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How to spot a tick on your cat

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Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that feed on your cat, and once they’ve latched on they are not keen to let go. They will drop off when they’ve finished feeding, but that can take days. Good at hiding, particularly in long-haired pets, they can be hard to spot, so read on to find out what you’re looking out for.
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Tick identification
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Tick identification

Ticks are usually tiny when unfed (some are no bigger than a full stop), but grow in size to around a centimetre after feeding on your pet.

Part of the arachnid family, ticks lie in wait in long grass and vegetation and they latch on to animal fur – and to humans – as they brush by.

Once they’ve hitched a ride, it’s time for a meal. The tick sinks its strong mouthparts into its victim’s flesh and stays there, growing increasingly bigger, until it’s finished feeding, which often takes days.

Normally the blood loss from a single tick bite isn’t enough to trouble a cat but in young animals and older cats with a lot of ticks, blood loss can be more significant and can lead to anaemia.

Ticks can also transmit diseases, dogs are much more at risk than cats of contracting these, but remember ticks can also pass disease on to you and your family, so keeping all of your pets protected can help to protect you too.

For these reasons it’s important to check your cat’s fur for ticks regularly, particularly if they’ve been out and about in known tick areas.

  • Run your fingers through your cat’s fur. Ticks, particularly well-fed ones, feel like small round bumps on the surface of the skin.
  • Check the neck, head, ears and feet particularly closely. Ticks may often be hidden in long coats, but they prefer to feed on areas where it’s easier to get close to the skin.

Keep an eye out for any small round lumps. Not quite as hard to spot as fleas, ticks are likely to be about Rice Krispie sized, though they can be slightly smaller or larger. Usually by the time you spot a tick, it’s already latched on and feeding, but sometimes you’ll find an unfed tick wandering across the surface of your pet’s fur, looking for a place to feed. Unfed ticks are brown with a darker brown area around the mouthparts, and engorged ticks are round and grey coloured.

Occasionally people mistake a small skin lump on their pet for a tick - if you look closely you can see the legs of the tick which helps with identification. If you’re unsure or worried about your pet then it’s worth getting them checked over by your vet.

If you find a tick on your cat, don't panic, and don't pull it. There’s no need to stress your pet out, and the last thing you want to do is squeeze or break the tick off whilst it’s feeding – potentially increasing the risk of infection.

Read our guide to safely removing a tick from your cat, and take steps to keep all your pets protected against ticks with a suitable product, speak to your vet for more information.

Did you know…

Ticks are actually arachnids. That means they're closely related to spiders and scorpions, just in case you wanted a reason to dislike them even more.

To find out more about the options to help protect your cat from fleas and ticks, click here.