 weeks (and can be months!), so regular control is important or you may unexpectedly find an infestation which can take months to clear. In some cases animals can have allergic reactions to flea bites leading to very itchy skin even without seeing adult fleas, and severe infestations in small kittens can even cause anaemia.
- Ticks: ticks used to be less common in the UK, but with rising temperatures they are now commonplace, especially in the South West. Ticks can carry Lymes disease – thankfully this disease is very rare in cats in comparison to dogs, but can still occur and can make them very unwell. Ticks can cause nasty skin infections where they bite.
- Roundworms (gut worms): The most important roundworm in cats is called Toxocara cati. The highest risk period for this is in young kittens, as the parasite can be passed on from the mother as soon as the kittens are born. It is very important that kittens are wormed every four weeks until they are at least 6 months old. Infections with Toxocara in older cats are often asymptomatic so the cat is not usually ill. However, they can still pass eggs in their faeces. If the parasite finds its way into a human and tries to establish an infection, it can cause serious problems such as blindness or seizures. Young children are at highest risk of this, due to their tendency to put their grubby fingers in their mouths. Keeping your cat regularly wormed is very important for public health, especially as they often toilet away from home.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms have a more complex life cycle than roundworms, as they have to pass through another organism, known as an “intermediate host”. The intermediate host for the most common cat tapeworm is the flea: cats are infected when they ingest fleas while grooming. In rare cases humans can be infected if they accidently swallow a flea! Other types of tapeworm pass through small mammals, amphibians and birds that cats hunt – regular tapeworm treatment is particularly important for cats that hunt and eat their prey.
How do we prevent them?
Regular parasite control to prevent these diseases is, thankfully, easy! There are multiple veterinary products that we recommend to suit your pet’s routine. No product on the market covers everything in one, so there are a couple of protocols we recommend:
- Spot-ons: these are liquids applied directly on to the skin on the back of the neck. These are combined with a tapewormer tablet.
- Monthly: if you prefer a regular routine to ensure treatments aren’t missed, this may be best for your cat!
- Quarterly: if your cat is mainly outdoors or can be fractious to handle, this may be best for your cat!
We recommend using veterinary prescription medicines rather than products bought over the counter in pet shops. The reason for this is that prescription medicines have undergone thorough and strict medical trials and testing. This means that we both know that they work effectively and are safe to use. Sometimes your cat may need special considerations, for example if they are pregnant or lactating, and this is something you can discuss with your vet to help choose a safe product.
Remaining regular with your preventatives is important: lapses in treatment, even for as little as a week, can put your cat at risk of ticks and fleas in particular.
Orchard Health Plan Benefits
Our Health Plan members have all the essential parasite coverage included in their annual plan, and we will even remind you when your next few months of product are ready to collect! You can choose if you would prefer a monthly or quarterly plan. To have a look at our Health Plan and it’s other benefits, please visit the web page here.