Tick Talk: Common Cat Myths Debunked!

December 2020 by Dr. Blythe Jurewicz

How many times have you heard a client exclaim with horror: “Doc, my male cat has ticks on his belly!” You then have the (un)fortunate experience of explaining to the owner that luckily those are not ticks they have been trying to remove for the last few hours, and in fact, even male cats have nipples! And what about those times the tick really is a tick?

Ticks on cats are often an under recognized parasitic threat. In a 2018 publication by Dr. Susan Little titled “Ticks from cats in the United States: Patterns of infestation and infection with pathogens”, we explore these common misperceptions1. In the study, ticks were removed from cats every month of the year, with most ticks submitted between May-June and October-November. Nearly 800 ticks were removed from over 300 cats! As many would expect, most of these cats with ticks spent more than a third of their day outdoors. Surprisingly, more than 20% of the cats spent most of their day indoors and 10 cats were indoors only! Yes, even indoor cats can get ticks!1

Year-round parasite prevention for cats is key in fighting vector born disease in cats and aids in preventing human infestation, such as ticks and infections associated with tick-born disease3. Dr. Little’s study reinforces that although cats may not need 365 days of protection (meaning there is likely a day here and there when cats are less likely to encounter a tick), cats certainly need 12 months of protection against the year-round threat of ticks.1 Again, ticks were found every month of the year attached to cats in this study1. Cats who live mostly or exclusively inside shouldn’t be overlooked when we discuss ectoparasite prevention with our clients, as this study demonstrated that inside cats are also at risk for getting exposed to ticks.

In 2020, Dr. Robert Lavan published “Adherence to veterinary recommendations for ectoparasiticide by cat owners in the USA”2. Major takeaways from this publication are that the majority of cat owners in this study only purchased 1-2 doses of ectoparasiticide annually. With monthly products, this leaves 10 months of the year without any protection in the face of the tick risk year-round! Lack of parasite prevention puts cats and their families at risk3. Cat owners who purchase extended duration BRAVECTO® significantly increased months of protection by up to 50% compared to monthly topical flea and tick products2,4.

So next time you “diagnose” a nipple instead of a tick, make sure you take a moment to council the client on the benefit of year round parasite prevention and extended duration products, or the next tick on that cat or owner may really be a tick!

For more information, please visit:

  1. Little, S. et al. Ticks from cats in the United States: Patterns of infestation and infection with pathogens, 2018 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29907187/
  2. Lavan, R. Adherence to veterinary recommendations for ectoparasiticide by cat owners in the USA, 2020 https://parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13071-020-04415-5
  3. Companion Animal Parasite Council: https://capcvet.org/guidelines/ticks/
  4. BRAVECTO Topical for Cats: https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/bravecto/topical-for-cats

About the author

Dr. Blythe Jurewicz with her furry best friend

Blythe Jurewicz

Professional Services Veterinarian