How do I get Rid of Lice on Cats?

Solomon Branch

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.

Shampoos used to rid lice on humans can hurt or kill a cat.
Shampoos used to rid lice on humans can hurt 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.

Veterinarians can give helpful tips on getting rid of lice.
Veterinarians can give helpful tips on getting rid of lice.

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.

Cats are unlikely to spread lice to humans.
Cats are unlikely to spread lice to humans.

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.

Shampoos will get rid of parasites on cats, including lice, but don't use one formulated for dogs as it may  actually harm or kill a cat.
Shampoos will get rid of parasites on cats, including lice, but don't use one formulated for dogs as it may actually harm or kill a cat.

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Discussion Comments

Sporkasia

Animandel - Yes it is true; cats do not usually enjoy baths. The good news is that there are sprays and powders made for treating cat lice, and ear mites. However, the bad news is that even when the sprays and powders are used, it is recommended that you shampoo your cat first. That's the best way to be sure of getting all the lice.

There are also dips for cats with lice, but I guess that would be almost as difficult as shampooing.

Animandel
Isn't there another way? Surely, I not the only one who would rather run a marathon than bathe a cat. My cats absolutely hate baths and they are not crazy about the person who tries to bathe them. I have used flea shampoo on them to remove fleas and it worked well, but my arms suffered several scratches.

One of my cats seems to have picked up lice from one of the neighbors cats and I am now considering using a shampoo like mentioned in the article. However, I'm wondering is there another way?

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