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Insects, Pests And Your Cat’s Health
Whilst the vast majority of cats have a very healthy coat that protects their skin from pests, flying insects and other creepy crawly things, as a responsible cat owner you do need to take precautions to provide your cat with additional protection.
Cats, just like people, can have severe allergic reactions to bites by insects and pests, specifically fleas, mosquitos and stinging insects such as bees and wasps. Spider bites are also problematic for some cats although in the United Kingdom we thankfully do not have the same problem with poisonous and lethal spider varieties that are found in other areas of the world.
Depending on the coat colour of your cat you may actually be able to see the fleas on your pet, typically in the shorter hair of the face or along the abdomen and under the chin and throat. They will be small, black to dark brown elongated, fast moving specks in the coat.
Even if you cannot see the fleas you will see their waste material, known as flea dirt, in your cat’s bedding or in their favourite sleeping spot. You will also see little black, hard flecks or granules along the skin typically by the shaft of the hair.
Fleas can be controlled by monthly topical applications or in tablet form available from your veterinarian. This prevents flea eggs from hatching as well as repels, or kills, adult fleas. In addition you should carefully wash and treat all areas of the home as well as your cat’s bedding to remove any eggs that can remain dormant for months before they hatch to infest your cat and home again.
Mosquitos and other flying insects can be an irritation to your cat and can cause localised swelling, skin irritation and, if scratching occurs, the risk for secondary bacterial infections.
Whenever possible keep your cat indoors during the peak activity times for flying insects. This will be at dusk and at dawn as well as on hot days with relatively little wind.
It is critical to very carefully read the labels of any products you are going to use on a cat for bugs and insects. Products that contain DEET or permethrin are highly toxic to cats, as are some essential oils and herbal sprays that are recommended for use with dogs. Always choose a product that is clearly indicated for use with cats or talk to your vet for a recommendation.
Spiders are not naturally found on cats so controlling the environment is your best option. Use a pet-friendly spray on the exterior of the home to create a barrier that prevents the spiders from getting into your house.
Rather than using a spray on spiders in the home kill them using a fly swatter or other method. This will protect your cat from exposure to potentially deadly combinations of chemicals found in typical commercially available fly and spider sprays.
Like spiders, ticks are found outdoors, typically in wooded areas and fields, and not in urban areas. Keeping your cat indoors or in your garden is the best way to prevent ticks from being a problem.
If you do find a tick on your cat remove it by grasping the head of the tick, closest to the skin, with tweezers or a tick remover tool, and gently squeeze. Pull back with steady tension and do not twist or jerk. Once the tick is removed apply antiseptic to the wound and watch the area for any signs of swelling or irritation.
Always keep a close eye on any insect bites on your cat. Often a topical antibiotic can be used to help control irritation and to prevent secondary infections. For any swelling that has a discharge or any changes in your cat’s overall health see your vet immediately to prevent possible complications.
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