Ticks In Cats

Ticks can cause serious and potentially fatal diseases in cats. Read on to find out more about paralysis ticks and bush ticks and how to protect your cat.

ticks in cats
ticks in cats

Types of ticks in cats

Two important tick species infesting cats in Australia are paralysis ticks and bush ticks.

  • Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus): found along the east coast of Australia, from Cape York in the north down to Lakes Entrance in Victoria. They are occasionally seen outside this area (e.g., the greater Melbourne area). Paralysis ticks are one of the most dangerous parasites that can affect your pet because they produce a toxin which causes tick paralysis in cats and dogs.
  • Bush ticks (Haemaphysalis longicornis): found along parts of the east and west coast of Australia. Bush ticks on cats can cause skin irritation where they attach to the skin. Heavy infestations can lead to anaemia from excessive blood loss.

What does a tick look like on a cat?

Ticks on cats tend to be about the size of an apple seed before they start feeding. After they attach to the skin and start feeding on their host’s blood, they become ‘engorged’ and increase in size. When this happens, they can be as big as your little fingernail. Ticks can vary greatly in appearance depending on the species of tick, how engorged they are, and which part of their life cycle they are in, so if you’re not sure if it’s a tick, it’s best to consult your vet.

tick cat 1
tick cat 2
tick cat 3

How do cats get ticks?

Cats will typically get ticks when they are exploring outdoors. Ticks crawl up low grass or shrubs and lie in wait for a host (such as a cat or dog) to brush past. The tick will use its front legs to grab on and then it crawls over or through the coat to find a suitable place to attach and feed.

Ticks on cats symptoms

The signs or symptoms caused by ticks vary depending on the species of tick. For example, paralysis tick symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • A change in voice (meow)
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination of the back legs
  • Difficulty standing
  • Breathing difficulty

If you notice symptoms consistent with tick paralysis you should seek immediate veterinary attention. Bush ticks do not cause paralysis but may result in inflammation of the skin at the attachment site.

How to get ticks off cats

It’s important to remove ticks from cats as soon as possible. The best way to remove a tick from a cat is with tweezers or specially-designed tick removal tools. Grab the tick adjacent to your cat’s skin, twist the tick and then pluck the tick away from the skin, taking care not to squeeze the tick’s body.

Tick treatment for cats

It is important that you contact your vet as soon as possible if you see any potential signs or symptoms of tick paralysis. Tick paralysis treatment will vary depending on the severity of the signs - your vet will assess your cat and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

How to prevent ticks on cats

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Using an effective tick control product all year-round is one of the most important ways to protect your cat against ticks. Monthly treatment with NexGard SPECTRA® Spot-On for Cats protects cats against ticks, as well as fleas, mites, heartworm, lungworm and intestinal worms (including tapeworms). It provides the most complete parasite protection, all in one easy, monthly application.

Approved tick control products are very effective and will control the vast majority of the ticks that your cat may be exposed to, however, it only takes one tick to cause tick paralysis. For this reason, it is also important to perform daily tick searches on your cat if you live in, or you and your cat are travelling to, a known paralysis tick region.

Nexgard spectra for cats - portrait Nexgard spectra for cats - portrait


  • Can ticks on cats transfer to humans?

    Ticks can bite and attach to humans but they are almost always picked up from walking through vegetation and not from contact with pets.

  • I’ve found a dead tick on my cat, what should I do?

    Sometimes a dead tick may be found attached to a cat (for example if you are using a tick control product which has killed the tick). In this case, the tick can be removed in the same way as a live tick – using tweezers or a tick removal tool, grab the tick adjacent to your cat’s skin, twist the tick and then pluck the tick away from the skin, taking care not to squeeze the tick’s body.

  • Should I worry if my cat has a tick?

    Paralysis ticks can be potentially fatal so it’s critical to remove ticks as soon as possible and contact your veterinary clinic for advice.

  • How long does it take for a cat to get sick from a tick?

    Signs of tick paralysis typically develop after a paralysis tick has been attached and feeding for 3-5 days. By the time you see or feel a tick on your cat it may have been feeding for several days, so don't delay in removing it and contacting your veterinarian.



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