The best-known fact about mosquitoes is that they bite. Almost everyone has experienced the relentless itch of mosquito bites, and the capacity of these insects to spread diseases is common knowledge.
But are mosquitoes an exclusively human problem, or can animals be at risk of bites as well? Unfortunately, it seems that no-one is safe from these insects, and mosquitoes are known to feed on a wide variety of animals. Different species prefer different types of blood, but mosquitoes can bite pretty much anything, including birds, reptiles, rodents, horses, dogs – and cats.
But are mosquito bites as dangerous for cats as they can be for humans? Which part of your cat’s body is most vulnerable to mosquito bites and, most importantly, what can you do to protect them?
Are mosquito bites dangerous to cats?
The first reason to protect your cat from mosquito bites is that, just as with humans, they’re infuriatingly itchy and can cause your pet significant discomfort. However, this is far from being the worst effect of mosquito bites in cats.
Mosquitoes are known vectors for a wide range of diseases that are transmissible to humans, including Chikungunya fever, Zika virus fever, Yellow fever, West Nile fever and Japanese encephalitis.
However, fewer people are aware that mosquitoes can also infect cats with potentially-fatal illnesses.
The main mosquito-borne danger to your cat is feline heartworm disease. Though heartworm disease is more common in dogs, cats can also catch the parasite from infected mosquito bites. Heartworm disease is a serious illness and can be life-threatening if left untreated, so it’s important for cat owners to be aware of the symptoms. The symptoms of feline heartworm disease may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden death
A minority of cats may also have feline mosquito bite hypersensitivity, which is basically an allergy to mosquito bites. This can result in severe skin reactions characterized by red, inflamed lesions and ulcers around the sites of mosquito bites.
Which parts of a cat’s body are vulnerable to mosquito bites?
Most cats have a thick coat of fur that protects their body from mosquitoes. However, this doesn’t mean they’re immune to mosquitoes, which will often target less-furry body parts, such as the nose, ears, lips and footpads.
How to protect your pets from mosquitoes
If you live in an area with a large mosquito population, you’ll need to protect your pets from bites. This will not only spare them from uncomfortable itching, but will also protect them from potentially-fatal heartworm disease.
Use a heartworm prevention product
Heartworm prevention medicine can effectively protect your feline friends from infection. Products may be administered topically or orally, and usually need to be used monthly. Always consult a veterinarian before using any kind of medications to make sure you are using the correct product and dosage, and never use canine medications on your cat.
Use a feline-friendly insect repellent product
Insect repellent products usually come in spray or lotion form, and can help to stop mosquitoes from biting your cat. Always check that your product of choice is suitable for felines before using them on your cat, as many repellent products (such as DEET and certain essential oils) can have toxic effects.
Using products that are not intended for cats can have potentially fatal consequences, and may cause neurological problems such as tremors and seizures.
Treat existing bites with antibacterial cream
If your cat already has mosquito bites on their ears or nose, you should treat them with an antibacterial cream to stop them from becoming infected. Speak to a veterinarian if you think the bites aren’t healing properly.
Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home
You can reduce the risk of insect bites for both your cat and yourself by making your home less habitable for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so the first thing you should do is empty out water sources around your yard. Water may accumulate in pet food dishes, buckets, flowerpots, blocked drains, and in bird baths and feeders.
Limit your cat’s time outdoors
Limiting the amount of time your cat spends outdoors can also help to protect them from bites. Most mosquito species are most active at dawn and dusk, so it can be a good idea to keep them inside at these times.
If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you may also want to keep your cat indoors during the rainy season, as mosquitoes are most common at this time of year. If you are really worried, you may want to stop your cat from going outdoors altogether.
Although some cats adapt well to an indoor lifestyle, cats that are used to roaming outside may find the transition difficult.
No one is safe from mosquito bites, and these blood-sucking insects are known to target a wide variety of animals. Humans, birds, reptiles, rodents, dogs, cats and horses can all be bitten by mosquitoes, and all will suffer from itching and discomfort as a result.
Unfortunately, itchiness isn’t the only consequence of mosquito bites. These insects are notorious vectors for a wide range of diseases, some of which can infect your feline friends. The main risk for cats is feline heartworm disease, a potentially life-threatening parasite that can cause lethargy, coughing, vomiting, breathing difficulties, fainting, and even death.
When protecting your cat from mosquito bites, it is very important to only use feline-friendly products. Heartworm medication can effectively prevent heartworm disease, and there are also repellent products available for cats. Never use human or canine products on your cat, as there are several substances (such as DEET and essential oils) that can be toxic to felines.