Head Lice on Cats

Lice on cats, while one of the easier parasites to spot and treat, can be a hassle if you misdiagnose what they are or do not know how to get rid of them.

Cat Lice Transferring to Humans

When someone in the home contracts lice, a primary concern is whether or not the lice will spread to other members of the family. This includes from human to dog to cat and the other way around.

However, lice are species-specific and do not transfer from one another. Human lice will not live on a dog or cat. As such, if your cat has a case of lice, don't worry because their lice can't transfer to you.

What Lice Look Like

Lice are small insects, but can be seen without the aid of a microscope. They are generally bigger than fleas, wingless, and very flat. For this reason, they can be tricky to grab hold of with your fingers.

Nits, on the other hand, are tiny, round white balls. Nits are lice eggs and are found at the base of a hair shaft. These can sometimes be easier to spot then the lice themselves.

How Lice Is Transmitted

Lice is only transferred from infected to infected only. They do not survive in environments like fleas and ticks can and do. If your pet is primarily indoors and has no contact with other animals, the chance of it contracting lice is very minimal. Because of their inability to survive long off of their hosts, feline lice is quite rare.

What Lice Do

Lice are similar to fleas. There are several types of lice, but they can generally be put into two categories: blood-feasting lice, which bite the skin to feed on blood, and the "chewing" lice (called Mallophaga). Blood sucking lice (called Anoplura) can cause anemia in pets the same way fleas can, which in turn can lead to more serious problems in prolonged cases.

Symptoms of Lice

Excessive itchy and a ratty, dry coat are the primary signs of lice. You may mistake the infestation for fleas, so it's important to know what you're dealing with before giving treatment.

Aside from the itching and dry fur, you can check your cat's fur for signs of the bugs themselves. However the eggs will be easier to spot in most cases; look for the oblong, flat insects, or the small white balls attached to individual hairs.

Treatment for Lice

Lice treatment is relatively easy, especially when compared to other external parasites. Also unlike other parasites (fleas, ticks) cat lice pose no threat to other species of animals in the house, or humans.

Purchase a shampoo containing pyrethrin that is approved specifically for cats and bathe them, letting the lather sit for the time allotted on the bottle's directions. Afterwards, you can use a pyrethrin spray to help keep off the lice and kill any remaining.

Nits are sturdier than the bugs themselves and are difficult to get off of the hair shafts. For this reason, it's wise to repeat treatment in 10 to 15 days to ensure you got everything, and monitor your cat in-between.