Pesky mosquitos are the bane of many a peaceful summer evening. As you swat and scratch your way through a swarm of these pesky insects, you might envy your pets’ protective fur coats. But is your kitty truly safe or can cats get bitten by mosquitos?
Not only can cats get bitten by mosquitos but they could be infected with diseases passed on by the insects as well. In this article, we’ll discuss why mosquito bites can be not only uncomfortable but dangerous for your cat. We’ll also learn the best ways to protect your cat from mosquitos.
How Mosquitoes Bite Cats
While a cat’s fur does provide some protection from mosquitoes, areas with thin coat coverage are vulnerable to bites, such as the ears and nose.
Just as they do with humans, the mosquito spears the cat’s skin with their sharp mouth called a proboscis. While sucking blood, the mosquito injects saliva into the cat’s body, causing it to react with itching and a bump.
Outdoor cats are more likely to encounter mosquitos but indoor cats aren’t completely safe either. Mosquitos can easily get into the house and feast on its inhabitants, including the family cat.
The Dangers of Mosquito Bites For Cats
Like dogs, the primary danger of mosquito bites for cats is developing heartworms.
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are exactly what they sound like: parasitic worms who grow and reproduce inside the heart of infected animals.
Mosquitos are the source of infection and secondary host of these parasites. The insects become infected with immature worms when they feed on an animal with heartworms. The worms continue to develop in the mosquito until they are passed to a new host through a bite.
After the young heartworms enter the bloodstream of a cat or dog, they migrate to the heart, where they mature and begin reproducing. Heartworms grow 3-14 inches in length, posing a life-threatening risk to their host. The worms can clog blood flow from the heart or cause a deadly allergic reaction.
Cats & Heartworms
Dog owners are typically much more aware of the danger of heartworms because dogs are at higher risk of infection.
Cats are believed to be somewhat resistant to these parasites, but recent research suggests that feline heartworm infections occur more often than previously thought. About one-third of infections occur in indoor cats, which should serve as a wake-up call to those who think their pets are safe because they don’t go outdoors.
Heartworm disease is hard to confirm in cats because available diagnostic tests do not catch every infection on their own. Symptoms are also quite variable and some severely infected cats are found dead without displaying any previous signs. Some common signs of heartworms in cats include:
- Trouble breathing
- Weight loss
- Fast heart rate
Unlike with dogs, there are no good treatments for heartworms in cats. The few available treatments pose a significant risk to the cat. Because of this, vets recommend that cats receive heartworm preventative medication just like dogs.
Preventing infection is much safer, more successful, and more cost-effective than attempting to treat heartworms in a cat.
Preventing Mosquito Bites In Cats
Unfortunately, many of the common products used to repel mosquitos in humans are toxic to cats. These include bug sprays with DEET, citronella, and many essential oils. Because cats groom themselves, they can easily ingest any products applied to their coat with dangerous results.
Some dog flea and tick preventatives also repel mosquitos but these products are not meant for cats and can be toxic to them. Never use products labeled exclusively for dogs on your cat.
Preventing mosquitoes in your home and yard will also help keep your cat safe. Removing any source of standing water—necessary for the insects to reproduce—in your yard is one of the most effective ways to limit mosquitos.
Commercial pest control is another option but make sure your exterminator knows you have cats so they can take all necessary precautions. Several mosquito-repelling herbs like basil, rosemary, and lemon balm are safe for cats. Plant these in your yard or grow them indoors to help discourage mosquitos from making themselves a nuisance.
Mosquitos bite humans and cats alike, both indoors and outside. Mosquito bites will not only make your cat scratch but could put them at risk of developing life-threatening heartworm disease. Keeping your cat on heartworm preventative will help keep them safe from these mosquito-borne parasites. Because most mosquito repellents are toxic to cats, concentrate on preventing mosquitoes in the environment instead. Check with your vet before applying any new product to your cat.
Featured Image: Satheesh Cholakkal, Pexels