Can Cats Get Lice? Cat Lice And How To Deal With It

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Can Cats Get Lice

Lice are cringy, clingy blood-sucking parasites that are hard to get rid of. What’s worst, they multiply fast and are highly contagious. And so we ask, can cats get lice from humans?

If lice have made an unwelcome appearance in your home, it’s normal to get worried. Since this can be a real nuisance, it’s something we don’t want to pass on to our furry pals. 

The good news is, if you have head lice, you don’t have to worry about passing these little monsters to your pets. However, it does not end there. 

If you want to know more about cats and lice, read on. We’re here to give you all the nitty-gritty details about these annoying six-legged critters, how your pet cats can get it, and what to do about it.

All You Need To Know About Lice

Lice are obligate parasites that spend its life on their host’s body. Without the host, the lice will die in a few days.

In humans, the most common type of lice is called head lice. These tiny insects crawl through the hair and live off human blood. 

Generally, lice go through three stages. They start as eggs, aka “nits,” that firmly attach themselves to the hair shaft, feather, of fur like glue.

Although they are small, seeing these tiny, oblong lice eggs with the naked eye (without a microscope) is possible with closer inspection, and seeing some may indicate a lice infestation.

Nymphs are tiny insects (immature louse) that hatch from eggs. On the one hand, adult lice refer to the matured or fully grown louse. It would take around three to four weeks for a nit to become an adult louse.

Now, these creepy crawlies with six legs cannot fly or jump. Direct contact is needed for these to be passed on to another host.

Getting lice through indirect contact is less common, although it’s still possible, given lice’s relatively short life span without their host.

Lice are more common than many people realize. Often seen in elementary and pre-school kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 6-12% of children in the United States have head lice. 

While lice are not known to spread diseases in people, they can still be really annoying, making it such a big pain in the neck (or should we say head?). 

Can Cats Get Lice? Cat Lice And How To Deal With It 1

Can Cats Get Lice?

The short answer is Yes. But unlike fleas, ticks, and other external parasites, cat lice are not very common. 

Cats may not get cat lice from humans and other animals (think dogs), but they can get it from kittens and cats that live both indoors and outdoors. Lice, after all, are species-specific and will only live on one species or several closely related species. 

In other words, human lice only live off people, and the vermin that has the habit of sucking blood from humans’ heads are called Pediculus humanus capitis.

Those critters that attach themselves to the cat’s fur are called Felicola subrostratus. On the one hand, dog lice, aka “Trichodectes canis,” require dog blood to live.

So, if you have head lice, don’t worry too much about your pets. Other humans may get it, but your pets (whether dogs or cats) are safe. It’s the same with cat lice.

If your pet cats have cat lice, you can also consider yourself, your child, and even your dogs and other pets (as long as they’re not cats) out of harm’s way.

How Do Cats Get Lice?

Cat lice can live a maximum of seven days without their host. Like human lice, cat lice are usually transferred from cat to cat through direct contact or shared grooming tools such as brushes or combs. 

But thanks to the use of monthly flea and tick treatments, lice infestation rarely happens. Infestation often happens on weak, old long-haired cats or stray, feral, and shelter animals that live in poor conditions – think animal shelters or grooming facilities that show poor hygiene or fail to sanitize every so often. 

Symptoms Of Cat Lice

The tickling feeling you get when the head lice start their exploration can be really annoying. Imagine your cat going through the same ordeal. 

Most lice (cat lice included) have the habit of chewing and biting. A cat with chewing lice in its fur would show the following symptoms:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Biting of skin
  • Unkempt or matted fur
  • Excessive rubbing
  • Restlessness
  • Irritated skin
  • Dryness
  • Scabs
  • Hair or fur loss

Like a child with hair full of nits, your pet cat will also have nits clinging on your cat’s hair shafts. Often, this appears as tiny opaque or white dots.

They’re frequently found in the ears, head, shoulders, tail, groin, and anus. You might also find lice moving through its fur. 

Can Cats Get Lice? Cat Lice And How To Deal With It 2

Diagnosis Of Lice On Cats

Since itching and all the other signs associated with cat lice can indicate other issues like allergy and other parasites, it’s always a good idea to contact your cat’s health care provider or veterinarian. Equipped to provide medical advice, they’ll be able to rule out all the other issues, give an official diagnosis, and confirm if your cat indeed has lice.

Cat Lice Treatment

Although you, your child, and all your non-feline pals can’t catch lice from your lice-infested pet cats, taking preventive measures and treating cat lice is highly recommended.

Cat lice, after all, may spread infectious diseases (think parasites) and can cause skin disease – things you don’t want your pet cats to endure.

The old-school fine-tooth comb method works if you have time scouring your cat’s fur to dislodge the nits and lice. However, this chemical-free treatment is time-consuming and won’t kill lice. 

If you don’t have time to fiddle with the comb and want to treat your cat fast, using veterinarian-approved and cat-safe treatment like topical solutions like Selamectin and insecticidal shampoos is your best bet. Make sure to use veterinarian-recommended insecticides since some are poisonous to cats.

Note, however, that one application is never enough since this would only kill the adult lice. Since the eggs remain alive and would likely hatch over 2-3 weeks, this treatment should be applied repeatedly for 7-10 days.  

Alternative Home Remedies For Cat Lice

While this home treatment may be effective at removing your lice, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian. They are, after all, still the experts when it comes to your cat’s health. 

100% Pure Olive Oil. Rubbing olive oil onto the affected area or all over your cat’s skin and fur and leaving it for 15 minutes before rinsing it off and giving them a bath using regular shampoo will help treat lice. You can do this twice a week for three weeks.

Dish Soap. Instead of using your regular soap, use ordinary dish soap to wash your cat off during their bath time. Leave this for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Do this twice a week until all the nits and lice are gone.

How To Prevent Lice From Spreading? 

Since chewing lice are passed on from animals of the same species, if you live in a multi-cat home, you can expect all your other cats to catch lice as well. Your dog is safe, but you will need to treat all your other cats if you suspect one cat to have cat lice. 

Furthermore, cleaning all your cat’s beddings, collar, combs, and other stuff using hot, soapy water or pet-safe spray will ensure that your home is free from these pesky critters. Apart from that, applying preventive treatment for fleas and ticks can also ward off lice.  

Final Word

Yes, lice, fleas, and all those little critters are irritating. Unfortunately, your cats can get them as well, but not from you. 

Since prevention is always better than cure, make sure to keep your cat’s surroundings and things clean. Keeping them nourished and giving them a balanced diet also helps. 

But since stuff like this can’t always be avoided, to keep your cats happy, make sure to get them treated once you see signs of infestation.

What kills lice on cats?

Common flea medications such as Revolution® (selamectin) and Frontline® (fipronil) are effective against lice. Treatment should be repeated every 2 weeks for at least 4 treatments. In some cases however, weekly treatments can be indicated.

Is pet lice contagious to humans?

Pet lice cannot survive on human blood. Along similar lines, your cat or dog cannot catch lice from an infected child as the head lice do require human blood to live.

How do I know if my cat has lice?

The first signs that your cat may have lice are scratching, biting, and rubbing of infested areas. If the lice are abundant, the hair might also be matted or missing. The cat may also appear restless. Usually, diagnosis is made by seeing lice or, more likely, their eggs on the infested cat.

What does lice look like in cat hair?

Spotting lice in cat fur can be difficult. Look for dark specks and pale grains from the hatched eggs. Areas often affected by lice infestation in a cat will be the head, ears, and shoulders, as well as the groin, tail, and around the bottom. Take notice of any excessive scratching and examine your cat for lice.

Can Cats Get Lice? Cat Lice And How To Deal With It 3

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