Bug Out! 7 Insects That Cat Owners Need To Know About

| Published on June 22, 2015

6255997679_3e2883b978_zSource: Jorge Gonzalez via Flickr

Bugs are a summer bummer. Your cat thinks so too. Here’s what you need to know about the ones that cause problems for cats and what you can do. Some of these insect pests can harm your cat even if she stays indoors and some of them are only a problem for cats that spend time outside.


Fleas are important because their saliva is one of the most irritating substances on the planet. Their bites are itchy and can become infected easily if your cat scratches or bites at them. Flea allergy is very common and is a frequent diagnosis in my hospital. Fleas can survive in most climates and are very prolific. They can make a home in your house and car, hiding in cracks and crevices, even furniture. They will bite your cat and they may bite you. When I see a flea allergic pet, the owner invariably tells me that their cat does NOT have fleas. But the fact is…if your cat goes outside (or you have another pet that does) and you are not actively applying a prescription flea product exactly as directed to every animal in the home, the chances are very good that your cat does indeed have fleas, even if you have never seen one. Most of the flea life cycle is not actually ON the pet, so not seeing them doesn’t mean much.


Ticks are one of the most common disease vectors (insect that spread disease). There are many kinds of ticks and some are linked to significant diseases, like Cytauzoonosis (a deadly feline disease spread from Bobcats in certain regions). Fortunately not all kinds of ticks are adapted to live their life cycle indoors, like fleas can, but you still do not want them on your cat. Cats should be on an effective veterinary recommended product throughout the season in your area. Their bites get itchy and infected too. Check your cat for ticks twice daily since most diseases require several hours of attachment to transmit. If your cat is acting ill, lethargic and sore, be sure to mention any ticks you have found to your vet. It is VERY important to note that many dog flea and ticks products are toxic to cats and should never be applied.


Mosquitoes are irritating and ubiquitous and they can bite cats. Their major significance in my opinion is that the carry heartworm disease and even though heartworm disease in cats has not had as much press as for dogs, it is a real issue. Heartworms in cats can cause ACUTE death and you may never know why your cat died. Mosquitoes can get inside (I saw one in my house in the winter last year!)  Mosquitoes can carry other vector diseases, too. If you can keep your cat indoors, it will certainly help, but I suggest parasite control products for all my cat patients because it is not worth the risk.


Spiders can bite cats. I have seen wounds that I believed to be spider bites many times, although there is never proof.  These local bites get worse when the cat licks them and often become a draining infected sore, many times on the feet. Depending on the type of spider, these can become a bigger deal if left untreated, as the tissue around the bite can die and slough off. If your cat has a draining sore that he is licking, you need to see a vet. In the meantime, try to keep him from licking the area.


Sometimes indoor/outdoor cats walk right into ant beds and sustain multiple bites. They will look like hives and may spread over most of the body. It is not common for a cat to have a serious reaction immediately, although anaphylaxis (allergic shock) is possible with any bite.  These itchy bites will be very uncomfortable and pruritic. Your vet can give her an injection to calm the severity of the response and improve the comfort level while healing.

Flies/Cuterebra larvae

The flies that cause issues for cats are not regular house flies. The Bot fly (Cuterebra spp) can lay its eggs on a cat and then a large larva can develop under the skin of the cat. You will see a small deep hole in your cat’s skin and probably see the movement of the larva through the air hole. If that doesn’t send you screaming to the vet, this will…if the larva is ruptured in a botched removal attempt, your cat can go into shock and die. Do not attempt to manage this at home, let the vet handle the extraction of the larva.

Yellow Jackets

I sometimes see cats with these types of stings. Most owners tell me that it was a bee, but it is more likely to have been a yellow jacket since they are aggressive and nest on the ground. Regardless of the exact species of stinging, flying insect, these stings are always painful and become itchy as they heal. True anaphylaxis from these can happen, but usually these are localized issues that heal without incident. If you see a stinging insect sting your cat, watch her carefully for signs of respiratory distress and call your vet if the sting starts to look infected, severely swollen or oozes anything.

Bugs are the villains of summer, but you can be a hero if you follow these suggestions.


vet thumbnailAbout The Vet: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to an article for Prevention magazine and Woman’s Day in Feb 2014 and June 2015 on shelves now.

She has a social media presence on TwitterFacebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She is a regular contributor to Boomeon, the online community which can be found at www.boomeon.com . She has also written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.

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