External Parasites (Mites, Fleas and Tick)



These are microscopic organisms living on or in cat's skin or in their hair. Symptoms (sometimes called mange) include bald patches, dandruff, skin crust, dermatitis, and lesions. Mites are contagious and are transmitted by bedding and grooming equipment.

Ear mites live inside the ear canal and suck blood from the wall of the ear to survive. You'll notice an unpleasant smell and a dark discharge that looks like coffee grounds in the ear. If not treated, ear mites and infections can cause disfiguring damage, and in some severe cases, can be life threatening. Mites pass easily from one cat to another.

Since several kinds of mites infest cats, your veterinarian must make the diagnosis and prescribe the proper medical treatment. DO NOT USE STORE BOUGHT MEDICATIONS!


These are the most common external parasite. If your cat goes outside in the springtime, she probably has fleas, and your house will also have fleas soon after. A hungry flea bites its host and prepares the area with its anticoagulant saliva. The flea then siphons up the blood through its proboscis. This will cause unbearable itching, and the cat will constantly scratches and bite at her skin to try to relieve it.

Female fleas can consume 15 times their body weight in blood daily, so it is easy to see why heavily infested cats can become anemic and sometimes must be transfused. Some cats become allergic to fleas and develop flea-allergy dermatitis. The cat's skin itches, reddens, and develops small sores with scabby crusts. In severe cases, the cat can lose patches of hair.

When you turn your cat over and look at her belly, you might see tiny black dots scurrying around. The fur closest to the skin may show little black specks of flea fecal matter known as "coal dust". Fleas complete their life cycle by laying eggs on your cat, her bedding and in carpets. That's why merely shampooing the cat will not get rid of the problem.

There is no hope in winning the war against fleas, and two recent weapons have been developed to use in the battle - products aimed at interrupting the flea's life cycle. The first are insect-growth regulators (IGR) by the names of Precor (methoprene) or Torus (fenoxycarb). These kill developing fleas.

Flea medications such as Revolution, Advantage and Capstar are very effective.

The second is an oral insect-development inhibitor (IDI) called Program (lufenuron), which you mix into the cat's food once a month. It prevents the flea larva from developing normally.

If you use these products, use them only as directed. The label must say "safe for cats". If the label does not mention cats, do not use this product.


These tiny eight-legged parasites also live on the cat's blood. They burrow into the skin and suck the blood. The tick's body swells to many times its original size. Remove ticks as soon as you find them. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with large tweezers. Pull the tick straight out, taking care that the head does not remain inside the cat's skin.

Internal Parasites  (Tapeworms, Roundworms, Hookworms and Coccidia)


Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented worms that look like little rice kernels that may be moving around (these are pieces of the worm). They live in their hosts' intestines and feed off the nutrients passing through the intestines. They are a common parasite in cats, because tapeworms uses fleas as an intermediary host. When your cat swallows fleas while grooming, they also get tapeworm larvae.

Tapeworms usually do not produce any symptoms but might, in severe cases, cause constant hunger and weight loss. You might see segments of the worm in the cat's feces. Veterinarian-prescribed medication will get rid of these worms.


Roundworms or ascarids are four to six inches long, and in severe cases a cat may vomit them up - a disgusting sight you're not likely to forget. Roundworm eggs are hard to see except under a microscope because they are so tiny. Infestation with roundworms is not usually serious, but can undermine your cat's  health and allow other diseases to set in. They are transmitted by infested soil.


This type of worms can cause anemia due to blood loss and a common symptom is black, tarry feces. They also live in the intestines and can adversely affect a cat's health. Like the roundworms, they are transmitted by infested soil.


This is very common and can be a serious parasite. A cat with coccidia will seem sick - depressed, dehydrated, and with diarrhea, emaciated and anemic, abdominal pain, nasal and eye discharge. An animal contracts coccidia from eating raw meat, mice, or birds, or from unsanitary quarters where it comes in contact with infected feces.

If you bail a cat out of a dirty pet shop or animal shelter, or take one in from the street that has diarrhea be sure to have it checked right away by your vet, and isolate it from other cats until you are sure it's okay. Any worm medicine is poison and a poison capable of killing worms can also kill a cat if misused. Never dose your cat with any of the commercial worm medicines you can buy in pet shops, supermarkets, and the like. Worm medicine must be specific for one type of parasite only, in a dosage specific for your cat.


After ingesting of Giardia cysts, it takes 5 to 16 days before the cat will show signs of diarrhea. Acute or chronic, and continuous or intermittent diarrhea is the most common sign of infection, although the majority of Giardia.

Diagnosis of giardiasis depends upon microscopic identification of cysts in the stool. For accurate diagnosis, several fecal samples may need to be evaluated since cysts are not continuously shed in the stool. Several effective medications are available, but resistance is common. Elimination of Giardia. It is uncertain whether species of Giardia that infect cats are contagious to humans or vice versa. Careful hygiene will eliminate the risk of accidental ingestion of cysts.