Removing a Tick from a Cat

Ticks harbor many diseases which are dangerous if not fatal to cats and humans. If your cat gets a tick on it, it's extremely important to remove the tick properly and quickly, without harming the cat. Here is how.

tick on cat In this photo you can see the small tick body on this tick, with the legs. The rest of the white area is the bloating of the blood sac that has filled up with blood from a day or two of gorging. Once the tick is full, usually 3-4 days, it'll drop off and go about its business. For a female tick, this may involve laying thousands of eggs to create new ticks. You don't want that happening in your home!

There are many old wives tales about tick removal. Most of them are very dangerous and make things much worse. Here is the proper method of tick removal, as endorsed by veterinarians.

Wear Gloves
Ticks carry many diseases. What you're about to do is likely to get you in close contact with a live tick. Wear gloves and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you are done removing the tick.

Do Not Pre-Agitate the Tick
Ticks are living creatures and they react to their environment. You want this tick to be as calm and quiet as possible right up until you grab it and yank at it. If you've been poking and prodding at the tick while you figure out if it's a scab or a wart, leave the cat alone for five to ten minutes afterwards. Let the tick quiet down. That way it will release its panic-grip and settle down to the quiet business of drinking the blood again. You want to get the tick unawares.

Wrap the Cat in a Towel
This might hurt the cat a bit as you pull the tick free. You want to do this as quickly as you can. We find it best to wrap the cat gently in a towel to hold it still without hurting it. Once you're at this stage, have the tweezers and a shotglass of alcohol at the ready so you're prepared for the subsquent steps.

Grab the Tick Firmly by the HEAD with tweezers
Your aim is to get the entire tick off of the cat. If you just yank by the body, you might only remove half of the tick. Get as close to the cat's skin as you can get with good tweezers. Note you do not want to do inane things like try to burn the tick with a match, drown the tick in oil or alcohol, or smother the tick with plastic wrap. Remember, the lethal part of the tick is in its saliva, which is already down in your pet's skin. Anything which antagonizes the tick is going to cause the tick to inject much more saliva in. You want to get that tick out before it even knows something is going on.

tick on cat Pull the Tick Straight Out Without Twisting
Again, the head of the tick is embedded into the cat's body. If you twist, you're likely to twist that head right off and leave it behind. It went in straight, it will come out straight. Yes, there are still times that a bit of head will be left behind. And again, it's not the head that is the problem, it's the saliva. So the cat's body will naturally push out the head after a short while. Do the best you can, but don't obsess if there's a small bit left.

Drop the Tick Into Alcohol
Ticks are very resiliant and can survive just about anything, including drowning in water. They have an air sac that helps them survive. However, alcohol is a poison. Drop the entire tick into alcohol and in about ten minutes they should be toast.

We've had to remove a number of ticks from our cats over the years, even though they're indoor cats. If you've got a stubborn tick problem, let us know and we'll help out!

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