Getting rid of chiggers on cats requires a visit to the veterinarian. The formal term for a chiggers infestation is trombiculiasis. There's no shortage of colloquial names, including red bugs, harvest mites, scrub mites, berry bugs, heel bugs and itch mites. The latter name sums up the effect these parasites have on affected felines. Chiggers cause intense itching. They also infest people, dogs and other warm-blooded creatures.
It's the larval form of the trombiculid mite that cause feline agony. When a cat -- or any mammal -- passes by, chiggers hitch a ride. They are found primarily in fields, wooded areas, berry patches and mulch. The chiggers pierce the cat's skin, driving their saliva into the animal. This saliva contains enzymes, which cause skin cell disintegration, allowing the parasites to make a meal of the resulting blood serum. After gorging, chiggers fall off the host animal.
Chiggers usually attach themselves to a cat's head or ears, or the abdomen and feet. They look like minute, stationary orange dots on a cat. Symptoms of a chiggers infestation include hair loss, reddened skin, swelling, crustiness and bumps. The severe itching doesn't necessarily stop once the chiggers move on to the next stage of life and are no longer on the cat. The enzymes injected by the chiggers remain on the skin for a while, causing misery.
Your vet might remove the chiggers from your cat if they are still present. The application of certain insecticides safe for felines will cause them to fall off. Do not use any insecticides on your pet without veterinary approval. Your vet might recommend the use of a monthly topical or oral flea preventive, which helps eliminate chiggers but will not do so instantaneously. If your cat suffers from secondary bacterial infections resulting from the constant scratching, your vet might prescribe antibiotics as treatment. If the itching remains severe, she might prescribe anti-inflammatories temporarily for relief.
Preventing Chigger Infestation
The easiest way to prevent a chiggers infestation is by keeping your pet indoors, especially in the spring and fall. If your cat is on a monthly topical or oral flea preventive, he's less likely to become infested with chiggers if he does go outside.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.