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How to safely remove a tick from your cat

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Ticks aren’t just a pain when they bite, they can also transmit some nasty diseases. Although ticks are less of a health risk to cats than they are to dogs, these blood-sucking parasites can still cause problems in cats, and are best avoided. Here are some simple tips on how to safely remove a tick from your cat.

If your cat spends time roaming the great outdoors, and if she isn’t properly protected, she could come home with a tick. This unpleasant parasite will latch on to your cat’s body and feed for several days if it’s not safely removed. Some of the diseases that ticks transmit can also affect you and your family, so it’s best to keep all your pets protected.
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Why tick bites are bad news
Infected ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, which is a serious bacterial infection. It’s rare for cats to become affected, but the disease can be serious in people and in dogs, and ticks that hitch a ride into your home on your cat may put your family or other pets in your household at risk.

What do ticks look like?
The most common tick you’ll see on pets in the UK is only a few millimetres long before feeding but grows to around a centimetre when it’s finished gorging on your pet. When attached to your pet, the tick appears a light grey colour and looks a bit like a pebble. It can sometimes be confused with a small skin lump, but seeing legs at the base of the tick helps clear up this confusion. It’s worth speaking to your vet if you’re unsure. It’s important to check your cat’s coat regularly, and immediately remove any ticks you find.

Removing a tick from a cat
Removing a tick is notoriously tricky because you need to avoid accidentally leaving the tick’s mouthparts in your cat’s skin. A tick removal tool does a much better job than a pair of tweezers, which can squeeze the tick and break it up, potentially leaving some of it behind in your cat. You should also never try to burn off a tick, or ‘suffocate’ it with a layer of vaseline. Ideally you’ll need: someone else to gently hold your cat while you work, a pair of latex gloves, antiseptic wipes and a small sealed container to dispose of the tick:

  • Put on a pair of gloves whenever you handle ticks. Ticks can carry disease, and some of these diseases can also affect you and your family.
  • Part the fur carefully around the tick, taking care to keep your cat as calm as possible.
  • Following the instructions on your tick remover, position the tool over the tick’s body, very close to your cat’s skin.
  • Carefully pull and twist to bring the whole tick away without squeezing.
  • Put the tick in a sealed container, and then bin it immediately.
  • Wipe the affected area on your pet gently with a pet-friendly antiseptic.
  • Dispose of the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly. Clean your tick tool with a disinfectant and store it safely in case you need it again.

If your cat gets distressed, or the tick doesn’t come out in one piece, then get some advice from your vet.

For owners with cats who spend lots of time outdoors, especially those in areas known for ticks, it’s advisable to use a product to protect your cat against ticks. There are a range of products available including spot-ons and collars. Make sure you get a product that is specific for cats, as some dog products can be extremely dangerous for cats – your vet is the best source of information on what product will be right for your cat.

Did you know…
Ticks can transmit Lyme disease – a condition that affects dogs and people in the UK and elsewhere in the world. According to Public Health England, there are an estimated 2000 to 3000 new cases of the disease in humans in England and Wales alone every year.1

Speak to your vet about preventative products to help stop ticks feeding on your pet.

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463701/LymeDisease_SignsAndSymptoms.pdf