Sick cat resting while wrapped in towel

Key takeaway

Ringworm is a fungal infection that’s common in both cats and dogs, and can also occur in humans. Symptoms of ringworm in cats include a rash, hair loss in circular patterns, inflamed skin, and excessive grooming. Ringworm can be treated with a combination of oral and topical medications, so it’s important to get a diagnosis from a vet if you think your cat has ringworm.

While ringworm may sound like a parasite, it’s actually a fungal infection that affects the skin, hair, or claws of cats. A fungus known as Microsporum canis is the cause of 98% of ringworm cases in cats.1 Ringworm commonly occurs on the face, tips of the ears, tail, and feet. This fungal infection is so common because it can easily spread from animal to animal, and it can even spread to humans.

As a pet parent, you should be keeping an eye out for ringworm in cats symptoms, including irritated skin. If you think your cat has ringworm, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis and get them started on topical and oral medication. Ringworm in cats can be treated, but it’s also highly contagious.

Understanding how to spot ringworm and what you can do to prevent it is important. In this article, we’ll go over the symptoms, causes, and treatment for ringworm, so you can keep your cat healthy. Keep reading to learn more about how to get rid of ringworm in cats.

Ringworm most commonly affects the face, ear tips, tail, and feet

Ringworm In Cats: Symptoms

Ringworm is one of several conditions you should keep an eye out for if you have a cat. There are several visible symptoms of ringworm, as well as behavioral symptoms that might indicate your cat has an infection. Here are some of the symptoms of ringworm in cats that you should watch for2:

  • Hair loss in a circular pattern
  • Skin rash
  • Broken or stubbly hair
  • Changes in hair or skin color
  • Skin inflammation
  • Scaly or crusty skin
  • Excessive grooming
  • Infection in the claws or nail bed
  • Dandruff

For the skin rash and hair loss, you can look at pictures of ringworm in cats online to get a better idea of what a ringworm rash looks like.

Symptoms of ringworm in cats

 

Keep in mind that your cat may not have all of these symptoms if they have ringworm. If your cat is experiencing more than one symptom on this list, you should call your vet to schedule an appointment. It’s important to get your cat diagnosed and treated as early as possible, that way they don’t spread ringworm to you or other pets.

Ringworm In Cats: Causes

While ringworm may sound like an infectious parasite, it has nothing to do with worms. In most cases, ringworm in cats is caused by a fungus known as Microsporum canis, which cats may pick up from other animals or from the environment they’re in. The characteristic skin rash is a direct result of this fungal infection, which irritates the skin and hair.

So, how exactly do cats get ringworm? Ringworm in cats can spread from one animal to another, so your cat might have picked up the infection from spending time outside. Outdoor cats have a lot of freedom, so you never know what kind of animals they’re running into during their adventures. This is an even bigger problem if you’ve got multiple pets at home, as they can easily infect each other with ringworm.

Cats can also get ringworm as a result of their environment. The fungus that causes ringworm can contaminate objects in addition to animals, so your cat might have picked ringworm up from another animal’s toy, or from infected soil in a spot where another animal spends a lot of time. Ringworm is highly contagious, so it’s easy for your cat to become infected if there’s another infected animal in the area.

A fungal infection may or may not establish in cats depending on several factors, such as your cat’s age, health, immune system, and how well they’re groomed. While overgrooming can cause problems, regularly brushing and grooming your cat can help prevent ringworm and other skin and hair problems.1

Approximately 98% of ringworm cases are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis.

How Does An Indoor Cat Get Ringworm?

You might be wondering how your cat got ringworm when they spend all their time inside. Even if your cat isn’t coming in contact with other animals or infected soil outside, they can still get ringworm from other contaminated objects.

Grooming tools are one way that ringworm in cats may spread even if your cat isn’t spending a lot of time outside. If these tools aren’t properly cleaned after use, ringworm-causing fungus may live in the hair and flakes of skin that remain in the brush. When you brush your cat again, they’re infected with ringworm through the infected hair in the brush.

People can also become infected with ringworm or carry ringworm, so you might have brought it home to your indoor cat. Ringworm can spread from people to furniture and other household objects, or it can spread directly from an infected person to a cat. In any case, keeping your home clean and regularly grooming your cat are both important keys to preventing ringworm in cats.

How To Get Rid Of Ringworm In Cats

The good news is that treating ringworm in cats is fairly simple because it’s such a common condition. Treatment for ringworm in cats typically involves a combination of topical and oral anti-fungal medications1. While ringworm in cats can clear up on its own, it will clear up faster with medical intervention. Telemedicine for pets even makes it easy to get this medication delivered to your doorstep.

Remember, the first step in treating ringworm is getting a diagnosis, so you should take your cat to the vet if you think they have ringworm. Vets may use a combination of UV lamp examination, fungal cultures, and microscopic examination of hair or skin to diagnose ringworm in cats.

Ringworm in Cats: FAQs

Can humans get ringworm from cats?

Absolutely. As a pet parent, it’s important to understand that many of the contagious diseases your cat gets can be transmitted to you, and vice versa. The first thing you should do if your cat has ringworm is segregate it from the other animals. You should also watch your hands after touching your cat to make sure you’re not spreading ringworm to yourself or your other pets. Keep in mind that ringworm can also be transmitted through infected soil, so you should keep your cat away from the garden or areas where kids play outside if they have ringworm.

Can I touch my cat if it has ringworm?

While it’s okay to touch your cat when they have ringworm, you do need to be careful to avoid spreading ringworm after touching your cat. After you pet your cat or pick them up, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly so you don’t become infected. You can also wash bedding and furniture that your cat comes in contact with to avoid getting ringworm.

Because ringworm can survive for a long time on hair and skin cells, practicing good hygiene is crucial if your cat has ringworm. When you pet your cat or come into contact with areas where they spend a lot of time, you should always wash your hands.

How can I treat my cat’s ringworm without going to the vet?

Interestingly enough, ringworm will typically go away on its own even if you don’t go to the vet. The problem is that ringworm infections can last a lot longer without treatment, so it’s recommended that you take your cat to the vet if you think they have ringworm. Your vet can prescribe anti-fungal medications that help get rid of ringworm faster, which helps your cat get better faster and reduces the risk of ringworm spreading.

Vet taking online appointment for cat

Final Notes

Ringworm in cats is a fairly common medical condition caused by a fungal infection, with some of the primary signs being a rash and circular hair loss. This infection isn’t typically considered serious, although it may cause complications in vulnerable cats. Ringworm is usually treated with a combination of oral and topical anti-fungal medications.

If you think your cat has ringworm, you should get them to the vet before it spreads. With Dutch, it’s easy to get vet help from the comfort of your home. Just schedule an online video chat with a vet and you’re on your way to getting expert advice. If you want to take the hassle out of pet care, try Dutch today.

References

  1. Merchant, Sandra R. “Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) in Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 1 June 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/skin-disorders-of-cats/ringworm-dermatophytosis-in-cats?query=ringworm.

  2. “Ringworm: A Serious but Readily Treatable Affliction.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 22 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/ringworm-serious-readily-treatable-affliction#:~:text=The%20clearest%20and%20most%20common,or%20nail%20beds%2C%20and%20dandruff.