How to Remove a Tick From a Cat

Geneva Pagliai, DVM
Jun 30, 2020
   |   5 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Knowing how to remove a tick from your cat is important for their health—and also for yours.

Tick-borne diseases can spread to your cat as soon as 24 hours after the tick attaches. Some of these diseases, such as Lyme disease, can also be spread to humans. If you find a tick on your cat, removing the tick promptly and properly is important for all species involved.

Here’s how to properly remove a tick from a cat.

Tools You’ll Need to Remove a Tick From a Cat 

  • Pair of tweezers or tick-removing tool

  • Latex gloves

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)

  • Triple-antibiotic ointment

  • Jar or container with a lid

  • Someone to help restrain your cat

  • Treats

If you can’t remove the tick because you do not have one of these items, or if you are unable to handle or restrain your cat, bring your cat to the vet to have the tick safely removed.

Steps for Removing Ticks From Cats

Follow these steps for pulling the tick off your cat by using tweezers or a tick-removing tool.

Removing the Tick With a Pair of Tweezers

Follow these steps if you are using a pair of tweezers:

  1. Fill a container with isopropyl alcohol.

  2. Gently restrain your cat and distract her with a treat.

  3. Separate the fur and make sure that it is actually a tick and not a skin tag.

  4. Grasp the tick with the tweezers as close to your cat’s skin as possible. Try not to squeeze the tick. If the tick’s body is squeezed too hard, parts of the tick’s body can be pushed into your cat’s skin.

  5. Use gentle, firm pressure to remove the tick.

  6. Drop the tick into the isopropyl alcohol.

  7. If available, put a triple-antibiotic ointment on the tick bite area on your cat’s skin.

Steps for Using a Tick-Removing Tool

Follow these steps if you are using a tick-removing tool suck as a Tick Tornado.

  1. Fill a container with isopropyl alcohol.

  2. Gently restrain your cat and distract her with a treat.

  3. Separate the fur and make sure that it is actually a tick and not a skin tag.

  4. Hook the tool under the tick, close to your cat’s skin (like you would hook the head of a nail with a hammer to remove the nail).

  5. Rotate the tool until the tick separates from your cat’s skin.

  6. Lift the tick and put it into the isopropyl alcohol.

  7. If available, put a triple-antibiotic ointment on the tick bite area on your cat’s skin.

What to Do If the Head of the Tick Gets Stuck

If the head of the tick gets stuck, it should be treated in the same way as a splinter that is difficult to remove. Don’t keep trying to remove it, or you’re more likely to delay wound healing and create an infection. The body will most likely push it out or dissolve it on its own.

There are drawing salves that can be applied (like ichthammol ointment) that can help to pull out any material in a wound (like a tick head or splinter), but the area would need to be bandaged or you will need to put an e-collar on your cat so they don’t lick off and ingest the product.

The risk of disease transmission is very low once the body of the tick has been safely removed.

Monitor the site for infection and take your cat to the veterinarian if there is significant swelling. It is normal for there to be a small amount of redness and a scab where the tick was attached.

How to Kill the Tick

It’s important to properly dispose of a tick, as they can bite your cat (or you!) if they are still alive. Once you’ve placed the tick in isopropyl alcohol to kill it, it’s a good idea to flush it down the toilet.

If you live in an area with a high incidence of tick-borne diseases, you can save the tick and have it tested to see if it was a carrier for any diseases.

Preventing Tick Bites on Cats

There are many options for tick control in cats. It is important to use only products made specifically for cats. Some products marketed for dogs may contain insecticides that are not safe for cats.

Topical tick control: This comes in a tube that you squeeze to dispense the solution between your cat’s shoulder blades so that she can’t lick it off. The topical solution must be allowed to dry before your cat comes into contact with other pets and before petting your cat.

Oral tick control: Tick control pills have a wide variety of effectiveness. Natural options may provide a short period of protection. Prescription options are proven to provide protection for either a month or three months. Consider how easily your cat will swallow a pill when choosing this type of prevention. Giving a pill every month or every three months is considerably easier than once a day.

Tick-control collars: Collars can be effective in repelling fleas and ticks. Care must be taken to ensure that the collar fits correctly and that your cat (or other animals in the household) do not chew on it.

Tick-control sprays: Some sprays offer just a short period of bug-repellent activity, while others offer a longer solution, similar to topical treatments.

Tick-control shampoo: Shampoos can be effective for getting rid of an infestation of fleas or ticks, but they do not have the same long-lasting effects as some of the other options (other than the grudge your cat will hold against you for bathing them).

The option you choose for your cat depends on many factors, including how tolerant your cat is to sprays, taking pills, or wearing a collar.

Even cats that spend the majority of their lives indoors can benefit from tick prevention, because ticks can be carried into your home on other pets or people. If you have questions about which form of tick prevention is best for your cat, contact your veterinarian.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Ruslan Sitarchuk

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