Ringworm, contrary to the name, isn't a worm at all. It's a fungal infection that can infect hair and skin. It's typical for all pets that have hair and is highly contagious. Ringworm can quickly spread from cat to cat, or from dog to cat. If left untreated it can spread to humans.
The condition probably gets its name from the dry, circular skin patch it creates. The red inner rings of the infected area look like a worm is under the skin.
Ringworm infects the ears, the head, and the legs of cats. Cases run from mild to severe. In mild cases, Ringworm can be mistaken for dandruff or minor skin abrasions. In severe cases, the fungus spreads across the body of the cat and causes hair loss on a grand scale. A human or pet can carry the fungus without becoming infected and spread it to other humans or cats.
Once the fungus invades your home, it can linger for a long time. Cats can get the fungus from returning to bedding or other surfaces that it touched while it was infected. Bedding, window sills, food dishes, and any surface your cat commonly touches should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent a recurring fungal infection from getting a toehold in your home.
Diagnosing Ringworm in Your Cat
Advanced ringworm is easy to spot. It's a circular area on your cat usually lacking hair. Red rings are standard beginning in the center of the affected areas. The circles create the illusion of a worm under the skin, hence the name ringworm.
The cat will be obviously annoyed by the ringworm and scratch or lick it. It will rub the affected spots against anything it can find to try to relieve the itching that comes with ringworm.
In some cases, ringworm will not present itself in an advanced stage. It will look like dandruff or skin abrasions. In minor cases, it may benefit your cat to visit the vet and let them look at the suspected ringworm.
The vet will probably know if it is ringworm right away. If not, they will use ultraviolet light to examine the area in question or create a fungal culture from hair and skin samples from your cat. You don’t have to let them treat your cat.
Don't mistake mange for ringworm. If you aren't confident your cat has ringworm, take your cat to a vet. Mange is much more severe than ringworm and is treated by a vet in most cases. Mange is caused by mites that burrow into your cat’s skin and lay eggs. The eggs hatch and the cycle will continue without slowing down. Mange can be spread to humans and other pets quickly.
Preventing Ringworm in Your Cat
The best cure is always prevention. Prevention works before, and after your cat is infected by the fungus that causes ringworm. Use prevention methods all the time, and it's unlikely your cat will ever get ringworm. If used after your cat catches the fungus, preventative measures can help stop recurring infections or keep it from spreading to other pets or humans in the house.
The best ways to prevent the fungus or prevent it from spreading are:
- Vacuum often to keep dead skin and hair off bedding, floors, and other surfaces. The fungus that causes ringworm can survive for months on dead skin and shed hair. So be sure to keep these things to a minimum.
- Bathe your cat often if you suspect they have encountered the fungus. The same applies if you know your cat has ringworm. Be sure to dry the cat thoroughly because the fungus thrives in moist and humid areas.
- Throw away anything that you cannot thoroughly clean. Discard scratching posts, climbing trees, or carpeted perches if you can't clean them thoroughly. If your pet rarely goes outside or has contact with other pets, throwing away everything is overkill. It's only useful to discard these items if you are trying to prevent recurring fungal infections and not necessary for general prevention goals.
- Wash your pet’s toys, clothes, and bedding often to remove dead skin, hair, or fungal spores. Use a disinfectant if you suspect or know your cat has come in contact with the ringworm fungus.
Home Remedies for Ringworm
Before you use any of the home remedies below, clip the infected area to remove as much hair as possible. Be sure to vacuum up any hair you clip off your cat immediately. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after treating the cat's infected areas.
All of the home remedies for ringworm here can be applied using a sponge or cotton ball. There’s no need to make complicated poultices or condense teas.
Stay away from any home remedies or over the counter treatments that include tea tree oil. Tea tree oil will help clear up fungal infections, but it is toxic to cats, even in small amounts. Like any advice, you find online, protect your pet first and don’t use internet advice as a substitute for a vet. Ringworm is pretty easy to detect, but consult your vet if you aren’t sure or have any doubts.
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera juice is known to speed up recovery from fungal infections. Use a cotton ball to apply the liquid to the affected area. Be gentle and treat the area about four times daily. Be sure to discard each cotton ball as you use them. Don't apply the Aloe Vera to the ringworm then touch the same cotton ball to the container the Aloe Vera is in, or you risk transferring the spores to new surfaces.
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Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar can get rid of ringworm in cats and speed up their recovery. The vinegar changes the PH of the cat's skin and makes it inhospitable to the fungus that causes ringworm. Use the same treatment method as the Aloe Vera treatment.
Don't use apple cider vinegar if the ringworm has caused bleeding or if an open wound is near the infected area. It can irritate the cat and cause them to react poorly. Their reaction won't be good for the cat or you.
Colloidal Silver is a natural antibiotic that is used to treat a host of skin infections including ringworm. You can order it in gel form from Amazon for $. Colloidal Silver is more effective against advanced or stubborn cases of ringworm than these other home remedies.
Apply the treatment to the infected areas with a clean cotton ball or swab about three times each day. You can use it on broken skin or irritated skin without causing pain or other complications.
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Coconut oil will kill the ringworm fungus in the early stages of infection. It's good for your cat's skin as well. Use the cotton ball treatment method about four times each day. Like the Colloidal Silver, coconut oil is ok to use on broken or inflamed skin without worrying about pain or other irritations. Since some cats are allergic to coconut oil, test the oil on a small area of your cat's skin before using it.
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Calendula oil reduces inflammation and helps remove the ringworm. Using this oil is trickier than the other home remedies. Don't get the oil in the cat's eyes, mouth or on their genitals. Dilute the oil with coconut or olive oil before applying it.
Mix about five drops of the calendula oil with a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil. Apply it to the affected area three or four times a day with a clean, dry cotton ball. You can order an ounce of this oil from Amazon for $.
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Lavender oil will work in the same way calendula oil works but smells better. You can order lavender oil from Amazon for $. Mix about five drops of the lavender oil with a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil and apply it to the infected areas using a cotton ball or sponge. Lavender oil won't irritate your cat's eyes like calendula oil, but try to avoid eye, nose, or mouth contact.
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Oregano oil is excellent for clearing up external and internal fungal or parasitic infections. You can order 10ml of the oil from Amazon for $.
Mix about three drops of the oregano oil with a tablespoon of olive, almond, or coconut oil and apply it directly to the ringworm using a clean cotton ball or sponge about three times a day. You can add a drop or two of the oil to your cat’s food once a day for extra help ridding them of the fungus.
Will Ringworm Go Away on Its Own?
There is almost no chance ringworm will clear up on its own. If left untreated, ringworm will spread across the cat's body and contaminate everything it touches. I will cause hair loss, and bleed in advanced cases. There is no reason not to treat ringworm for your safety and your cat's. The simple home remedies for ringworm we mentioned above are inexpensive and effective.