Cat Ringworm – What It Is And What To Do About It

Cat Ringworm is not a worm at all, it is a fungal skin infection.

On humans, the infection often (but not always) appears as a raised, inflamed red ring with a clear center, the infection is often itchy.

People thought that the infection looks like a curled worm just under the surface of the skin, and so it was misnamed ringworm.

On cats and other pets, the fungal infection is less likely to be a red ring.

More often it shows as dry scaly patches that are usually not itchy. Ringworm in cats is often accompanied by hair loss.

Ringworm is more correctly known as Dermatophytes or as Tinea.

Basically there is no difference between Cat Ringworm and any other.

The infection is zoonotic which means it can pass from animals to humans and vice versa, it is highly contagious.

The Spread Of Infection

A cat can become infected with ringworm through any sort of contact with an infected animal or human.

The contact does not have to be direct, transmission also takes place from an environment containing fungal spores.

Carpeting, bedding, furniture, litter trays, grooming tools, food dishes can all harbor spores.

The fungal spores transmit ringworm from infected cats to non infected cats.

cat with ringwormA six month old longhair with a touch of cat ringworm.

Ringworm spores are very robust, they can exist in the environment for well over a year, especially in warm, humid conditions.

A cat can be a carrier of ringworm but show no signs of the infection.

All cats are prone to infection, but young kittens, elderly cats, longhaired breeds and cats with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

With humans, adults usually have a degree of resistance to the infection unless there is a cut or break in the skin. Young children and adults with weak immune systems are at risk.

It is estimated that around 20% of domestic felines are asymptomatic carriers, meaning that they carry the ringworm fungus without exhibiting any sign of it.

Cat Ringworm Diagnosis

If you suspect that your cat has ringworm you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Left untreated, the infection can spread all over your pet's body causing great discomfort and your cat could lose hair.

There is also the potential for the infection to transmit to other occupants of you home, both animal and human. You may be advised by your veterinarian to quarantine your cat until she or he can be examined.

Your vet will not rely on visible signs alone when examining your feline. Some other cat skin problems show similar visible symptoms to cat ringworm.

Your veterinarian may use an ultraviolet Woods Lamp (sometimes called a black light,) to examine samples of your cat's hair, skin or claw.

A sample that is infected will glow under the lamp. The drawback is only Microsporum canis (M. Canis) infection will be detected, this is by far the most common form of feline ringworm, but other forms would be missed if a Woods Lamp alone was used for diagnosis.

The most accurate method to determine if the infection is  ringworm is a fungal culture. A sample of the cat's hair taken from an infected area, or a scraping, is deposited on a culture media gel.

The gel is regularly inspected to see if the fungus is growing, the gel itself will also change color as the fungus grows.

A positive result will usually show in around two weeks but in some cases a little longer.

Occasionally the only way to get a definite diagnosis is by performing a biopsy.

Cat Ringworm Treatment

In many cats that are otherwise healthy, an infection of ringworm will clear up spontaneously without treatment. This can take up to four months or more.

All cases of cat ringworm should be treated however. This is because:

a) Your cat may be one that cannot combat the infection without treatment.

b) In the months that it takes for ringworm to spontaneously resolve, the humans and other pets in your home will be at risk of infection.

ringworm on human
Ringworm on a human. The infection is zoonotic, it can pass from cats to humans. Image c.c. Wikimedia.

The course of treatment that your veterinarian recommends will be determined by how sever the infection is, the age and general condition of your cat, and whether there are other pets or children in your home.

Treatment may be by way of an anti-fungal shampoo, spray or dip.

Oral medications work well in most cases, there can be side effects however so your veterinarian will likely explain what you need to watch out for.

Whatever the recommended treatment, it will likely need to be given over several months as cat ringworm fungus can prove to be hardy and resistant.

Your cat will need to be retested periodically, and perhaps more fungal cultures taken, until it is certain that the infection has cleared.

Whatever the recommended treatment, it will likely need to be given over several months as cat ringworm fungus can prove to be hardy and resistant.

Your cat will need to be retested periodically, and perhaps more fungal cultures taken, until it is certain that the infection has cleared.

It would be of little use to clear your cat's ringworm only for her to become re infested because the spores remain in your home. Also, other pets will be at risk, if they are not already infected, and so will humans occupants.

Your vacuum cleaner and lots of household bleach are going to be your weapons in your battle to decontaminate your home.

Vacuum your home – daily if you can manage it! Vacuum everything not just floors and carpeting. Dispose of the bag each time, preferably by incinerating it.

Using a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water, thoroughly scrub or wash everything that can be scrubbed or washed. Do this frequently.

Do not forget things like cat condos, food and water dishes, cat toys, bedding and baskets. If there is something that you can't use the bleach solution on, then it is best to dispose of it.

Always wash your hands after handling an infected cat.

Examine your cat regularly for signs of cat ringworm.

Related Pages

Cat Bad Breath.
Cat bad breath may mean more than your pet not being nice to be near. It is sometimes a clue that something needs attention and possibly a medical condition exists.

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