Ginger kitten licking paw.

Cat Ticks: Causes, Signs and Treatment

5 min read

Ticks can be a painful problem that your cat may have to face. Find out how to prevent and treat cat ticks below.


Introduction to cat ticks

There are two different groups of ticks to watch out for, hard ticks and soft ticks. Hard cat ticks often look like a sunflower seed; they are also recognisable by the hard shield found just behind their mouthparts. Hard ticks are the type of ticks you will usually find on your cat.

Soft ticks are the second type of group of tick. Instead of looking like a seed these ticks look like a raisin. These kinds of ticks are not usually found on cats, as they tend to feed on other animals instead such as birds or bats.


What are cat ticks?

Ticks are a kind of parasite. Ticks bite beneath a cat’s skin and suck blood back into their bodies. Unfed ticks are tiny, have eight legs, and can be black, brown, red or tan, but once they attach themselves to your cat they can swell up to the size of a pea as they fill with blood. Cat ticks are actually classed as arachnids instead of insects, which is a key difference between them and the flea. Ticks can pass disease onto an animal it feeds on; this is why tick prevention steps are an important measure to take when looking after a feline.


How can my cat catch ticks?

There are a number of different ways your cat can catch ticks. The first and the most likely is from other animals. Cats often interact with other animals once they leave the house. Ticks can find their way from one animal onto your cat very easily. If you are worried about cat ticks we advise you not to leave food outside your house, as this can encourage other animals to enter your cat’s territory.

If you tend to go on walks outside in fields or woodland areas ticks could find their way onto your clothes easily. This is because they tend to cling onto the top of branches and blades of grass, when you then brush past them they cling onto your hair and clothing. This means even indoor cats are in dangers of catching ticks, so whether your cat travels outside or not tick prevention is still something you should be aware of and do.

Another way your cat can catch ticks is just from exploring outside. Ticks can survive outside when not on a host. They can just as easily cling to a cat’s fur as they can to your clothing.

How do I spot ticks on my cat?

Cat ticks are large enough to be visible, especially if they’ve already had a bite – then they can look like small warts, and on closer inspection you can see their legs, too.

You’ll usually find them around your cat’s head and neck area. If you want to check for ticks, part your cat’s fur and run your fingers along their skin. Tick bites can also cause irritation and redness, which you may be able to see.


What are the dangers of ticks on my cat?

As awful as these ticks are, luckily, they do not carry diseases in New Zealand. They do however cause a few issues on our beloved cats. Ticks can cause irritation around the site but DO NOT PULL THEM OFF! If the head gets stuck this could lead to an abscess. An infestation of ticks could also cause anaemia in unhealthy or young cats.


How do I treat ticks on my cat?

Never pull a tick out of your cat’s skin as you may end up leaving the mouthpart behind, which could cause an infection or inflammation. Instead, ask your vet to give you a specially-designed tick removal tool that will get rid of the mouthparts as well, and ask them to show you how to use it. This will mean nothing is left behind in your cat’s skin. If you think there might be, talk to your vet who will be able to advise you and put your mind at ease.

Some flea products also kill ticks, while others provide a bit of extra protection against them, although they’ll need more frequent application than usual. If you’re interested in finding out what kind flea and tick prevention methods there are, visit your vet.

Want to find out more about cat health and nutrition? Read our guide on lungworm in cats.