lice in cats

Lice In Cats: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention


The thought of lice makes my skin crawl.

Little tiny parasites squirming around eager to hop on your pet and take a free ride. Your cat serves as their live taxi, shuffling them around while they fill up their tanks with gas by piercing your cat’s skin and siphoning out blood.


I am fortunate that I have never had lice and neither have my pets. But I have heard horror stories from pet owners that have had to deal with this. It got me thinking about the entire ordeal. I started Googling around and found myself doing quite a bit of research.

This posts is all about lice in cats: the symptoms, treatment and prevention.

I hope you never have to use this content, but if you do, the information is here.

I also hope it provides some tips on how to prevent cat lice, and you never have to deal with this problem.

The good news is, lice is vary rare in felines. But when they get it, it is highly contagious. It is most common among cats who have not been cared for well, or at all. Sometimes rescues get outbreaks from one rescued cat that transmutes it to the others. Learning to know what signs reveal cat lice and how to prevent it is key in making sure your cat never gets it.

Cat Lice Symptoms

  • Scratching and itching

Since lice are tiny little parasites that move around, the first sign of them will be a cat who is itching and scratching herself a lot.

RELEVANT: Why Do Cats Purr?

Varying severity of itchiness is seen among cats, so as soon as you suspect your cat may be infected you’ll want to check her thoroughly.

  • Lice are visible.

When you do a check of your cat be sure to move her fur back so you can see her skin. Look for white or creamy colored specs in her coat and on her in the areas she is scratching.

Be sure to check in her ears, her armpits and her belly area. Check her back and her hind legs. If you see lice, or anything that resembles them, you will want to start an over the counter lice treatment right away.

You may want to call your Vet to provide details if the lice outbreak is bad. They can determine if you should come in for an appointment and how fast they need to see your cat.

  • Restlessness

If left untreated, your cat will become very restless. The lice moving around on her skin will make her irritable.

Since scratching will not remedy the itchiness she is feeling, she will become annoyed and start to be agitated. In extreme cases, a cat who has a heavy dose of lice could act out and become aggressive.

How Do You Get Rid Of Lice In Cats?

The good news is most felines, especially ones who are house cats, will never have to deal with this. Cat lice is pretty uncommon. There are a few things you want to do as soon as you even suspect your cat has lice.

In order to get rid of cat lice, first purchase a lice treatment. There are several options to choose from including FirstActplus which is available over the counter. Use the treatment exactly as prescribed. Second, you want to wash all cat beds and thoroughly clean pet dishes and consider tossing out furry toys. Third, contact your Vet. They will advise if your can needs an in person appointment.

There are also sulphar dips and creams that you can purchase over the counter. These will help with eliminating lice and even reduce her itchiness.

It is important to note that sulphar dips will not kill the eggs of lice so you can’t count on this as your primary treatment.

What Causes Lice In Cats?

Lice in common house cats is pretty rare, thankfully. The cats who suffer from lice the most are ones in poor condition and homeless cats, such as ferals.

Two main things cause lice in cats:

  • Lack of cleanliness
  • Exposure to other cats

Prevention Of Lice In Cats

Cats get lice from other cats. There is more chance of them contracting lice if they are not kept groomed and clean.

Steps you can take to prevent your cat from getting lice:

  • Keep your cat indoors

There is no doubt, a cat who is exposed to the elements of the great outdoors has a much higher risk of getting lice and other parasites. There are many other dangers that come with being an outdoor cat such as ingesting poisonous chemicals, coming into contact with a wild animal or mean-spirited person, getting fleas and on and on.

If your cat wants to spend time outside, consider building him a catio. There are DIY ones you can create for less than $100.

To learn more about DIY catios this might be helpful, “Building Your Cat A Window Catio”.

Some cats will walk on a leash and harness. This is a great alternative to roaming free, if you can get your cat to agree.

  • Limit exposure to other cats

Reduce exposure to other cats unless you are sure they do not have lice. This is especially important for foster parents and rescues. A guest in your home can be a wonderful way to help cats in need, but be sure he is all checked out and parasite free before he stays.

  • Flea and Tick Treatment

If your cat is outside, even in your yard, catio or cat enclosure, using flea and tick treatment is a good way to prevent lice. The best ones will be recommended by your Vet and safe for both your cats and you.

Collars are one option. Another option is ointment you put directly on your feline, right between the shoulders on her back.

At this point, we have reviewed the signs of lice in cats, how to treat them and how to prevent them.

There are a couple other questions I bet you still have (if you are anything like me). Let’s see if I can answer them now.

Can People Get Lice From Cats?

Most people are wondering, can I get them?

Can my kids get them?

Will my cat spread them to our friends and neighbors?

No. Cats cannot transmit lice to people and people cannot transmit lice to cats. Thankfully, lice are specie parasites so they can be transmitted from cat to cat, but not cat to other animals. They cannot go to people from cats.

Can Dogs Get Lice From Cats?

No. Lice are species specific and as such will not go from cat to dog, or dog to cat.

How Long Does It Take To Get Rid Of Cats Lice?

From the time you start your cat on lice treatment, it will take approximately 3-4 weeks. This assumes you do not exposure her to cats with lice to be re-infected and that she takes medication to also kill the lice eggs.

Concluding Thoughts

I feel good that my pets will probably never have to deal with lice, and I hope you do to. Following a few simple safety tips should keep us lice free.

Just to recap; you might try to have your cat be an indoor cat, wear flea treatment when going outside, not exposed other cats without being sure they do not have lice.

If you happen to be someone who has a cat with lice, don’t panic.

First, you are not alone.

Second, you can be free of lice in about a month if you get the treatment now and have everything thoroughly cleaned or replaced.

Lisa Illman

Lisa Illman


Lisa is the owner of Kritter Kommunity and the inventor of the @KritterKondo cat enclosure. She is owned by her mischievous and adorable kitty cat, Finnegan. He has his own Facebook too.

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