How to Identify & Remove a Tick From a Cat

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If you've ever found a tick on your beloved feline family member, you may have wondered how they got the tick in the first place and how to remove a tick from a cat. The good news is that with the right tools in place, you can remove the tick from your cat at home. Read on for step-by-step instructions on what to do if you spot a tick on your cat and how to get rid of ticks on cats naturally.

How Do Cats Get Ticks?

Because cats are such meticulous groomers, you may be curious to learn how they might end up with a tick. First, it's important to keep in mind that even the most cleanly of animals are subject to a bite from a tick. Most often, a cat will get a tick after being near other pets, but this isn't always the case. Unlike fleas, ticks don't jump; instead, they're slow crawlers. High grasses, low-hanging branches and bushes are common outdoor hideouts for ticks. There are also certain species of ticks that are adapted to living in houses or other sheltered environments (especially over cold-weather months). Thankfully these species are less likely to bite cats than our canine companions, but it's important to remember even if your kitty lives completely indoors they can still be at risk for picking up a tick. When a cat is near a tick, the tick simply grabs onto a hair strand and crawls aboard, hoping its found its next meal.

A red cat walks with the owner on a harness.

How Can I Check My Cat for Ticks?

If you're concerned about your cat potentially getting a tick, be sure to inspect and pet your cat more regularly. A pet down each time they come in from the outside can help you discover if they came in contact with a tick. Here are a few other factors to keep in mind when checking your cat for ticks:

  • Ticks are visible to the naked eye, and they may appear as small oval-shaped bugs.
  • They are typically brown or gray.
  • They may be surrounded by tiny black dots, or tick droppings.
  • Though you may catch a tick just crawling onto your kitty, you usually find them firmly attached to the animal's skin.
  • Depending upon their last meal, ticks can be somewhat flattened and thin, or full and engorged with blood.
  • Though ticks can be anywhere on your cat, their favorite places seem to be the head, neck and ears (especially within the ear folds).

How to Remove a Tick From a Cat: Tools to Gather

While your veterinarian won't mind removing a tick from your cat, this is a task pet parents are capable of handling at home, with a little knowledge and the right tools. That said, take a moment to gather a few tools before you start. To remove a tick from your cat, you'll need:

  • Tweezers or other tick removing tool
  • Disposable gloves
  • A container (small jar, Ziploc bag, etc.) to put the tick in after removal
  • A disinfectant that's safe for cats
  • Ideally, a friend to provide a second set of hands for help
  • Calm composure

And remember, there's no need for you — or your kitty — to panic. If you stay calm, you'll be able to get the tick out in no time.

How to Remove a Tick From a Cat

Use the following step-by-step guide to help remove a tick from your cat:

Orange Tabby Cat being towel dried after a flea bath.

  1. First, find a friend or family member to help hold your cat. Don't initiate the removal until everyone, especially the star patient, is calm and relaxed.
  2. Using gloves, part the fur down to the skin and position the tweezers as close to the cat's skin as possible.
  3. Grabbing the tick with the tweezers, pull upward and apply steady pressure without twisting. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, twisting increases the risk of the head being separated and remaining lodged in the cat's skin.
  4. After removing the tick, place it in the container or flush it down the toilet.
  5. Clear the tick bite area with a disinfectant and clean your hands. An iodine scrub, rubbing alcohol or soap and water will do the trick.

Prevention Tips: How to Get Rid of Ticks on Cats Naturally

Few would argue that removing ticks is better than avoiding them in the first place. Here are some easy tips to avoid ticks naturally:

  • Ticks love to hide in tall grass and bushes, so clearing out this plant material is a great way to decrease the tick load in your yard.
  • Ticks are found most often from spring through autumn. If your cat goes outdoors, be sure to check them thoroughly after each outdoor jaunt, especially during the warmer seasons.
  • If your cat is around other animals or has outdoor access, consider purchasing a tick preventative from your vet. Most tick preventatives will also protect against fleas and other external parasites and remember that even if your cat lives completely indoors, they can still be at risk (though the risk is certainly lower) for picking up these bugs. When taking your pet in for their annual check-up, this can be a great time to talk to your vet about your kitty's risk for ticks and other insect bites so they can help you decide what's best for your pet.

Remember, if at any point your cat becomes stressed during the tick removal and begins open-mouth breathing, stop the process and schedule an appointment with your vet. Stress to your cat can cause other health conditions, and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Now that you know how to remove a tick from a cat, you'll be better prepared to help your furry friend should you run into this situation again in the future.

Contributor Bio

Dr. Laci Schaible

Dr. Laci Schaible

Dr. Laci Schaible is an experienced small animal veterinarian, a Certified Veterinary Journalist, a veterinary telemedicine thought leader, and a seasoned animal advocate. She has won numerous awards for her commitment to pets and their healthcare.