Though cat lice (feline pediculosis) is often found on cats living in poor or unsanitary conditions, it can occur in any environment. Lice can be seen with the naked eye. According to the website, Vet Info, lice are grayish-white and look like flakes of dandruff on a cat's skin. Lice have flat bodies with six legs. They do not have wings, but they are able to jump from one animal to another, and they are highly contagious.
Cats with lice will experience intense itchiness. You may see your cat scratching much more than usual. Lice like to hang out around a cat's ears, shoulders, groin, neck, and behind, so you may notice bald patches in these areas due to excessive itching. Your kitty may also have a dry scruffy-looking coat. Vet Info notes that if your cat is allergic to lice bites, bitten areas may swell up or develop rashes.
There is only one species of cat lice - felicola subrostrata. Lice are species-specific. In other words, you will not get lice from your kitty. Likewise, your furry companion will not get human lice from you. Cat lice are transmitted from one cat to another through direct contact with an infested cat or through indirect contact, such as sharing bedding or grooming tools with an infested kitty. Cat lice is very contagious, so it is best to treat the condition as early as possible.
Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis by examining your cat's fur. If your vet finds adult lice or their eggs (nits) in your kitty's fur, he or she will discuss treatment options with you.
The type and length of treatment your veterinarian prescribes will depend on the severity of the lice infestation. Your vet may recommend washing your kitty with a pyrethrin shampoo and applying a pyrethrin powder or spray once your feline is completely dry. Alternatively, your vet may recommend treating your cat with fipronil (Frontline) or selamectin (Revolution).
More than one treatment is usually needed in order to kill lice as they hatch from their nits. Additionally, PetMD asserts that if your companion has matted fur, your veterinarian may want to shave the matted areas in order to ensure all the lice is treated. Do not use human or dog lice products on your feline. Because lice is species-specific, lice products for other species will not work, and they may even harm your companion.
You should also disinfect your cat's toys and wash your kitty's bedding, litter box, and grooming tools thoroughly as part of the treatment process. Cleaning your furniture, rugs, hardwood floors, and anything else your cat comes into contact with will fight reinfection as well.
If you see any adult lice or nits on your furry friend, please talk with your veterinarian right away to set up a treatment plan. The earlier you can treat cat lice, the easier it is to get rid of.