Has your cat come in contact with other cats, dogs, and/or pet owners? If not, has she touched soil that neighborhood cats and dogs play in? Is your cat young and poorly nourished? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you cat may have contracted ringworm.

Small, circular, gray or red bald patches, often accompanied by scaly skin at the center of the patches. The bald patches may be more noticeable on the forehead and around the ears and muzzle. The patches may or may not contain draining skin lesions, which provoke licking and scratching. The cat's toenails may appear deformed. The owner may also be infected with red, circular skin lesions.

The condition, which happens to be quite common, is not caused by a worm at all, but any of several contagious microscopic fungi. The condition's name stems from the round, ringlike sores that often mark the ailment, and the fact that ringworm at one time was thought to be a result of burrowing skin worms.

Ringworm is contagious. If you suspect your cat has ringworm, try not to touch her until she visited the vet, who will confirm the condition after performing a fungal culture.

Be sure to keep children, who are especially susceptible to ringworm, from handling affected cats. Treatment of ringworm includes iodine or chlorhexidine shampoos, lime-sulfur dips, topical antifungal medications, and/or oral medications, such as griseofulvin or Ketoconazole. Tea tree oil, available at health food stores, may be painted on and around bare spots several times each day. Because the disease progressively spreads outward, you must also apply any topical medicine to what appears to be normal, still-healthy skin around the edges of the lesion. Some humans are more susceptible to ringworm than others, so be very careful when handling your pet, for example, wash your hands often or wear gloves when touching her.


To stop a recurrence of ringworm, wash and disinfect or discard your cat's bedding, collar, leash, sweaters, and grooming equipment. Since untreated ringworm spores can survive in dry environment for up to 4 years, disinfect all hard indoor and outdoor surfaces. Mixing 1 part Clorox bleach to 10 parts of water makes an effective disinfectant that can be mopped and sprayed onto surfaces and used to soak certain washable materials.

Fungal spores can also live in your heating and air-conditioning systems, so be sure to change all air filters. Enhance the cat's nutrition with a high-quality, chemical-free diet and stimulate the immune system with nutritional supplements, including vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, zinc, sulfur, and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Ringworm of scalp
Ringworm of scalp
Image provider: CDC/Dr. Lucille K. Georg

Ringworm in cats is a common dermatological disorder of public health importance. Investigations have disclosed that Microsporum canis is the principal cause of this condition in cats. It is frequently transmitted to humans, and infected cats constitute the principal source of this agent for man. M. canis is also an important cause of dermatophytosis in dogs, pet monkeys, and horses, and such lower-animal hosts are also frequently involved in the transmission of the disease to humans.

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