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How Do I Know If My Cat Has Scabies?

kitty cat looking up at owner

Scabies affects many different animals, from cats and dogs to even humans! While many people mistake it for a disease, scabies (called mange in animals) is actually an infection caused by parasites in the skin.

Mange is not very common in cats, so cat owners can have trouble identifying it in time. Let’s take a look at the types of scabies/mange in cats, how you can catch them earlier and some ways to treat the problem.

Mange in Cats

Some types of mange are caused by mites that live under cats’ skin naturally, but others are due to mites that are considered parasites.

Demodectic Mange

Demodex mites are naturally existing mites that can cause demodectic mange when their population gets out of control. This mostly happens when the cat’s immune system is compromised, and they are unable to fight the mite population as it grows rapidly.

However, this type of mange is uncommon in cats, and you will more often find it in dogs. If you have a dog, you can learn more about how to get rid of dog mange here.

Demodectic mange is also not contagious, so there is some question around how cats happen to get this type of mange to begin with. For the most part, it is considered that it occurs naturally.

Sarcoptic Mange

What is considered ‘scabies’ in dogs and humans is typically sarcoptic mange – usually called canine scabies as it is common in dogs, but cats can also get infected.  

This type of mange is caused by parasitic mites that are very small, oval in shape and light colored. You wouldn’t be able to see these mites, but you would be able to see their effects on your cat’s skin.

cat with scabies

Sarcoptic mange is contagious, so if a dog in your house has mange, there is a high likelihood that your cat is also infected.

Notoedric Mange

Another type of mange in cats is notoedric mange, which is called feline scabies. It is similar to sarcoptic mange in that it is a parasite (the Notoedres mite) that causes severe skin infections.

Feline scabies has many of the same symptoms as sarcoptic mange and is also highly contagious to other cats. If you have more than one cat in the house and one of them happens to get infected, it is best to separate them from the rest.

Symptoms of Mange: How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Infected?

Again, mange and scabies in cats is relatively uncommon, so many cat owners don’t know what the symptoms are, and are thus unable to identify the problem. So how do you know if your cat has scabies?

Generally, most cat owners suspect there may be a problem because they see their cat scratching themselves more often. Because scabies is a skin infection, it makes the infected part itchy and uncomfortable, and your cat is likely trying to find relief by scratching. They may also try to soothe themselves by biting or licking the itchy spots.

However, giving in to the urge to itch will backfire on your pet. Because the skin is already irritated, scratching or biting it may make the condition worse and end up irritating it even more.

Signs that your cat may have scabies include:

  • Restlessness due to being uncomfortable
  • Intense scratching due to itchiness
  • Excessive grooming and licking
  • Hair loss in patches that may start from the face and extend down the rest of the body
  • Scaly skin
  • Swelling or bumps on skin
cat scratching their ear

Alongside the mites, the scratching and biting will also start causing inflammation in the skin. This results in hair loss since the follicles underneath will likely be weakened, and you are likely to see scaly patches on the cat’s skin. There may also be sores and scabs that look uncomfortable, and sometimes also pustules, which are bumps filled with pus or fluid.

If your cat’s ears are infected, there will be a lot of earwax and mite residue, and your cat may try to relieve the pain by laying their ears flat or shaking their head. Mites sometimes start as a cat ear infection and then travel down to the rest of the body. 

Another, more noticeable sign is mite bites appearing on your own skin. This is because sometimes the mites will jump onto you and start biting you as well. You will probably feel itchiness and swelling in the infected spot. 

This is not much of a problem, aside from the annoyance, since mites are unable to breed in humans so you can easily get rid of them. It’s a lot more difficult to get rid of mites on pets, though, so it is best to know the signs and symptoms of mange and scabies. 

By knowing them or at least being able to identify them, you can make sure you get your cat treated in time. 

woman scratching her elbow

Diagnosis & Treatment for Scabies in Cats

The first step to getting your cat the right treatment is to take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Since the symptoms of different types of scabies are similar, you wouldn’t be able to tell which mite is causing the issue just by looking. 

Your vet will likely take a skin scraping and look at it under a microscope to see which mite it is. Sometimes, the mites tend to burrow under the skin, so skin scrapings may not work, and your vet may need some more signs and a physical exam to determine the problem.

Depending on the type of mite, different medication may be needed. You may have to use soothing medicines to help relieve the discomfort, and medicated shampoos to get rid of the mites themselves. Remember that the treatment regimen has to be regular and consistent because mites are difficult to get rid of.

cat in the bath

Mite eggs can linger, even if adult mites are killed, and these eggs will hatch after some time and cause flare ups. While the mites are easy to kill, it will take some time to remove the eggs. You’ll most likely notice the skin healing and fur growing back about a month after you start treatment. 

There are also some home remedies for scabies, such as using diluted apple cider vinegar on the cat’s skin. The acidity in the vinegar helps get rid of parasites, but it’s not too strong that it’s dangerous for the cat. This is just a temporary fix, and you will still need to get your cat proper medication and treatment if you want them to get better for good.

Cats have very sensitive skin, so make sure to stay away from harsh pest control products like insecticides and sprays. 

Instead, you can try over-the-counter remedies that can help relieve the itch and get your cat feeling better. BestLife4Pets' Mange Relief for Cats is all-natural and side-effect free, so you can focus on keeping your cat happy and healthy. 

As a reminder, while your cat is undergoing scabies treatment, you should keep them isolated from other pets in the house and clean up everything they’ve come in contact with, like their litter box or bed. This is to make sure that there’s no chance of reinfection or mites spreading to other cats.

Preventing Scabies in Cats

It’s a lot easier to prevent the issue of scabies entirely than to treat it. To do this, work to improve your cat’s overall health, so they can fight off the problem on their own. As mites tend to infect cats with a weakened immune system, make sure to boost their immunity to help them fight off mites and other infections. Your cat should have a healthy diet that is rich in protein with a little fat and no carbs. 

Cats cannot digest carbohydrates very well, so it’s best to avoid these foods altogether. Having less trouble with digestion means that your cat has more energy to fight potential parasites.

cat eating cat food in the grass

You can also give your cat some supplements for immunity. These can be added to your cat’s food as powder, and will help improve their response to any pathogens that happen to enter the body. 

If you want to fight mites from the outside, you can also buy mite-repellent shampoo or a collar that will keep scabies mites from irritating your kitty’s skin.

In addition, it’s important to keep your cat’s environment clean and sanitary. As mite infections are most commonly due to your cat coming in contact with outside mites, you have to be careful that their environment is clean (at least, as much as you can control). Washing their bedding regularly and cleaning their litter boxes is important. 

Indoor cats are less likely to have trouble with pests, but of course, there is always the off chance that something else brought the mites in.

While scabies is definitely uncomfortable as an infection and quite troublesome to deal with, it is not outright dangerous. Your cat will be itchy due to the skin irritation, so you should try and provide as much comfort as you can by washing their skin with warm and soapy water, or by using natural remedies like apple cider vinegar alongside treatment. Be sure to stick to the treatment regimen so that you can avoid any flare ups.

Scabies can definitely be treated if you are able to identify the problem in time. The most important part is to know the signs so you can recognize what’s going on and get your cat to a vet sooner rather than later. With treatment and some patience, you won’t have to worry: your cat will be back to full health in no time!

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