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How to treat ringworm in cats safely and quickly

If you ever notice irritated skin or hair loss on your cat, your first thought might be that your cat has fleas. While that could be the case, it’s also possible that a bout of ringworm is to blame. Ringworm can be irritating and uncomfortable to your cat, and it can even spread to people and other pets in your home. Because of this, it’s important to quickly identify and appropriately treat ringworm in your cat. Prompt treatment can help minimize or prevent its spread, and it also means that your cat will be feeling comfortable and happy again quickly.

Orange cat scratching an itchy spot on its neck

What is ringworm in cats?

Ringworm might sound like it’s caused by a worm or parasite, but it’s actually a fungal infection that affects your cat’s skin and hair. Several types of fungi can cause ringworm infections, and these fungi can also infect dogs, humans, and other cats.

Ringworm can be highly contagious, and your cat could get infected through different methods. If your cat comes into direct contact with another cat or person who has the fungus, ringworm can spread. It’s also possible for your cat to get ringworm by sleeping on a bed that’s contaminated with the fungus, or by coming into contact with surfaces like contaminated combs, food bowls, and furniture.

In many instances, your cat might come into contact with the fungus but not get ringworm. However, factors like a weakened immune system, irritated skin, or the presence of a scratch or wound can increase the chances of your cat becoming infected.

What does ringworm look like on a cat?

Ringworm can present in multiple ways on your cat. Some cats have extra-mild symptoms, and you might notice only that your cat’s skin looks scaly. Other cats may develop the classic round, thickened skin patches or round patches of hair loss that look like a ring. Those patches can become itchy, and some cats might develop claws that look deformed or irritated. It’s also possible for cats to have ringworm but display no symptoms.

Red patch of ringworm by the base of a cat's ear

How to treat ringworm in cats

If you suspect your cat has ringworm, it’s important to make a vet appointment so that your vet can confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of fungus that’s causing the infection. Your vet might examine your cat using a fluorescent light, and they might also take hair and skin scrapings for laboratory analysis.

Once your vet diagnoses ringworm, he’ll recommend a treatment that’s appropriate for your cat’s situation. Often, vets will recommend using topical creams or shampoos as well as giving your cat oral anti-fungal medications.

In addition to treating ringworm in your cat, it’s important to treat the environment where he’s been. You’ll need to thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces like carpets, furniture, and bedding that your cat uses. You’ll also need to clean items that your cat comes into contact with, like his food dishes and brushes.

Keep in mind that your cat will still be contagious when you begin treating him, so you may need to take extra steps to protect yourself and anyone else in your home. You might find it best to restrict your cat to a few rooms of the home so he doesn’t come into direct contact with other pets. This can also minimize the amount of cleaning you have to do. When you do need to handle your cat, it’s a good idea to wear gloves and always wash your hands and arms thoroughly right after you’re done. You also may want to have your other pets tested for ringworm so you can start treating them promptly, if needed.

The bottom line on ringworm

Hopefully, your cat never deals with a ringworm infection, but it’s a good idea to be able to recognize the signs of ringworm so that you can quickly get him the care he needs. Because ringworm is so contagious, acting promptly can help minimize its spread and keep everyone else in your home safe. Don’t try to treat ringworm yourself — instead, go right to your vet so you know you’re using the products that are right for the specific fungus that’s causing your cat’s ringworm. Using the right treatment from the start means your cat will start to feel better sooner.

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