Ringworm In Cats: What Is it, Risks, Treatments, Side-Effects And Causes

Ringworm is a fungal infection that can be found on both humans and animals. It can look like flaky, scaly, sometimes infected wounds, and/or bald spots on your cat.

Signs and Symptoms

A classic sign of ringworm is a small round bald spot. Often, it will have scaly lesions or small, itchy pus-filled sores.

If your kitty is scratching the area and you’ve ruled out fleas, ringworm might be the cause.

It’s most commonly found on the head, ears, tails, and forelimbs of a cat, though it can spread over the whole body, including the claws, if left untreated.

If Fluffy is infected with the fungus around his bum, he might drag his behind along the floor to relieve the itching.

Is Ringworm in Cats Contagious?

Yes! Ringworm is highly contagious (but very treatable!) and can be spread between a cat and her human, as well any other animals in the household.

For this reason, it’s very important that you wear gloves when checking kitty for the fungus, and always thoroughly wash your hands after any contact with her!

If you have multiple pets in your household, it’s likely that if one pet has ringworm, they’ll all get it.  As soon as you notice it in your cat, check all of the animals you live with to see if it has spread. Then call your vet.

How Did My Cat Get Ringworm?

Ringworm can be caused by direct contact with an infected animal or human, or indirect contact through soil, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, dishes, or other contaminated items.

Are Some Cats More Susceptible?

Ringworm is most common in cats with compromised immune systems, senior cats, and cats with very long fur, such as Persians or Ragdolls, as it’s easy to miss amidst all the hair.

What To Do If You Suspect Ringworm

Make an appointment to see your vet to get a proper diagnosis.

The vet will do a visual exam, but might also need to use a UV light called a Wood’s Lamp.  This will make the fungus easier to see because ringworm looks apple green under the light.

Scraping some of the infected skin cells from your cat and doing a culture in the lab is another way your pet’s doctor will be able to tell if your cat has contracted ringworm.

Treatment For Ringworm In Cats

Once your veterinarian has made the diagnosis of ringworm, he will prescribe a course of action and recommend a treatment depending on the severity of the infection.

Ringworm will tend to go away on its own after a couple of weeks, but because it’s so contagious, it is important to treat it.

These treatments can also help Fluffy to feel better and speed the healing process.

Creams

Lamisil® – (Terbinafine) – apply the cream directly to your cat’s lesions.

Clotrimazole– this is used in the treatment of many fungal infections (athlete’s foot, thrush, etc.) and is generally safe to use on cats.  Like Lamisil®, you will apply this right onto the spots affected by the ringworm fungus.

Oral medications

If the ringworm is widespread and severe on kitty, or has affected his nails, the vet might recommend oral drugs.

Fulvicin® (griseofulvin), is the least invasive in terms of side effects, though it might cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy. It comes in capsules, tablets, or liquid form.

Never give Griseofulvin to a pregnant, lactating, or FIV positive cat. 

Sporanox® (Itraconazole) is similar to Fulvicin® but is more expensive. The side effects are similar to those above, but can also cause jaundice.

Itraconazole is generally only used if the above oral treatment didn’t work.

This drug is not FDA approved, though it can be prescribed legally as an extra-label drug.

Shampoo

There are shampoos available to treat ringworm, but as a rule they have to stay on your cat for about 10 minutes.

Baths aren’t usually kitty’s favorite pastime, unless you have a water-loving cat, so introduce him to the water slowly, and be patient and calm.

Other effective treatments

Lime sulfur dips have been used successfully to rid cats of ringworm, but as with shampoos, involve putting your pet into a tub of water.

Like shampooing and bathing, the calmer you are, the more relaxed your kitty cat will be too.

Make sure you wear a pair of gloves while doing the dip as the solution might temporarily stain your skin.

These dips will likely have to be repeated and will leave kitty with a bit of a smelly odor. But lime dips are effective, and most vets recommend them before resorting to oral medications.

Vet Recommended™ treatment for cats is an easy to use solution that is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and environmentally friendly.

Simply dilute as per the instructions, soak a clean towel, and wipe kitty down.  Again, you’ll have to repeat this treatment, but it has shown to be effective and is regarded as safe for your dear kitty cat.

You can find Vet Recommended™ on Amazon.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV), is used widely as a home remedy for all sorts of ailments.

It has anti-fungal properties and can also help with the itch.  Dilute one part lukewarm water with one part ACV then soak a 100% cotton ball or pad with the dilution and apply.

The ACV will help to kill the fungus, and if your cat licks her fur afterward the vinegar will not harm her.

You will have to repeat the applications at least twice a day, for at least a week, maybe longer.

If you do choose to use ACV, make sure you choose one that contains the mother  (beneficial bacterial culture), such as Bragg’s.

It is essential to clean your home thoroughly once you know your kitty is infected.

Run the vacuum (more than once if necessary) over all surfaces that can be vacuumed.

It’s very important that you immediately throw out the used vacuum bag because the ringworm fungus can live even inside the bag.

Launder all of kitty’s bedding, as well as your own (if Fluffy sleeps with you or on your bed when she thinks you’re not looking), in HOT water. Since you’re doing laundry anyway, toss in all of your throw blankets, pillows, and area rugs too, if possible.

Warning – before you use any home remedy on your kitty, be sure to research whether it’s safe for use on cats. NEVER use bleach, tea tree oil, or garlic as these can all be toxic to felines.

It’s a good idea to throw away all of your pet’s toys and soak his grooming supplies, as well as anything you can’t put in the washing machine.  If you use a brush on him, discard it and buy a new one.

If you think kitty has slept on, walked on, or played with something, wash it or trash it!

How To Prevent Ringworms In Cats

So, we know ringworm is a very contagious fungal infection. How can we make sure our precious kitty cats don’t catch it in the first place?

  • Keep your pet indoors. Not only will this lessen the chance of ringworm, but you’ll feel safer knowing she’s not playing in traffic and is safe from the local wildlife.
  • If you’ve recently adopted your kitty from a shelter, it might be worth giving her a rubdown with ACV just to be on the safe side. Or talk to the shelter workers before you bring her home to see if there has been a recent outbreak.
  • If you’ve had a recent bout of ringworm with your pets (or a family member), make sure you follow through with treatment. Most of the remedies above take time, or multiple applications, so be patient and be vigilant.

As usual, consult with your vet, and between the two of you, decide on the best course of action for your cat.

Prevention is always the easiest place to start, but as ringworm is such a contagious fungus, even with diligence you might not be able to keep your pet completely safe from contracting it.

Knowing beforehand that you have options, and what they are, can go a long way in helping you deal with ringworm should you ever need to.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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Leslie - November 16, 2018

Hi Emily,
My two kittens have ringworm and are being treated with Itrafunol. They have only been in one isolated room since I brought them into the house. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand how the fungus spreads, so I have tracked it through the house with my shoes. They also have a small cat tree in the room. Do I need to get rid of the cat tree now? Or can I leave it in their room?
I don’t know where to begin, help!

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