Cat Health

Coccidiosis in Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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What is coccidiosis?   Transmission   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment   Can humans catch coccidiosis from cats?

Coccidiosis in Cats

What is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract that is caused by a microscopic protozoan (single-celled organisms) called coccidia. The diseases caused by these parasites is referred to as coccidiosis.

There are many species of coccidia, and each is infective in different animals. The species of coccidia that most frequently affect cats are Isospora rivolta and Isospora felis.

Most adults carry coccidia,  but their immune system keeps it in check, some adults may, however, shed cysts in the feces. Symptoms are most commonly seen in kittens under 6 months of age. Stressed cats and those who have compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of developing symptoms.

Two very well known coccidia are toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidium which are covered in other articles.

The geographical distribution of coccidia is worldwide. Continue reading

Cat Health

Chiggers (Trombiculiasis) in Cats – Symptoms and Treatment

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What is chiggers?   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment

Chiggers in cats

Image courtesy Michael Wunderli, Flickr

What is chiggers?

Chiggers is an itchy skin rash caused by the chigger (trombiculid) mite. Chigger mites are tiny parasitic mites that live in decaying vegetation. Cats become infected while roaming these areas. These mites are also known as harvest mites, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites or red bugs

The life cycle of the trombiculid mite is in four development stages, egg, larval, nymph and adult. Only the larval form (known as chiggers, hence the name) are parasitic to cats, the nymph and adult are free living.

Chiggers don’t actually bite your cat, once on the host, they pierce the skin and inject saliva containing digestive enzymes to break down the skin cells (known as cellular autolysis), they then feed on the blood serum. Once they have fed, they fall drop back onto the ground and passes into the nymph stage. Chiggers feed on a wide variety of vertebrates, including humans and dogs as well as reptiles and birds. They are most prevalent between spring and autumn when conditions are hot and humid. Continue reading

Cat Health

Ear Mites in Cats – Symptoms and Treatment

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What are ear mites?   How do cats become infected?   Symptoms?   Diagnosis   Treatment   Ear mite products

Ear mites in cats

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are a common spider-like external parasite which causes significant discomfort to the cat. Although the name would suggest otherwise, ear mites can live on any part of the body although they generally live in the ear canal of cats. They are the most common cause of otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear canal) in cats.

Ear mites are most often seen in kittens and outdoor cats, but they can affect cats of any age, including indoor cats. They feed on epidermal debris and ear wax.  The mites burrow into the cat’s inner ear, causing inflammation which the body responds to by producing more wax.

While there are several types of mites which may infect cats, Otodectes Cynotis is the mite most commonly seen in cats. The global distribution of Otodectes Cynotis ear mites is worldwide.

How do cats become infected with ear mites?

Ear mites are extremely contagious and are passed from cat to cat, or dog to cat. They can be passed via bedding and other household objects.

What are the symptoms of ear mite infestation in cats?

Ear mites are extremely uncomfortable, these spider-like parasites live out their entire life cycle inside the ear of cats. It is not possible to see the mites with the naked eye, but there are plenty of clues your cat has ear mites.

The most common symptoms of ear mites in cats include:

  • Extremely itchy ears which present as scratching, often to the point where the ears become damaged due to trauma.
  • Head shaking.
  • Rubbing the ears.
  • Reddish/brown discharge in the ear.
  • Coffee-grounds like appearance in the ear.
  • Twitching of the ears.

As the cat scratches, further damage is inflicted on the ears:

  • Scratch marks.
  • Bleeding from the ear due to damage caused by scratching.
  • Redness and swelling of the ear flap.
  • Odour coming from the ears due to secondary infection.
  • Crusty appearance along the edges of the ears.

There may be damage to the ear if the infection has been present for a length of time. Damage to the ear could include a thickening of the skin, aural hematoma (a blood-filled pocket) or an ear infection which is caused by the cat damaging the skin by scratching, and bacteria entering these wounds. Ear infections are extremely painful and can potentially cause deafness if left untreated.

In 1968, veterinarian Dr. Robert Lopez of Westport, New York decided to see if he could infect himself with ear mites. While examining a cat with ear mites, a three-year-old girl who shared her home with the cat complained of an itchy abdomen and chest. Once the cat’s ear mite infection cleared up, the itching resolved in the little girl. Dr Robert Lopez inserted the debris/mites from an infected cat’s ear into his left ear using a cotton bud. He immediately began to hear scratching sounds, followed by intense itching and pain. The sounds and itching intensified as the mites made their way further into his ear. The mites remained active for several weeks, by six weeks activity, the itching was gone.This story demonstrates just how an infected cat feels. Humans seem to have a natural immunity to the mite, as demonstrated by the recovery of Dr Lopez without treatment, however as cats are the natural host, they will remain infected until treatment is provided.

How are ear mites diagnosed?

Often a veterinarian can diagnose ear mites by direct examination of the cat’s ears with an otoscope,  an instrument with a light and magnifying lenses which will enable him to see the mites.

Your veterinarian may also diagnose ear mites by microscopic examination of material removed from your cat’s ear.

What are the treatments for ear mites?

Treatment depends on how severe the problem is, all cats (and dogs) in the household should be treated at the same time.

  • Removal of the exudates from the ear by instilling a few drops of mineral oil and gently massaging the base of the ear. This will loosen the exudate, which will make it easy to remove.
  • Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe a commercial insecticide to kill the mites. Administration may be injection, applied to the back of the neck or drops in the ears. Products may vary from country to country, but below is a list of popular products which may be prescribed. These treatments must be carried out over several weeks, it is not possible to kill the eggs or pupae, and treatment is aimed at killing adults as they reach maturity and breaking the life cycle of the mite.
  • All cats in the household should be treated.

Ear mite products:

Product/Active ingredient Type Minimum age, pregnancy etc.
Revolution (Selamectin) Topical spot on 6 weeks old. Can be used on pregnant and lactating females.
Acarexx (Ivermectin) Otic suspension ear drops 4 weeks old. Safe use of Acarexx in pregnant and lactating females has not been established.
MilbeMite (Milbemycin) Otic solution ear drops 4 weeks old. Safe use of MilbeMite in pregnant and lactating females has not been established.
Ilium (Dichlorophen, Lignocaine HCl, Piperonyl butoxide, Pyrethrins Ear drops Check with your veterinarian. No minimum age listed.
Advantage Multi also known as Advocate outside US (Imidacloprid/Moxedectin) Topical spot on 9 weeks and over 1 kg (2.2 lbs). Safe use on pregnant and lactating females has not been established.
Fido’s Ear Drops Ear Drops Check with your veterinarian. No minimum age listed.
  • Medicated or antibiotic ear drops may also be prescribed if your cat has a concurrent bacterial infection.
  • Thoroughly washing your pet’s bedding and toys are required if you have had an outbreak of ear mites in your home. Water should be as hot as possible.

Safety when treating cats for ear mites:

Never use products for dogs to treat ear mites in cats, many contain active ingredients which are extremely toxic to cats.

Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions when using these products. Some are used IN the ears while others are applied to the back of your cat’s neck.

Check with your veterinarian before treating kittens, pregnant or lactating cats to make sure you are not using a product which may be toxic to the kittens.

Don’t attempt to clean the ears or administer medication with an ear bud, not only can this force debris and wax further into the ear but it can potentially damage the ear also. Apply treatments with a cotton ball.

Be aware that severely affected cats may not cope well with having his painful ears treated, in which case it is recommended that you ask your veterinarian to help treat the ears.

Can I catch ear mites from my cat?

People may experience a mild rash or itching if cats in the household are infected, but generally don’t become infected with ear mites, well unless they insert the debris/mites directly into your ear as the Dr. Robert Lopez did.  It is, however, possible for dogs to become infected with ear mites from cats.

Preventing ear mites in cats:

There are a number of products available to prevent mites in cats. These typically treat/prevent fleas and parasitic worms also and are administered monthly.

Cat Articles

Toilet Training Kittens

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Toilet training kittens

Cats are fastidious by nature and in my experience, require little work on the way of toilet training as most kittens are already litter trained by the time they come to their new home. Their mother plays a large role in this, training her kittens from an early age. Continue reading

Cat Articles

Inappropriate Urination in Cats

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Inappropriate urination in cats

Cats are very clean animals by nature, so when your cat starts urinating outside the litter box, this is usually a sign that there is something wrong with either the cat or the litter box. The first thing you should do is take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out a physical problem such as feline diabetes, FLUTD and old age. Has this behaviour started suddenly? Have you noticed any other changes such as crying in the litter tray, going to the toilet more, hiding, increased thirst? Continue reading

Cat Articles

How To Clean Cat Urine – Step By Step Instructions

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Why does cat urine smell strong?   Locating dried urine   Home made urine cleaners   Cleaning carpets   Cleaning upholstery   Preventing a relapse

Cleaning cat urine

Why does cat urine smell so strong?

Cats originated as desert-dwelling animals and don’t consume as much water as other mammals, this results in the cat’s urine being more concentrated and the more concentrated, the stronger the urine will smell.

Along with that, the urine of entire (un-neutered) male cats contains hormones which make the urine smell much stronger than that of females or neutered males. These hormones serve a purpose, they enable the tom to mark his territory, attracting females and deterring any possible competing males.

As cat urine dries, bacteria break it down forming ammonia substances making the odour even more unpleasant. To avoid this, cat urine should be cleaned as quickly as possible before it begins to break down. Continue reading

Cat Health

Increased Thirst and Urination in Cats

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Causes    Diagnosis   Treatment

Increased thirst and urination in cats

Frequent urination (polyuria) goes hand in hand with frequent drinking (polydipsia). It is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying condition. There are many causes of frequent urination in cats which we will look at in this article. Frequent urination differs from urgent urination in that the cat produces excessive amounts of urine whereas, in urgent urination, the cat may visit the litter tray frequently but only pass small amounts of urine and sometimes none at all. Continue reading

Cat Articles

Spraying and Urine Marking – Causes and How To Stop It

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Difference between urinating and spraying   Why do cats spray?   Treating urine spraying   Medicating your cat   Home made urine/spray removers   Cleaning cat spray

Spraying and urine marking

Urine spraying is the most common behavioural problem in cats and a leading cause of cats being surrendered to shelters and/or euthanised. Actually, while we humans consider it a problem, it is actually quite a normal and is their way of marking their territory. Naturally, this behaviour is seen as anti-social to humans and thankfully most household cats don’t need to mark their territory. Continue reading

Cat Care

What To Do If You Can’t Afford A Veterinarian

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What to do if you can't afford a veterinarian

People regularly join our forums seeking medical advice on a sick pet they can’t afford veterinary care for. Unfortunately, nobody online, not even veterinarians can safely diagnose a sick pet via the Internet. The only way to obtain proper medical care is to see a veterinarian. But what does the pet owner do if they don’t have the funds for a vet visit? Continue reading

Cat Care

Tear Staining in Cats

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Tear staining in cats

What causes tear staining in cats?

Also known as epiphora, tear staining is caused by an abnormal overflow of tears from the eyes, which often results in unsightly staining of the fur around the eyes.  There are several causes for this including:

  • Infection
  • Irritants (such as cigarette smoke or chemicals)
  • Allergies
  • Foreign matter
  • Abnormal eyelashes (known as distichiasis)
  • Abnormal tear ducts
  • Plastic food bowls

Tear staining can occur in any breed of cat although it is seen more often in Persian and Himalayan cats. Their facial structure usually causes a narrowing of the nasolacrimal duct and a shallow tear lake at the inner corner of the eye. All these factors may contribute to the problem. Continue reading