What is Cat Ringworm?
Ringworm is the most common fungal infection of the skin and hair.
Don’t worry — it is not any type of worm, it is just a fungus that lives on the skin.
Caused by bacteria known as dermatophytes, it can be called feline streptococcus, cat scaly dermatitis, cat dermatitis, or cat fur disease, depending upon which part of the body the infection is occurring in.
Are Some Cats More Susceptible To Getting It?
Kittens, older cats and longhaired cats are the most susceptible to ringworm infections.
This is because when your kitty grooms himself, he is doing an important activity which will help him remain infection free and healthy.
But long hair or other coat characteristics protect these fungus spores from being removed by typical daily grooming.
And our older cats can’t or won’t groom themselves like they used to.
Kittens are used to be groomed by mom, and it sometimes takes them some time to develop a good, effective grooming routine, so they are probably the most susceptible group for ringworm.
Other factors, such as compromised immune status, already having an illness, poor nutrition or living in a crowded condition can predispose a kitty to acquire ringworm.
Cats who live with other cats are more likely to get it too. It’s hard to isolate the fungus. Cats in shelters can spread it easily.
Genetics may play a role as well.
Cat Ringworm Symptoms
Clinical signs of cat ringworm can be similar to other common skin infections.
The classic signs include seeing one or more areas of hair loss with mild or moderate crusting of the skin.
Sometimes, you may notice that your kitty’s coat seems thinner than normal. And sometimes cats will develop an itchy rash.
You may see reddish, thick, scaly, raised or flat sores on her skin when you move her hair to the side.
Cats will sometime show only one of these symptoms.
An Infected Cat May Present One or More of These Signs:
- Mild to severe crusting and scaling of the skin.
- Subtle or dramatic hair loss in one or several areas.
- The appearance of blackheads, usually on the chin.
- Darkening of the skin or skin that looks sore in some areas.
- Skin redness in the area of hair loss.
- Itchiness that may be mild or extreme.
- Hair loss from apparent over-grooming in one or more areas.
- Nail infections that may appear greasy or crusty.
- Patches of fur has become thick, dry, coarse or falls away.
- Repeated scratching or rubbing or when your cat keeps biting herself.
How is Ringworm Diagnosed?
If ringworm is suspected, your veterinary practice can test for the presence of the zoophilic fungus that causes this problem.
Your vet will take hairs plucked from the affected area of your kitty and place them into a fungal culture medium and conduct the test.
Ringworm is common. This test, along with the visual evidence, will allow your vet to confidently confirm your cat’s situation.
How Does a Cat Get Feline Ringworm?
Ringworm is the most common infectious kitty skin disease.
A cat can get infected when she is exposed to infected spores. This happens through either direct contact with an infected pet, or even some contaminated object.
These infected spores are small. They are so small they can even be on dust particles or even blown through the air.
If these spores can reach your kitty, they stick on cells on the hair shafts and skin.
If they stay on long enough, they start digesting the keratin protein on the hair and this starts the infection process.
The nearby hair becomes brittle and loose. Bits of hair and skin scales, contaminated with spores, break off and fall.
These spores can remain on the floor or furniture for months, and can infect other cats or even humans.
A cat’s defense against these spores is grooming and sunbathing. Good groomers are less inclined to acquire an infection.
Long-haired cats like Himalayans and Persians may not groom as efficiently, so they may not be able to remove the sports. They may be more at risk.
Can I Get Ringworm?
It’s possible. Ringworm can be transmitted from cats to humans. Owners do often get it.
If a person is medically compromised in some way, they are more likely to get it.
Because ringworm spores get spread around their living space, it’s common for owners to develop ringworm lesions too.
Cat Ringworm Treatment
How to Treat Cat Ringworm in Cats and Kittens?
There are two goals when treating this situation:
1. The kitty needs to be treated and cured.
2. The environment needs to be decontaminated.
Cats that test positive need treatment.
Fortunately, feline ringworm is a pretty simple form of a skin affliction and is generally treatable in the early stages with topical treatment and/or an anti-fungal drug.
Since these cases are curable and not too harmful, treatment plans may vary somewhat for each cat.
Most treatment plans involve clipping the hair, the application of topical therapy or medicated shampoo, oral antifungal medication, and cleaning the living environment.
And the environment includes any other pets that live with you too. You should probably test, and probably treat, any other cats in your home.
Most cats will have some or all of their coat clipped. This removes infected hairs and cuts down on the shedding of infected hair and spores. It also makes it easier to the antifungal shampoo to work.
Topical therapy generally involves shampooing. This helps removed spores and crusty skin and hair from the coat and keeps them from falling off too.
Cats may be bathed twice a week. It can be a challenge, but the shampoo needs to stay on your cat’s fur for a certain length of time, the longer the better.
Ointments and creams can work too, but they are easily groomed off and aren’t practical to apply over large areas.
And as long as your cat is over eight weeks old, most cats will be prescribed an oral medication too.
Cats usually show improvement in within two to four weeks of therapy. But treatment may extend much longer than this.
Decontaminating the Environment
Ringworm spores are spread easily and can exist in the environment for up to a year or two.
Steps You Can Take:
- Quarantine your cat while you are treating him (if possible)
- Thorough and repeated vacuuming
- Daily wiping of hard surfaces
- Daily washing of cat beds and blankets
- Smooth surfaces may be disinfected or scrubbed
- It’s a good time to get rid of old cat rugs, fabric toys or blankets
- Items that can’t be cleaned or disinfected should be discarded or put away
- Dust daily with a disposable cloth product, like a Swiffer broom
- Try to vacuum and clean your heating ducts and vent plates as well as possible
- If you have heavy drapes, they should be cleaned too
It sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But you want to rid your home of these troublesome spores.
Just do the best you can.
What To Do Now
If you are concerned that your kitty has ringworm, if she is showing the symptoms, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Don’t worry, this condition isn’t dangerous.
But it is not healthy, and it involves some effort to get rid of it.
NOTE: The content in this article is not meant to be considered pet health, medical or veterinarian advice. This content is just for general information purposes only. Be sure to consult with a professional veterinarian for treatment information or before undertaking any treatment option.