Can I Pet a Cat with Ringworm?

March 24, 2021
cat

There’s nothing quite as lovely and fulfilling as sharing our hearts and homes with our cats. They provide endless entertainment and even cuddles. However, it’s not like we want to share everything with our cats. They clearly think differently, given their joy at bringing us dead rodents.

Of the things we’d most like to not share with our felines is ringworm. Both highly infectious and unsightly, ringworm is a common, persistent problem among cats. It ends up costing pet owners money. It steals time spent bonding with your purr-fect buddy.

Today, we’re going to outline:

  • What ringworm is,
  • how it’s spread,
  • what an official diagnosis should entail,
  • how to treat it,
  • and answer the most pressing question pet parents have when they discover it: can I handle my cat if they have ringworm?

What is Ringworm?

ringworm catFirst things first: the name ‘ringworm’ is misleading. Ringworm has nothing to do with worms at all. Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the superficial layers of your cat’s skin, hair, and nails. Its name comes from the circular shape of the symptomatic hair loss of the infection.

Dermatophytes are a specific group of fungi that is the cause. Initially, they make a home for themselves in their host’s body. Next, they thrive by digesting keratin, the main protein structure of hair and nails. As they feast on keratin, they begin to rapidly multiply into millions of single-cell spores that can perpetuate the infection.

Some species of dermatophytes only infect one species. Others can transfer between different species of animals or between animals and humans. Cats who are infected with ringworm are likely infected with the dermatophyte variant known as Microsporum canis. While other variants exist, they’re not nearly as common.

Is it Safe to Pet a Cat with Ringworm?

petting cat with ringwormAnswering this question is a bit tricky. Is it safe? As in, will you die if you pet a cat with the tell-tale red rings? No, probably not. But should you pet that ringworm riddled cat? No, probably not.

What you must keep in mind is that ringworm transmission occurs via direct contact with the fungal spores. While some species of ringworm are only transmittable between specific animal species, some are zoonotic and can thus infect humans. Unfortunately, it’s not like our eyes can immediately distinguish between variants of ringworm as safe or unsafe for humans.

But you shouldn’t necessarily jump to donning your hazmat suit if you suspect your cat has ringworm. Most healthy human adults are resistant to ringworm infection unless they make contact with a spore through a break in the skin like a scratch, scrape, or cut. However, as with cats, most elderly and young humans, as well as adults with weak immune systems, are susceptible to ringworm infection.

In summary, there are a number of precautions you can take to protect yourself against infection if you suspect that your cat has ringworm. It’s as simple as wearing disposable gloves!

How do Cats Get Ringworm?

There is no shielding your cat from ringworm. Ringworm spores can live just about anywhere in the world. From soil to surfaces to the skin of animals and humans. Cats become infected with ringworm coming into contact with infective spores from other infected animals, contaminated surfaces, and contaminated objects.

ringworm cat legIt should be noted that the mere presence of ringworm spores on a cat’s coat isn’t sufficient enough to spark infection. Rather, there are a minimum number of spores that must be present to establish an infection. However, there is no set minimum number that applies to all cats; it varies depending on a variety of factors.

That being said, some cats are predisposed to ringworm infection, such as long-hair cats. Long-hair cats are believed to be more predisposed to ringworm because their long hairs protect the spores from being effectively groomed away. Similarly, Geriatric and young cats are also particularly susceptible to developing ringworm due to their inability to properly groom themselves. Kittens, in particular, are a target due to their immature immune system that has trouble fighting any infection.

Even still, it’s not necessarily as simple as just: minimum number of spores present = cat is infected. Cats have evolved a number of natural defense mechanisms, such as grooming and sunbathing, to protect against these sorts of nasty skin infections. But should those defenses fail, the spores will begin invading and germinating.

What are the Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats?

kitten ringwormAn especially frustrating fact about ringworm for veterinarians, pets, and pet parents alike is that it can be quite difficult to even detect in the first place. Some cats who are infected with ringworm present no clinical signs at all, while others present a cornucopia of unsightly symptoms.

The classic symptom of ringworm is the appearance of one or more areas of patchy or circular hair loss accompanied by some form of crusting. A sort of “cigarette ash” scaling in the depths of the coat may also be visible. Other cats may develop alopecia in spots where the spores have infected the hair shafts. The scale of hair loss can range from mild to dramatic, and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on which sites are infected. Most areas of hair loss will also often present with varying degrees of redness.

Other symptoms can include alterations to the color of your cat’s skin or hair, as well as the emergence of broken or stubby hair. Some unfortunate felines with ringworm may even develop a secondary condition known as onychomycosis. The claws become rough and develop a scaly base. Many cats who develop ringworm will also begin grooming themselves excessively to stave off the irritating itching.

Regardless of whether your cat presents with all of these symptoms, a good rule of thumb is to immediately reach for your bottle of Banixx Pet Care. As a superior antifungal treatment, Banixx acts against a fungal infection, such as Ringworm, with formidable force while being gentle and delivering no harm to your kitty’s skin.  Once treated it’s a good idea to follow up with a trip to the vet for confirmation. 

 

How to Protect Yourself from Ringworm

Humans are thankfully more thorough with hygiene than our pointy-eared buddies. We have access to soap and means to apply without issues. This makes the likelihood of picking up ringworm from our cats lower than the risk they have of contracting it themselves.

cat toy ringwormIt’s always good to be cautious. Especially when you suspect your cat is infected. Remember to wear gloves, long sleeves, and an apron when handling an infected cat. Wash your hands and clothes thoroughly each time you handle your pet. Cover even the slightest abrasion or open wounds. Use your favorite superhero Band-Aid! Either way, it is essential to minimize any contact with the infected surface.

Additionally, throw out all bedding, toys, supplies, or anything possibly contaminated. You will need to buy new ones. Wash all cat bedding in a good bleach solution followed by a plain water cycle in the wash machine. Regular washing and disinfecting new bedding, toys, and dishes with a disinfectant spray can also reduce the risk of transmission. Don’t use Lysol. It’s not feline friendly. Apple cider vinegar is an excellent cleaner. Its acidic nature repels fungal infections such a ringworm. Diligently vacuum your floors. Ringworm spores can survive on loose hairs. Vacuuming is an easy way to be thorough with your disinfection efforts. Follow this by disposing of the vacuum cleaner bag.

You may want to consider isolating any infected cat during their treatment. If you have multiple cats, assume they’re all infected. You should aim to have each of them diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Nonetheless, a suspected ringworm infection necessitates that you regularly deep clean and disinfect your cats’ environment. Spores can linger for long stretches of time. You need to remain vigilant against possible reinfection; up to two years after the initial infection.

 

How is Ringworm in Cats Diagnosed?

There are a variety of diagnostic procedures your veterinarian can deploy to uncover the presence of ringworm in your purry pal.

veterinarian giving a cat a blood test due to blood in cat stool

Wood’s lamp procedure is the most common test. Vets will place affected hairs on a surface called dermatophyte test medium. They will examine the hair under a Wood’s lamp. It is a special ultraviolet light. Hairs that begin to glow with a yellow-green or apple-green fluorescence are infected by Microsporum canis.

However, the Wood’s lamp test is by no means definitive in diagnosing ringworm. Veterinarians often need to conduct a fungal culture to completely discern whether or not an infection is present. You vel will take scrapings of the skin and samples of the hair to look for signs of fungal growth in a laboratory.

If the technicians begin to see evidence of fungal growth consistent with Microsporum canis or other variants of ringworm, they will be able to officially diagnose the afflicted cat as suffering from the infection.

How is Ringworm in Cats Treated?

Luckily, ringworm is by no means a fatal or even a debilitating disease. Modern veterinary science has innovated a cocktail of topical and oral treatments that are especially effective at eradicating ringworm when done in conjunction with aggressive clipping of the coat and environmental disinfection.

The first step is to determine whether the coat needs to be clipped. Long-haired cats living with immunocompromised humans need their coats clipped. This measure will save money and time spent at the vet by reducing the chances for spores spreading.

shave cat with ringwormYour veterinarian will likely then begin your cat on a 1-2 treatment plan. This consists of a daily oral antifungal medication and twice-weekly topical therapy. Griseofulvin, terbinafine, and itraconazole are oral antifungal drugs particularly effective at combating ringworm. Please keep in mind that itraconazole frequently has to be compounded into a liquid solution for administration.

There are a variety of effective topical products to choose from including medicated ointments, creams, and shampoos. If symptoms encompass large parts of your cat’s body, a periodic full-body dip or rinse in a medicated solution may be necessary.

One topical treatment that is exceptionally effective at alleviating the discomfort of ringworm’s symptoms is Banixx Pet Care! Due to its remarkable anti-fungal properties, Banixx is capable of providing immediate, soothing relief while delivering a damaging blow to fungal spores. While wearing disposable gloves, gently massage a cotton ball soaked in Banixx to your cat’s skin two to three times daily. Within minutes, your cat will begin feeling relief.

Learn more about how to keep your pointy-eared buddy happy and healthy through our cat blog or cat page! We hope you found this article helpful and if your cat ever gets any cuts, abrasions, ear infections or ringworm, we hope you keep Banixx Pet Care in mind.

Sources

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