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I Found a Dead Tick On My Cat: What Should I Do? (Vet Answer)


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Ticks, fleas, and other creepy crawly bugs can definitely gross people out. Especially when you see them on your own beloved pet, who likely cuddles with and sleeps with you at night. But what should you do if you find a dead tick on your cat? How can you safely remove it and should you be concerned? If you find a dead tick on your cat, you should wash all the bedding, blankets, and covers you have and check yourself as well. Continue reading to find out more about what to do if you find a dead tick on your cat.


What Are Ticks?

Ticks are parasites that are related to spiders. They have small round to oval bodies with eight legs. You may have heard about ticks “spreading disease” and this is extremely accurate. After hatching from an egg, ticks require a blood meal at every stage of their life cycle in order to survive and continue growing. Therefore, the risk of passing disease to yourself and/or your cat is very high as ticks will embed themselves into the skin and tissue of animals while they are feeding. If a tick is feeding on an animal that has a disease, they may ingest the pathogen with the blood meal. Then, if that tick feeds on another animal as it continues to grow, this pathogen can be passed along in the blood to an unprotected animal such as your cat.

Veterinary-prescribed preventatives are always recommended if your cat is indoor/outdoor, outdoor only, or even just goes outside onto your own porch or patio. Even if your cat is indoor only but you, your dog, other family members are frequently in the yard or out in nature, tick prevention is recommended. You may get “hitchhikers” that will fall off of you, another pet and/or clothing and crawl onto your cat for a meal.

a dead tick
Image Credit: Chris Moody, Shutterstock

A Dead Tick Has Been Found

If you found a dead tick on your cat, and they are on appropriate veterinary preventative, you may not need to be concerned. When a dog or cat is on an appropriate preventative for ticks, the ticks will either not be able to embed themselves into the skin, or die as they start to feed. You should however wash all of the bedding, blankets and couch coverings that you may have also come into contact with, and check yourself as well. Many ticks will bite both cats and humans. Always follow up with your own physician if you are concerned about coming into contact with ticks.

If your cat is not on any preventative, you should call your veterinarian immediately. If you are up to date on an exam for your cat (typically, your cat has been to the veterinarian within the last 6–12 months), you may be able to just pick up a preventative from your veterinarian. However, if your cat has never seen a vet, or it’s been more than a year, the veterinarian will need to examine your cat, obtain an accurate weight and then prescribe appropriate medication. Keep in mind that it’s illegal for veterinarians to prescribe any type of medication for an animal they have never seen, or they haven’t seen for a prolonged period of time. If your veterinarian says they need to do an exam, this is part of the reason why. It’s also important for your vet to make sure your cat is otherwise healthy, and get an accurate weight as well.

How to Remove a Tick

If you find a dead tick on your cat and it’s at night or on the weekend, you can gently remove it. Take a pair of tweezers and gently grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull up with gentle, steady pressure without twisting. Once removed, closely examine the tick to make sure the head is still attached. If so, dispose of the tick by wrapping in toilet paper and flushing down the toilet. Never crush a tick as it can be carrying disease in the blood that you are now exposed to.

If the head is still embedded in your cat, and you can see it, try to gently remove it with the tweezers. Your cat may not allow you to do this. That’s OK. Simply clean the area with dilute betadine or chlorhex solution and wash your hands thoroughly. Don’t use alcohol to clean your cat’s skin or aggressively try to remove any tick parts as this may further irritate your cat. The head of the tick may fall out on its own as the bite area heals.

If you find the tick on your cat during the day and you are unable to remove it, and/or you’re just grossed out, call your veterinarian to see if they or a technician can assist you. Keep in mind that tick removal is not an emergency, so your veterinarian may not be able to get you in right away and they may ask you to try to remove it at home.

doctor removes tick from a cat with tweezers and gloves
Image Credit: bmf-foto.de, Shutterstock

What About OTC Tick Preventatives?

In short, no. Don’t put anything over-the-counter on your cat that claims it can prevent and/or treat fleas and ticks. Also, do not ever put your dogs’ preventative on your cat. Permethrin is an ingredient found in may canine flea and tick products, as well as numerous OTC products. Permethrin is extremely toxic to cats and can be fatal. In fact, permethrin and other insecticide products are some of the most common toxicities we see in veterinary medicine. As stated above, gently remove the tick, wash the area and your hands, and then follow-up with your veterinarian about safe products to put on your cat.

There are very few approved products that can be used for cats in prevention of ticks. This is important to keep in mind if you are having a company treat your lawn and/or your house to reduce the number of ticks. Always make sure there are no harmful ingredients. As many of these products are safe for dogs and humans, but extremely toxic to cats. It cannot be stressed enough to not take the cheap route and just buy something over the counter – please seek veterinary help for flea and tick preventative for your cat.

Does My Cat Now Have a Tick Disease?

Many ticks need to be attached and feeding for hours before a tick-borne disease can be passed on. Therefore there is no way to know immediately if your cat has been exposed to a tick-borne pathogen. In addition, it may take months for any evidence of tick-borne disease to show up on routine bloodwork and tests used to detect tick diseases. Some tests will not confirm if your cat has a disease, but will only say if your cat has been exposed or not.

Once the tick has been removed, the area cleaned, and your cat has been placed on appropriate tick preventative, follow up with your veterinarian 3–6 months after exposure for testing. Keep in mind that there can be false negatives and false positives with testing. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a combination of tick testing and regular bloodwork to determine if your cat has developed any evidence of tick-borne disease.

If you are concerned that you have gotten bit by a tick, always follow up with your physician. Veterinarians are not trained in treating humans for tick-borne pathogens.

cat in vet clinic
Image Credit; Andy Gin, Shutterstock



Ticks are common parasites that can pass disease to both people and cats. While cat exposure is less common than other animals, year-round prevention is still recommended to keep your cat safe. If you happen to find a dead tick on your cat, gently remove it, flush it down the toilet, and wash both your hands and the area on your cat. You should then follow-up with your veterinarian about putting your cat on appropriate preventative, and potentially doing follow-up blood testing a few months after exposure.

It’s important to remember that ticks can also pass disease to humans, so always speak to your physician if you’re worried about exposure. If you’re interested in learning more about different tick diseases, how they are spread and their prevalence in the US, the CDC has a very informative website full of information.

Featured Image Credit: chaipanya, Shutterstock

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