Fact checked by Dr. Antoinette Martin, DVM
Numerous species of ticks are found in North America, and each species can carry a unique set of diseases that can be spread to the host animal when the tick bites. Fortunately, cats are less susceptible than most other types of mammals to contracting most tick-borne diseases.
However, if you find ticks on your cat, you must know how to remove them properly and safely. Talk to a vet online through Hello Ralphie, and one of our virtual veterinarians can talk you through the appropriate steps for safe tick removal!
When removing a tick from your cat yourself, it is important to make sure that you remove all parts of the tick, including the head. When ticks bite, their mouthparts become lodged deep within the host animal’s skin, and, more often than not, these mouthparts can be left behind when you remove the tick improperly.
How Do You Remove a Tick Yourself?
The best way to remove a tick is to start by investing in a pair of tick removers. These products are sold through most pet stores and are sometimes called “tick twisters.”
Tick twisters are small plastic tools that resemble the appearance of the nail-claw end of a hammer. To use them, place the head of the tick between the two pieces of plastic on the end of the tick twister. Once you are confident the tick’s entire head is secure between the plastic pry bars, gently rotate the tick twister tool either clockwise or counterclockwise.
While twisting, apply a very gentle amount of pressure in an upward motion. You should remove the tick intact. Be sure to check that the tick’s head and its mouthparts are all in one piece, and no parts remain stuck in your cat.
Avoid pulling directly upwards when removing a tick, as this will increase the risk of the head detaching and remaining lodged within your cat’s skin.
What if I Do Not Have a Tick Twister?
If you do not own a tick removal tool, one of our virtual veterinarians can guide you through some potential alternatives.
Although they are not ideal, you can use tweezers to remove ticks from animals. When using tweezers, it is important not to squeeze any part of the tick too hard. Instead, you need to gently grasp the tick and twist the same way you would if you were using a tick-twister tool. Again, never pull directly upward when removing a tick, as this increases the chances that parts of the tick’s head will remain behind.
If you apply too much pressure with your tweezers, you may squeeze some of the saliva and innards from the tick’s body into your animal. This residue could potentially harbor the harmful bacteria and parasites that cause tick-borne illnesses to harm host animals.
If you are still unsure about what to do or are not feeling overly confident about removing a tick from your animal yourself, you can schedule an online vet appointment today for more advice.
What Do I do Once the Tick Has Been Removed?
Once you have successfully removed the tick, it is important to check that none of its mouthparts have been left behind.
If left behind, your cat could experience skin irritation and potentially persistent pain. A Hello Ralphie veterinarian will be able to provide you with advice on topical medications and soothing creams that are safe to apply after the tick has been removed. These medications can help alleviate any potential irritation your cat might experience.
Speak with one of our virtual veterinarians to determine if you should have your cat tested for any potential diseases transmitted by tick bites. Our online veterinary consultations help you identify which species of tick has bitten your cat, how long the tick may have been attached, and which diseases your cat could be at risk of contracting based on where you live and which species bit your cat.
If it is recommended that you have your cat tested, one of our online veterinarians can explain which types of tests could be necessary and how you would go about scheduling them.
How Do I Prevent Ticks from Biting my Cats?
During one of our thorough online consultations, one of our Hello Ralphie veterinarians will be able to discuss various tick preventatives that safely protect cats from ticks.
We customize our online vet appointments to your specific needs, so we can discuss options available, prices, and methods of application to help you decide which product makes the most sense for you and your cat!
Most of the products that protect cats against ticks are topical, which means most of these prescription drugs are applied directly to your pet’s skin. Typically, these medications are administered once monthly for all the months that your cat may be at risk of a tick bite, which will depend on your geographical location.
Many of these are considered combination products and also protect against other parasites, such as fleas and worms. One of our Hello Ralphie veterinarians can go over each product and explain which parasites each product protects against.
It is important to keep in mind that many over-the-counter products for tick prevention are dangerous and can be fatal to cats when administered incorrectly.
Be cautious when purchasing products at the pet store that are labeled for dogs. Flea and tick preventatives that include “permethrins” are highly toxic to cats and can cause death. If you have questions about the safety of a product that you have purchased from a pet store, or online from another company, one of our virtual veterinarians can also explain whether the product you have is safe for your cat.
How Can We Help?
If you suspect that your outdoor cat could be carrying one or more ticks, one of our Hello Ralphie veterinarians can help determine whether or not the cat does have ticks. If one of our virtual vets confirms your cat has ticks, they can walk you through the best process for removing them.
An online, virtual veterinarian consultation can be just what you need when it comes to the safe and proper removal of ticks. Not only can a virtual vet give you the right advice when it comes to tick removal, but they can also provide you with medical recommendations for the best tick prevention medications for your specific cat!