I have gotten a ringworm infection before as a child and it was quite an ordeal. Not only for me but for my family as well. It was really itchy and my mother was on the edge about me spreading it to the whole family. Took a good 2 months for it to go away completely.
If you are a cat owner like me, you might have heard from others that a ringworm infection is common in cats as well. But can you get ringworm from a cat scratch?
Yes it is possible for you to get ringworm from a cat scratch. A ringworm infection is contagious and can be transmitted from a cat to a human through open or broken skin like a scratch, cut or abrasion. When handling an infected cat, always use gloves and sanitize yourself completely after.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at what ringworm is, how you can get it from your cat and the proper way of treating a ringworm infection.
What Is A Ringworm?
Don’t be fooled by its name, ringworm isn’t caused by a parasite like tapeworms or hookworms. In fact, it is a skin infection that is caused by a fungus and more than 40 species of fungi can cause ringworm.
These fungi are not only contagious but also a pain to get rid of because they can also live on surfaces and household items.
The reason why it’s called ringworm is due to how ringworm infection looks like. It appears as a scaly circular rash on the skin and with small red dots within the circle.
Ringworm in cats can appear anywhere on their bodies and will look like crusty circular patches with a red center. These patches are also usually bald due to hair loss.
Your poor cat will feel very itchy and can catch these areas till it bleeds which can cause bad infections.
Other common symptoms include:
- Broken hairs
- Changes in skin color
- Nail abnormalities
If your cat has a ringworm infection on its face, it might also start to get bald around its eyes and facial area.
The fungus survives by feeding off keratin which is a protein that is found in your cat’s skin and fur.
How Does A Cat Get Ringworm?
The majority of cats catch ringworm by coming into contact with infected cats or other infected animals.
A cat can not only catch this fungal infection via skin contact but by also being in areas where an infected cat has been.
Hence, if you have multiple pets at home, it can easily spread from one animal to another even without any skin contact.
The ringworm spores are very hardy and can survive for years on your cat without showing any symptoms or on surfaces.
Young kittens and old cats are more prone to catching this skin disease due to their weaker immune systems.
Even long-haired cats are at a greater risk as the fungus tends to stick more easily on longer fur.
How Likely Is It To Get A Ringworm From A Cat?
The goodness is that you can’t get ringworm from just touching an infected cat.
But the bad news is that it is a zoonotic disease which means transmission between cats and humans is possible.
The easiest of catching ringworm from a cat is through a cat or broken skin. If a cat has been scratching its ringworm lesions and then it scratches you, you can get ringworm.
Cat bites or letting a cat lick an open wound on your body are also possible ways of transmission.
This is very likely when the cat has been licking the ringworm lesions before infecting you with its saliva.
Don’t eat the human food that your cat has licked as that is another way of getting ringworm from your cat.
Young children and the elderly should stay away from infected cats as they are more at risk due to their weaker immune systems.
What Should I Do If My Cat Has Ringworm?
A cat is able to fight off its ringworm infection if it has a healthy immune system. Although possible, this isn’t something that I would recommend you do.
If you notice ringworm lesions on your cat, you should take it to the vet for medical treatment immediately.
The vet will take a swab of your cat’s skin and carry out a fungal culture to ascertain that it is ringworm.
The best way to treat ringworm in cats is to use a combination of anti-fungal cream and anti-fungal shampoo.
Oral medication can also be given to the if necessary.
Not only is treating ringworm in your cat important, but you also need to disinfect the surfaces at home that your cat has come into contact with.
When bringing your cat home from the vet, isolate your cat in a room to prevent it from spreading the fungus all over the house and to other pets.
Wear gloves when applying medication on your cat and always wash your hands after touching your cat without any protection.
Most ringworm infections can be resolved after a month of treatment. But I’ve heard from other pet owners who took about 5 months to clear it from their cats.
It can definitely take a lot longer if you do not isolate your cat or have multiple pets at home.
What Should I Do If I Get Ringworm?
In the unfortunate event that you do contract ringworm from your cat, you should get it checked by your own doctor as soon as possible.
The doctor will prescribe the right medication for your to take. You need to be more vigilant about washing your sheets, towels and clothing to get rid of the fungus as thoroughly as possible.
There have been claims about the usage of steroidal creams making ringworm worse. I would refrain from just using ‘any cream’ that you have at home.
Ringworm infections must be taken seriously from day one.
Although having ringworm isn’t life-threatening, the main issue here is the spread and contagiousness of the infection, especially when you own multiple pets or children and the elderly at home too.
How Do I Prevent Myself From Catching Ringworm?
A cat can have ringworm in its system without showing any clinical signs of it. If you are someone like me who loves petting any friendly cat, make sure to wash or sanitize your hand right after.
Do not touch your cat before doing so.
If you have any open wounds on your hands, it is best to not come into contact with cats whose health history you are unsure of.
Given that many cats catch ringworm from coming into contact with other animals and cats, you can stop your cat from catching ringworm by keeping it indoors.
Restricting outdoor access will ensure that your cat has zero contact with ringworm.
How Long Does It Take To Get Ringworm From A Cat?
Once infected with ringworm, it takes about seven to fourteen days for the ringworm lesions to form. In some individuals, it can take more than three weeks.
You should seek medical treatment the moment you notice circular patches of rash around your body.
What Infections Can You Get From A Cat Scratch?
Ringworm isn’t the only zoonotic disease that we humans can get from our feline companions.
Please do not panic and start treating your cat like a walking piece of biohazard on four legs.
Many of these infections or diseases can be prevented with just common sense and proper hygiene.
The common zoonotic diseases are:
- Intestinal parasites
- Cat scratch fever
The best way to prevent your cat from spreading these infections is to keep your cat indoors.
Cats can easily pick up many parasites, viruses and bacterial infections when they are allowed to roam outside.