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How to Keep Your Cat Parasite-Free This Summer

Cat peeking behind a table
Cat peeking behind a table
Headshot of Dr. Elizabeth O'Brien

Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien

DVM, DABVP, Feline Specialist, The Cat Clinic


Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien

DVM, DABVP, Feline Specialist, The Cat Clinic

Summer has returned, and Canadians are rejoicing at the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. So, too, are their pets.

With a rapidly growing tick population, dog owners are already on high alert. But cat owners are often unaware just how important it is to keep their own furry friends safe from unsavoury critters. “Fleas and ticks on cats are a real public health issue,” says Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien, Feline Specialist at The Cat Clinic in Hamilton. “We see cats with flea allergy dermatitis and skin irritation. I’ve seen kittens die from anemia because of fleas. Fleas carry tapeworms and blood parasites, so your cat can get an internal parasite from an external parasite.”

An invisible problem can still be a big problem

Waiting until you see signs of fleas or ticks before worrying about it is not the way to protect your cat, your family, or your home. By the time you see that first flea or tick, your cat has already been exposed to a variety of things that could cause serious health problems. Worse, you might never see that flea or tick at all. “Cats are fastidious,” Dr. O’Brien reminds us. “You may never see a single flea or tick because your cat is cleaning those little monsters off. I’ll see cats with no sign of fleas who are presenting with skin irritation, and it turns out that the house is completely infested.”

She also talks about the myth of the indoor cat. Just because your cat isn’t allowed outdoors doesn’t mean they are safe. A brief jaunt to the porch or a visit from a neighbour’s dog can be enough to expose them. Sometimes owners even bring fleas or ticks into the house on their clothing. “The worst flea infestations I’ve ever seen have been on indoor cats because they’ve often had no prevention,” Dr. O’Brien says.

It’s all about prevention

The good news is that easy, safe, and effective prevention options exist to support feline health. “There is one product out there that prevents both fleas and ticks,” says Dr. O’Brien. “It’s a liquid that goes on the back of the cat’s neck, and the huge majority of cats tolerate it very well.”

Be sure to ask your veterinarian about preventative medicine, as they can help you determine the best course of action for your cat. It’s especially important not to use products — particularly those designed for dogs — without a consultation. “Some of the dog products can cause problems in cats or even kill them,” says Dr. O’Brien. “Also, it needs to be dosed appropriately. These medications are prescribed for a reason.”

This summer, be proactive about your cat’s health. If you put a diagnosis off until you see signs of a problem, that problem could be very large indeed. “It’s all about prevention, prevention, prevention,” says Dr. O’Brien. “Prevention for the health of the cat and prevention for the health of the owner.”

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