Like most pets, cats are subject to all kinds of parasites, including lice. There are several steps to take to get rid of lice on cats, but the key treatment method is to wash the cat with an appropriate shampoo. There are several shampoos on the market that will get rid of multiple types of parasites, including lice, although they may not say so on the package. The main thing to remember is to purchase a cat-specific product. Shampoos used for humans won’t work, and ones that are used for other pets, specifically dogs, can actually harm or kill a cat.
Lice are specific to each species. The type of lice children get is not the same that a cat will get. Regardless, itching is the main symptom in all types of lice infestations. In a cat, itching may be more severe, and they may sometimes exhibit a scruffy coat and hair loss. Lice on cats survive by biting them and drinking their blood.
If you suspect a cat has lice, it needs to be examined closely. Lice appear as flat, oval-shaped objects, and they can resemble dandruff at first glance. The main difference is that lice will be either moving or will be in the egg stage, known as a nit, and will be attached to the hair. Nits won’t move if you touch them and typically cannot be removed from the hair.
The next step is to purchase a shampoo that will kill the lice, either from a store or from a veterinarian. Regardless of which shampoo is used, it will usually have to be applied several times, usually in 10-14 day intervals, depending on the type of shampoo used. The eggs will most likely not be removed even after shampooing, so shaving the cat may be the best option.
Any instrument that came into contact with the cat, such as combs, will need to be soaked in alcohol and thoroughly cleaned. Areas of the house, such as a cat bed, which came into contact with the cat fur will need to be thoroughly vacuumed and laundered, if possible. Many of the shampoos for lice on cats are effective enough that one cleaning of the possibly infested areas will be enough, as the shampoos continue to kill the lice on contact.
Even if the cat no longer shows symptoms, they need to be checked for several weeks after the last shampoo to verify the infestation is gone. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence, and lice on cats are not usually contagious to humans. Keeping a cat thoroughly groomed can go a long way in avoiding lice on cats.