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Can Indoor Cats Get Ringworm? What You Need To Know!

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re a cat parent, you know how important it’s to keep your feline’s health in good shape.

Since ringworm is one of the most common conditions in cats, you need to know if your cat can suffer from it and how you can help. But what exactly is ringworm? And can indoor cats get it? Since ringworm can be transferred from animal to animal, if indoor cats come into contact with other animals that have ringworm, they are at risk of getting ringworm as well.

Read on to learn more about this condition in cats, how it occurs, what its symptoms are, and if your indoor cat can get ringworm or not.

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What is Ringworm?

closeup of a cat with ringworm
Image Credit: Nadya Bessonov, Shutterstock

While many think of worms when they hear the word ringworm, this condition has nothing to do with worms. Ringworm is a skin condition1, also known as dermatophytosis, and it’s caused by a fungus that infects the hair, nails, and skin of your feline. The fungus lives on your feline, feeding off of its dead cells.

One of the biggest issues with this infection is that it’s typically highly contagious, although the transmission abilities depend on the type of ringworm your cat has.

There are multiple ringworm types, including:
  • Species-specific: Infects only one animal type
  • Zoonotic: Can transfer from pets to humans
  • Microsporum canis: The most common ringworm type in cats; it can transfer to humans and dogs
  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes: Not as common, but infectious to humans


Signs of Ringworm in Cats

Sometimes, it can be hard to determine ringworm symptoms, as they vary due to different conditions. As this infection affects the skin, hair, and nails of your cat, that’s likely where you’ll notice the most changes and possible symptoms.

Here’s a list of some of the common indicators that your cat has ringworm:
  • Hair loss: Most of the time, when a cat has ringworm, and the fungi infect the hair shaft, they start to lose hair in circular patches. This sign occurs in ringworm that’s already in progress and might not be visible if your feline just got contaminated. It mostly occurs on the cat’s legs, head, and ears.
  • Lesions: Cats that suffer from ringworm can develop lesions all over their bodies, from their head and chest to their spine and front legs.
  • Nail infection: After some time, cats develop a visible nail infection due to ringworm.

One of the most significant issues with ringworm is that it resembles other feline skin conditions, which frequently makes it hard to diagnose.

If a cat gets ringworm, the fungus will typically take 7–14 days to develop lesions, although that timeframe can be longer and take weeks. Some cats may never experience any symptoms, but they can transfer ringworm to dogs and humans.

Because of that, you need to know how ringworm occurs in cats and how to diagnose it.


Can Indoor Cats Get Ringworms?

ringworm on a kitten
Image Credit: EVGEIIA, Shutterstock

Ringworm can be transferred from animal to animal and from animal to human. Because of that, even indoor cats can get ringworm. It’s not uncommon for indoor cats to sometimes wander away from their home and encounter other animals and people, which could lead to this skin problem.

The infection rate is commonly low in indoor cats, and it’s much higher in outdoor and stray cats. However, since getting ringworm is still possible for indoor cats, you should observe your cat’s behaviors and notice skin changes that could indicate ringworm in time.


How Does Ringworm Occur in Cats?

Cats get ringworm when in contact with the fungus—if your feline touches an infected animal, person, or contaminated surfaces and soils, it could get ringworm. This fungus can’t infect healthy skin, so your feline’s skin needs to have a wound or scratch.

The nature of this fungus allows it to thrive in the harshest conditions for a long time, which is how one animal/person can infect others.

Since your cat needs to have some type of wound in order to get infected with ringworm, there are certain factors to determine which cats are at higher risk of ringworm:

  • Age — Small kittens and senior cats are in higher danger of ringworm.
  • Health — Typically, ringworm attacks victims with a low immune system. However, this is typically more visible in humans than in felines.
  • Care — Felines with poor care and in large groups are commonly at a higher risk of ringworm
  • Climate — Felines in warmer climates with higher temperatures and humidity have more chances of getting ringworm contamination.
  • Lifestyle — Outdoor and stray cats have higher infection rates, but indoor cats can also get ringworm.


How To Diagnose Ringworm in a Cat?

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock

As ringworm is hard to diagnose, you might have difficulties realizing your feline has this problem on your own. However, if you notice any changes in your cat’s skin, you should take it to a vet check-up and see what’s happening.

Most of the time, the vet will perform one of the following procedures to diagnose ringworm:

  • Microscopic examination: If the vet suspects your feline has ringworm, they will likely do a microscopic examination. The vet typically takes the hair that grows near the lesion and observes it under the microscope, looking for ringworm spores.
  • Fungal culture: When doing this test, the vet also takes the hair from the edges of the lesions. This test is great because it can allow you to find the source of the infection and ensure your cat doesn’t get in contact with it after the treatment. However, the fungus can take multiple weeks to develop, which can be tricky when you need to diagnose your feline’s condition quickly.
  • PCR test: Vets perform these tests on your feline’s hair, looking for fungi DNA.
  • Wood’s light: The wood’s light is actually a fluorescent lamp that the vet uses to observe your feline’s skin. When a veterinarian puts the wood’s light near your cat, the lesions will glow green, showing your cat has ringworm. Although helpful, this test is the least reliable as the vet can’t see all lesions under the light. Because of that, your cat will typically need further testing.


Ringworm Treatment

If your cat is diagnosed with ringworm, the vet will likely prescribe oral and skin medication for your feline. Your job is to ensure your cat doesn’t get infected again, so cleaning its environment and lowering the risk of a new infection is essential.

The skin medication for your feline typically comes in various forms, including:
  • Creams
  • Shampoos
  • Dips
  • Ointments

You need to apply these products to your cat’s skin, particularly on the lesions, because they kill the fungal spores. Depending on your feline’s diagnosis, this type of treatment could take weeks or months for your cat to recover fully.

The oral medication for your feline is more effective than the skin meds, but they still need to be used together for the best results.

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All cats can get ringworm, so even your indoor cat is at risk of this condition. Ensure you practice prevention measures, and if you suspect ringworm in your cat, immediately take it to a vet for a check-up. The vet will help you determine what’s happening and prescribe the necessary medication. This is a serious condition that takes a while to treat, so remember to be alert about it and recognize its signs.

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Featured Image Credit: Yaya photos, Shutterstock