How Do Cats Get Ringworms? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

How Do Cats Get Ringworms? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

May 10, 2024

How Do Cats Get Ringworms
How Do Cats Get Ringworms

Ringworm in cats is not typically caused by a worm, despite its very obvious name. The main culprit is a group of fungi known as the dermatophytes. This common group of fungi causes fungal infections in your feline’s skin, fur, and claws, which ultimately causes discomfort to them. But the good thing is, cats usually recover from a ringworm infection if treated appropriately.

What is Ringworm?

Ringworm, more scientifically known as dermatophytosis, is a fungal infection caused by these fungi that feed on keratin, a prominent protein found across the outer layers of the skin, fur, and claws of the cat. The name “ringworm” comes from the appearance of ring-shaped lesions that manifest on the skin. Ringworm can be particularly bothersome as it not only affects the infected animal but can also spread to other pets and humans, making it crucial to recognize and treat promptly.

How Do Cats Get Ringworm?

Cats can easily get ringworm through direct contact with an affected organism such as an animal or a person. Another possible mode of transmission is through contact with contaminated objects such as furniture, grooming tools, and bedding. These dermatophytes can produce spores that are known to be highly resilient and can easily survive in the environment for up to 18 months. While numerous species affect your cats, the most commonly known one is Microsporum canis. Here are some of the ways your cat can get ringworm:

  1. Direct Contact

This is usually how cats get ringworm. An infection from a cat or any other animal can easily pass the fungus to your cat through close contact.

  1. Environmental Factors

The environment around your cats may house many of the spores of the ringworm which includes the shelters, daycares, and your house. These areas could be some of the places your cats frequent, which allows them to easily pick up the spores from the surfaces and objects in these environments.

These factors also include the equipment your cat uses. Here are some of the ways your cat can get ringworm from the environment:

  • Using infected bedding from a daycare

  • Using and walking around infected furniture

  • Brushing your cat with an infected and unsanitized brush

  1. Infected Humans

While humans have a high resistance to ringworm, they can also be considered carriers of the fungi. Considering the close contact we humans have with our cats, we can easily allow our cats to get ringworm. People with ringworm can transmit the infection to their cats, especially if they handle the cat without washing their hands or if they have recently made direct contact with an infected cat’s belongings. People can also leave the ringworm spores on the cat’s equipment such as their bedding, brushes, and furniture.

How Risky Is It for My Cat to Get Ringworm

The risk of your cat getting ringworm depends on numerous factors which include their environment, health, interaction with other animals, and their owners. These risks are important in understanding how cats get ringworm. Here are some risks that allow your cat to get ringworm:

  1. Living Conditions

Overcrowded and unsanitary environments, such as shelters, multi-cat households, and daycares, can instigate and worsen the spread of ringworm. Cats in these living conditions are more likely to come into contact with ringworm which increases the chances of its contractions.

  1. Health

A cat’s health is an important factor when it comes to contracting a disease. Cats with compromised immune systems, whether due to illness, stress, or medications, are at a higher risk of contracting ringworm. Conditions such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) can also increase susceptibility.

  1. Age

Young and elderly cats may be susceptible to the effects of ringworm. Due to their weaker and compromised immune systems, these cats can get ringworm at a higher risk. Since young cats’ immune systems are still developing and are still unfamiliar with ringworm, these are the most vulnerable years of a cat’s life.

  1. Contact with Infected People and Animals

Grooming your cats while infected with ringworm significantly increases the risk of transmitting the infection to them. Additionally, allowing friends and family members who have ringworm to interact with your cat can also be detrimental to your cat’s health and increase the likelihood of them contracting ringworm.

Cats that play with other cats and animals infected with ringworm are at a huge risk of contracting the disease. Playing and fighting with these infected animals are common ways to risk getting ringworm. This activity is common in playhouses and daycares and should be crucially observed.

  1. Environmental Risks

A cat's interactions with its environment can directly increase the risk of contracting ringworm. Just by exploring and interacting with their surroundings, cats can pick up ringworm spores left behind by infected individuals and animals. Allowing your cat to come into contact with these infected, contaminated objects and surfaces increases its risk of getting ringworm.

  1. Stress

High-stress environments and conditions can weaken a cat’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to ringworm. Conditions such as changes in the household, routine, and lifestyle. These new additions to their life can disrupt their physical and mental health, lowering their immune response to ringworm.

Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats

Symptoms of ringworm in cats are not so easily distinguishable. Spotting these can be challenging as these symptoms can be different from one cat to another, depending on a variety of factors. Some may not even carry the slightest symptom, but can still spread ringworm to other species. Identifying the common symptoms is one of the tasks we need to do as caretakers of these cats and is crucial in early treatment to avoid any further consequences. Some of the symptoms of ringworm are as follows:

  1. Circular and Scaly Patches

  • These circular patches are the trademarks of ringworm infection and are usually bright red and appear on the hairless skin of cats. 

  • The patches can have scaly edges with a ring-like shape in their entirety.

  • These lesions are typically found on the head and ears but can be found anywhere around the cat’s body.

  1. Bald Spots

  • These are areas of fur loss.

  • They are irregular in shape and may be accompanied by redness and scaling.

  • These are commonly seen in the head and around the ears. 

  1. Broken Fur

  • Infected fur can become brittle and may break off at the surface of the skin, making a rough coat.

  • The areas would give the fur a scuffed and bitten appearance where some areas are long while others are short.

  • Broken fur can be noticed significantly in long-haired cats.

  1. Itchiness

  • Infected cats can be observed to be constantly scratching, leading to redness.

  • Excessing itchiness can lead to further skin irritation.

  • Cats can also be observed to lick affected parts.

  1. Claw and Nail Bed Infection

  • Ringworm infection can manifest in the claws and their surrounding skin, causing brittleness and discoloration.

  • Inflammation at the nail beds becomes apparent.

  1. Other Skin Changes

  • The skin may appear crustier and small red bumps may start to form.

  • Other parts of the cat may start to look uneven and unusual.

Diagnosing Ringworm in Cats

Diagnosing Ringworm in Cats

If your cat starts to manifest the symptoms of ringworm, it’s advisable to start contacting your veterinarian. Here are several methods that are effective in confirming the presence of ringworm in cats:

1. Wood’s Lamp Examination

Wood’s lamp examination involves the use of an ultraviolet (UV) light to examine your cat’s fur. Certain species of the ringworm fungus such as Microsporum canis will be lit up and appear greenish-yellow. Since not all species will fluoresce, a negative result is usually tested further to ensure your cat’s safety.

2. Microscopic Examination

In microscopic examination, the veterinarian may take samples of fur and skin scrapings from the affected areas and examine them under a microscope. Through this method, the veterinarian will look for fungal spores and hyphae, which are the branching structures of fungi. These will be crucial indications of a ringworm infection.

3. Fungal Culture

This method is considered the gold standard in identifying a ringworm infection due to its accuracy and reliability. The fungal culture method starts by taking a sample of the affected area, such as the fur and skin scrapings. The sample is incubated and this allows fungal colonies to grow, if there are any. If any fungal colonies develop, a ringworm infection is confirmed.

Treating Ringworm in Cats

Treatment of ringworm involves completely eliminating the fungus and preventing its spread. While treatment may vary depending on its severity, your veterinarian may use a combination of procedures to ensure full treatment of your cat. Here are some of the ways to treat ringworm: 

1. Topical Treatments 

These treatments involve the use of several antifungal agents and substances applied directly to the affected area of your cat’s skin and fur. These serve as a first-aid and have proven to be very effective, especially in mild cases. Common types of topical treatments include: 

  • Antifungal Ointments

Antifungal ointments and medications such as miconazole and clotrimazole are commonly used to treat localized lesions. These creams are applied directly to ringworm patches to help kill the fungus and prevent its spread.

  • Medicated Shampoos and Dips

When more extensive medication is needed, medicated shampoos and dips with antifungal agents such as miconazole and chlorhexidine can help reduce the fungal load your cat has on its skin and fur. Lime sulfur dips are also a strong option.

2. Systematic Treatments

Systematic treatments involve a much more intensive oral medication that works within the body of the cat to eliminate the ringworm. These treatments are typically for more severe cases when topical treatments are ineffective. Common types of systematic treatments include:

  • Itraconazole

Itraconazole is the most common prescription for ringworm in cats. It inhibits the growth of fungus effectively with low side effects.

  • Terbinafine

Terbinafine is another drug effective against ringworm, and an alternative to intraconazole. Despite not being as common as the former, terbinafine is also another strong solution to ringworm.

  • Griseofulvin

While griseofulvin is a much older drug than the ones above, it still proves to be effective in combatting and treating ringworm.

Preventing Ringworm in Cats

Preventing Ringworm in Cats

Since ringworm spores can remain in the cat’s environment for extended periods of time, a good practice of cleaning and maintenance is essential to keep your cat healthy and happy. Your home is a factor in your cat’s health and keeping it clean helps prevent any crucial disease for your cat. Here are some of the ways to prevent ringworm in cats.

1. Washing Bedding and Fabrics

Constantly wash all the bedding and blankets your cat uses. Use hot water and the appropriate type of detergent. Adding a disinfectant can also help prevent any fungal growth that could lead to ringworm.

2. Vacuuming

Regularly vacuum rugs, carpets, and fabric furniture to remove any hair and fur that may house fungal spores. Be sure to throw away the contents of the vacuum bag after each use.

3. Disinfecting Surfaces

Clean and disinfect hard surfaces such as floors using a diluted bleach solution. Allow the solution to sit on the applied areas for a few minutes This allows the solution to run its course and eliminate any fungi that may cause ringworm.

4. Minimizing Contaminated Areas

When there are certain areas that are hard to sanitize, make sure your cat has no access to these places. This prevents them from harboring any spores that may linger across these areas.

5. Air Purifiers

Using air purifiers can help purify the air your cat breathes. This also reduces any airborne spores you may bring into your home.


Our best friend’s health should always come first. Ensuring our cat’s health is a complex but robust way to show our love for our feline friends. Ringworm is just one of the many diseases your cat may face, but this common ailment is both preventable and treatable with the right knowledge and care. By understanding how ringworm acts and the ways it gets to your cat, you can effectively mitigate its impact. 

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© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic | Website by ARENA

Unique care for your best friends,

because they’re family.

Pay Now

© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic | Website by ARENA

Unique care for your best friends,

because they’re family.

Pay Now

Website by ARENA

© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic