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Don't Ignore These Signs of Illness in Your Kitten!

Learn the signs of ringworm in cats.

Feline ringworm (dermatomyositis) is a common problem in cats, especially kittens. Ringworm is highly contagious between cats and it also readily affects humans who come into contact with it.

What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection, not an actual worm. The fungus that causes ringworm lives in the soil and can stay alive on objects in the environment for long periods of time, from which it can transfer to animals and humans and cause infection.

Once ringworm is on the skin, the fungus feeds off of keratin, which allows it to grow, flourish, and spread.

Signs of Ringworm in Cats and Kittens

Cats and kittens that are affected by ringworm may show some or all of the following signs:

  • Hair loss, usually in patches, often in multiple spots on the skin
  • Scabs, scales, and crusty areas on the skin
  • Reddened skin
  • Excessive grooming or licking of specific areas on the skin
  • Extra dandruff

Note: cats that are infected by ringworm often do not show the classic ring-shaped lesion that is common in humans that are affected by the fungus.

Diagnosis of Ringworm in Cats

In order to diagnose ringworm, your veterinarian will first do a thorough physical exam on your cat and then perform one or two tests.

  • Wood's lamp test. Shining a Wood's lamp, which is ultraviolet light, on a cat's skin will sometimes show areas that glow fluorescent yellow. This indicates that ringworm might be present in that spot. However, a negative Wood's lamp result does not rule out the possibility of a ringworm infection.
  • Microscopic examination of hairs. Individual hairs gathered from a cat in the area of a suspected ringworm infection can be examined under a microscope for dermatophytes.
  • Culture. For this test, the veterinarian will usually use a toothbrush or some other method to gather dander and hair from all over the cat's body. The collected sample is then used to create a culture, which is watched for two weeks for growth. If growth occurs, it can be examined under the microscope for the presence of dermatophytes.

Treatment of Feline Ringworm

Cats that are diagnosed with ringworm will need to be treated with antifungal medication. Sometimes this can be done topically if the affected area is small, but often, systemic medications need to be used.

Your veterinarian may also recommend a special kind of medicated bath for your cat.

Never use any medications or medicated baths on your cat without first asking your veterinarian. Cats are highly sensitive to certain medications and ingredients.

It may be helpful to outfit your cat with Soft Paws® if he is diagnosed with ringworm. This will help decrease the trauma that might be done to his skin from scratching. Your veterinarian may also recommend an E-collar to keep him from biting and licking at his skin too much.

It can take 6 weeks or more to treat ringworm in cats. During this time, multiple repeat cultures will likely be done until there is no growth.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Infected by Ringworm

If your cat is diagnosed with ringworm, it will be important for you to do what you can to avoid being infected yourself or having other members of your family develop the infection.

Unfortunately, ringworm spores are very hearty in the environment, and they can live for years. They're also a bit difficult to kill.

A bleach solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach kills about 80% of dermatophyte spores. This is the best thing to do on surfaces that allow for it. If possible, soak the surface in the bleach solution for 10 minutes before cleaning it up. Vacuum and steam clean all carpets and upholstery that your cat has come into contact with, and discard the vacuum bags that are used.

Once you are aware that your cat has ringworm, confine him to a small, easily cleanable area during his treatment time.

You will need to repeat the cleaning protocol several times during the ringworm episode.

A Note About Non-Symptomatic Carriers

Some cats are infected with ringworm but don't show any signs of it. This can be a very tricky situation, and you may not be aware that your cat or kitten has ringworm until a person or other animal in the home is diagnosed with it.

If anyone in your home, person or pet, is diagnosed with ringworm, all pets in the home should be tested with a full body toothbrush gathering technique followed by a culture.

Cats can get ringworm from people, too, and this happens sometimes when children are infected at school and bring the fungus home. So, sometimes, the origin of the ringworm can be a bit of a "chicken and egg" puzzle to solve.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.