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Helping Your Outdoor Cat Avoid Bug Bites This Fall

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on October 6, 2018
Posted in Preventative Care

Most pet owners worry about their dogs getting stung by a bee, bitten by mosquitos or coming home with a tick attached. But dogs aren’t the only animals affected by bugs. Cats are also susceptible to bug bites and stings, especially when they live outside most of the time.

If you own an indoor-outdoor cat that likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, you should make sure your cat is adequately protected against bug bites. Mosquito season has extended in recent years, with the nasty bugs hanging around for a few weeks longer than usual, and ticks and other pests continue to be dangerous as summer turns into fall.

Some outdoor pests carry diseases that can seriously affect your cat’s health, while others might sting or bite your cat, leaving it yowling in pain or uncomfortable. Here’s what you can do to keep your outdoor cat pest- and bug bite-free.

What pests should you worry about?

Cats may spend their time chasing bugs around the yard, but these are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to fall season bug bites and stings.

  • Mosquitos: Mosquitos are annoying enough for humans, but we at least have the option of scratching our bites and applying ointments to ease the irritation and itchiness. Cats can get bitten by mosquitos, too, and experience the same kind of itchiness, but they might overgroom or scratch themselves too much, causing skin infections. Mosquitos may also carry parasites and diseases like heartworm and West Nile Virus.
  • Ticks: Ticks are usually a danger for dogs, but outdoor cats are susceptible to picking up ticks, as well. Ticks can cause skin irritation and carry a ton of diseases—one of the worst being Lyme Disease, which can be fatal.
  • Fleas: Flea infestations can be awful for your cat because they cause horrendous itching and skin irritation. This can cause your cat to overgroom, lick, paw, scratch and bite its own body, causing injury and going mad with an itch it can’t scratch. Fleas are also very contagious, so getting rid of them can be difficult.
  • Stingers and bites: Hornets, bees and even flies can bite or sting your cat. These stings and bites can be extremely painful and cause inflammation in the area, potentially even making it hard for your cat to walk or move. Cats may also have allergic reactions to stings from bees.

Prevention techniques for bug bites

To help your cat stay healthy and comfortable both inside and outside, you should be taking steps to help prevent it from being bitten by bugs. Unfortunately, not all bugs bites are avoidable and will need to be dealt with after the fact, such as bee stings. In these cases, you’ll want to make sure your cat is protected from the diseases some pests can spread.

It’s very important to remember that you should never use human insect repellent products like DEET, nor should you use bug repellant products that are designed for dogs. Some of the chemicals in these products are too strong for cats and can cause irritation, while others are toxic to cats and can result in very serious health problems if applied. Always consult a vet for recommendations for feline pest repellent products before applying them.

Here are a few ways to help your cat avoid insect bites and stings.

  • Feline-friendly bug repellant: Some manufacturers create feline-friendly bug repellent sprays and wipes that can help keep bugs away from your cat. When dealing with an indoor-outdoor cat, apply these products on the cat before letting it outside, then re-apply every time the cat returns home throughout the day to ensure it continues to work.
  • Keep your outdoor areas bug-free: Long grass, wooded areas and standing water are major attractors of outdoor pests. If you want to keep your pet safe in your yard, keep grass cut short, remove weeds regularly, and avoid having standing water or even bowls of water outside that might attract mosquitos.
  • Get your cat vaccinated or medically protected: Some medications or vaccinations can be administered to prevent your cat from falling ill from heartworm or other diseases commonly spreads by ticks, mosquitos and other bugs. By taking action against the diseases ahead of time, you can minimize the risk of infection, even if your cat is bitten.

Treating bug bites in cats

Sometimes, prevention methods only go so far in protecting your cat from the outside world full of bugs. In outdoor cats, in particular, prevention techniques may not work at all, and your cat may return home with a tick, mosquito bite or bee sting. When this happens, you should be ready to treat the bite or sting and monitor your cat for signs of injury or illness.

If your cat comes home with mosquito bites, be sure to monitor it for signs of heartworm over the following weeks. Signs may include coughing, lethargy, weight loss and a loss of appetite.

If you notice your cat has been stung by a bee or wasp, inspect the injured area and look for signs of a stinger. You may need to remove this by scraping a credit card across the area to flick it off. Apply a natural product to soothe the irritated skin and reduce itchiness. Then, make sure your cat is not scratching or licking the injured area, so it can properly heal.

Cats that come home after being in long grass or wooded areas should be regularly inspected for ticks and fleas, too. If fleas are discovered, you’ll likely need to use a flea control medicine or shampoo to remove the live fleas. If there is a tick, remove it by pulling it out with tweezers. Be sure to grasp it as closely to the skin as possible to remove the full head and body. Place the tick in a jar full of rubbing alcohol to kill it.

Outdoor cats have extra independence and spend more time outside than the average cat, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to insect bites and the diseases they carry. Always check over your cat when it returns home to identify signs of bites and stings, as well as any signs of illness.

Read also: An Unquenchable Thirst: Signs Your Cat Has Diabetes

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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