Can cats get lice? It’s a question that many pet owners have. The answer is yes, but not the same type of lice as a human or a dog will have. Cat lice are very small external parasites that chew on your cat’s skin and can cause discomfort.
The good news is that with the regular use of flea prevention products it would be unusual to see lice on your cat.
Having said that, cat lice infestations should still be taken seriously as they can lead to health issues.
Lice are specific to the host so cats have a different type of lice called Felicola Subrostratus. Humans will not become infected with lice from their cat or their dog.
Cats can catch lice from being in contact with other cats, especially stray cats. And yes, indoor cats can still get lice although that is rare.
What is Cat Lice?
Cat lice are tiny parasites that live on your cat’s skin and in its fur. They survive off the skin of your cat and their biting can cause skin irritation.
Cat lice have claws that allow them to cling tightly to your pet.
Types of Cat Lice
There are only one species of lice that will infest a cat. That species is called Felicola Subrostratus.
Felicola Subrostratus feed by chewing the skin of your cat. They essentially chew away at your cat’s skin causing irritation and discomfort.
If you have found what you think might be lice then take steps against it quickly to prevent the lice from becoming worse.
Life Cycle of Cat Lice
The entire life cycle for cat lice, from nits (eggs) to death can be two to four weeks.
How Long Does Lice Live Without a Host?
Lice will only live off the host animal for about 24 to 48 hours before they die.
If you have more than one cat it is very likely that one will infect the other if not treated quickly.
If you notice lice on your cat you also need to immediately clean your cat’s bedding and your entire house, especially carpets.
How Long Does Lice Last on a Cat?
Lice can live for a day or two off of the host so they don’t die immediately.
If you do find lice on your cat it’s important to treat them as soon as possible and prevent any further infestation in your home or to other cats!
What Cat Breeds Can Get Lice?
Several different breeds of cats can get lice. When it comes to attracting lice it seems the biggest culprit is a dirty cat and living in poor conditions, not so much what particular breed it is.
Long-haired cats may be more susceptible to lice for a variety of reasons. This includes the lice being harder to see and being spread via their hair on a grooming instrument.
Also, older cats tend to be more susceptible to getting lice because they don’t groom themselves as well.
How Do Cats Get Lice?
Cats normally get lice from coming in contact with other cats, wild animals, or using grooming aids that have lice on them. Also, living in dirty conditions can be a major culprit.
Lice also find their hosts using chemoreceptors in hair follicles, so if your cat’s hair is shorter or thinner they’ll find it even easier to jump on board!
A common myth is that you need direct contact with an infected animal for the transmission of lice but this isn’t true at all.
If you are not sure if your cat actually has lice call your vet right away!
What Do Lice Look Like on a Cat?
Louse eggs (nits) are white, about 0.06 inches long, oval-shaped and have a tiny stalk that attaches them to hair shafts near the skin.
They hatch into nymphs after seven to ten days which look like miniature adults but lack wings and reproductive organs.
Nymphs develop through three molts before becoming fully grown adults over another seven-ten day period (wherein they will mate).
Can You See Lice with the Naked Eye on a Cat?
While it is difficult to see lice with the naked eye you can notice the telltale signs of lice on and in your cat’s fur.
The best way of knowing if your cat has them is by checking your cat’s skin and hair for signs of these tiny creatures. You can use a magnifying glass to help.
Lice on Cats
Before you look you need to understand what lice actually look like!
Lice are tiny insects only about two millimeters long so it can be hard to spot one on an animal’s body or head even when aided by magnification.
They have six legs and can often be seen feeding on the host’s skin (i.e., human/animal). It is possible for some to see lice crawling around in your cat’s fur coat.
You may also see what looks like small wounds on your cat’s skin if you push their hair to the side. An infected cat will not be a happy cat!
Are Lice Dangerous for your Cat?
How do you know if lice can be harming your cat’s health? You should be able to detect the presence of lice through your cat’s behavior.
Symptoms of Cat Lice
Cat lice infestation may cause these symptoms.
- Extreme Skin Irritation
- Excessive Itching
- Excessive Scratching
- Licking of the Skin
- Hair Loss (alopecia) on Various Parts of the Body
Treatment for Cat Lice
Start treatment at the very first sign of lice! If you think your cat has lice there are a couple of ways to treat it.
First, take your cat to a veterinary clinic and have them identify whether or not it actually has lice. They can also provide you with some kind of medication if they do have lice.
The second option is to purchase one of several medications from your local pet store that will kill off any possible lice infestation.
ALWAYS consult with your vet before actually using anything you purchase on your pet cat.
How to Get Rid of Lice on Your Cat
The good news is that all you may need is medication or shampoo with an insecticide that kills adult lice as well as cat lice eggs.
Topical treatments like pet-safe insecticidal shampoos are often all you will need to solve your cat lice problem.
Remember that dog lice are different than cat lice so you must get shampoo or medication that contains active ingredients that specifically kill cat lice. Again, your vet will guide you on this.
Wash your cat thoroughly with warm water, not hot water. Be careful to avoid getting any shampoo into their eyes.
A cream rinse containing pyrethrins (a natural substance found within chrysanthemum flowers) acts like poison against insects by attacking their nervous systems.
This will help kill any lice remaining after washing out dead ones. Be sure to read the label and find out if it is safe to use on a cat.
Are There Effective Natural Home Remedies for Cat Lice?
Many experts feel that there really are no effective home remedies for the control of lice on your cat.
Even if you give your cat a good brushing and a bath you still won’t be able to get rid of all the lice. They are too small and cling to your cat with a strong grip!
Natural Products for Cat Lice Treatment
While it is true that commercial medications from your vet are probably a better alternative some people pursue natural products.
Again, ALWAYS consult your veterinarian BEFORE you use any of these or any products at all on your cat. You have to make sure they are cat safe.
Here are some natural cat lice treatment products according to VetInfo.com.
- Dish Washing Liquid – You can give your cat a warm bath with it.
- Olive Oil – Rub the olive oil on your cat and then wash it off with a warm bath.
- All Natural Cat Shampoo – This will be available from your local pet store or animal medical hospital.
Related Cat Lice Questions
Is a Louse the Same as Lice?
The term lice is just the plural form of an individual “louse”. So lice mean you have more than one louse. Remember, one louse can turn into many lice!
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Cat Lice and Fleas?
The good news is it is pretty simple to tell the difference between cat lice and fleas. The bad news is that both of them will cause problems for you and your cat!
Fleas tend to look like black dots on your cat’s skin and fur and those black dots will be moving quickly!
That also means they will soon be jumping around all over your house if not treated immediately. Don’t wait!
Cat lice eggs will look like tiny white spots that cling to your cat’s fur. Once they hatch lice have a kind of pale brown color and they move very slowly if you actually see them moving at all.
Can a Human Catch Cat Lice?
Lice are specific to particular species. Humans and cats have different forms of lice. No, a human cannot get lice from a cat.
Can a Cat Get Lice From a Human?
Humans get what is called head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis is the technical term. Head lice only affects humans so no, a cat can’t get head lice from a human.
Can Cat Lice Live on Cat Bedding?
Yes, cat lice can live on your cat’s bedding or even on clothing but only for a day or two. Lice need a host to survive longer than a couple of days.
While lice on a cat is usually not a major medical problem you need to treat it quickly and properly so it does not get worse.
Learning how to know if your cat has lice and how to treat them effectively is important as a cat owner.