Do cats get lice?

The kid comes home from school frantically scratching the head, the cause… head lice. By the way the dog scratch, chew and bite the body, it is obvious that the pet has octoparasites. Lice are one of the parasites that can infest the dog. Can the cat get lice too given that the kid plays and cuddles the pet cat? The dog and the cat have become buddies. These pets play together…they even sleep together. Is it possible for the cat to catch the lice of the kid and the dog? Can cats get lice? Although uncommon, cats can get lice.

Lice are one of the parasites that cats can have but lice are species specific…meaning that the head lice of the kid would not survive on the body of the cat. The kind of lice that infest the dog cannot infest the cat for the simple reason that dog lice can only survive on dog blood, head lice would feed only on human blood and cat lice would only need cat blood. Lice infestation commonly occurs in cats living in crowded conditions.

Lice are flat bodied and six legged insects. These parasites are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Lice are wingless and not fast moving insects thus cat owners would easily see if the pet is infested. The eggs of these parasites that are called nits can be easily seen as well because they are attached on the shaft of the host’s hair. The nits are usually grouped and looked like white flakes on the cat’s hair. There are two kinds of lice – the Felicola subrostrata is the chewing kind and the bloodsucking kind is called Linognatus setosus. The lice that infest cats are the bloodsucking kind. The entire 21-day cycle of this parasite is spent on the host. Lice that infect the cat would lay eggs that will hatch and develop into adult lice that will soon lay eggs. The process is continued until the cat is infested with several generations of lice.

How would a cat owner know that the pet is infested with lice? This parasite can be easily seen and removed from the cat’s fur because they are not fast moving. Another sign of infestation are the nits attached to the hair shaft of the pet. Cats that are infested with lice would typically have dry scruffy coats. Lice infestation will cause itching. The excessive scratching of the pet can result to bald patches on the cat’s skin. The scratching and biting can also result to oozing wounds. Heavy infestation of these bloodsucking parasites can result to anemia. Anemia typically occurs in kittens heavily infested with lice.

Direct contact with an infected cat is the most common mode of transmission of lice. The parasite can also be transmitted by using grooming tools used on infected cats. These parasites do not move much thus lice that fall on the beddings when the cats scratch can be transmitted if another cat slept or used the infected cat’s beddings. Among all the octoparasites of cats, lice can be the easiest to eradicate. Insecticides can successfully eradicate the infestation as these parasites are not resistant to insecticides. Initial treatment will kill adult lice but not the nits. To break the life cycle of the parasite, it would be necessary to repeat the treatment every two weeks. Fine toothed comb can be used to remove the lice. To prevent the spread of the parasites, grooming tools used on the infected cat must not be used on other pet cats. The beddings and the toys of the cat must be washed in hot water to prevent reinfestation.