What are ticks?
Ticks are small (up to 1cm long), greyish, bean-shaped insects that attach themselves to cats and feed off their blood. Frequently found on the ears, face or legs, ticks are predominantly active during the spring and early summer and from late summer into autumn. They're often found in woodland, and rough grassland such as heath or moorland, and in areas populated by deer and other livestock. Areas with the highest prevalence in the UK include the Thetford forest in Norfolk, New Forest in Hampshire, Lake District, Yorkshire Moors, Scottish Highlands and the uplands of Wales.
Ticks can also carry a number of other potentially serious infectious diseases. Fortunately diseases from tick-borne infections are rare in the UK although Lyme disease is one potential risk that has been reported. Ticks in European countries including France and Germany can transmit a number of exotic and potentially serious diseases including babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.
How can I tell if my cat has ticks?
Ticks attach to the skin of cats and look like bean-shaped warts. However, careful examination with a magnifying glass at the base of suspect 'warts' may reveal the parasite's legs! The common ticks seen in the UK may vary in size from a few millimetres to over 1cm in length and from pale white in appearance to grey and bluish-black. While a single tick may go unnoticed on cats, they may be painful and in large numbers can lead to anaemia.
Ticks are often difficult to remove as their mouthparts can remain embedded in the cat's skin, which may lead to irritation, infection and abscesses. Your should therefore ask your vet's advice regarding treatment and the correct technique for removal.
A variety of topical products are available to help control ticks. For further information, contact your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist.
For cats travelling aboard with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) you would be well advised to use an appropriate anti-tick preventative product prior to travel. In addition to this, an approved tick (and worm) treatment administered and certified by a veterinary surgeon is required 24-28 hours prior to returning to the UK