What Is Cat Mange and How Do I Treat It?
Cat Mange - Ridges on Head
Mange on a Cat
This is a cat that we found hanging around a local office park that we walked through regularly. We were familiar with all of the local kitties. Tommy, as we called this orange boy, looked normal when we first saw him, but then he disappeared for a couple of months. When we saw him again, this is what he looked like! He was in much worse condition. He had always acted semi-feral, and had never let touch him but after seeing him in this condition, I knew I had to do something. I had seen mange before, so I knew that was what was wrong with Tommy. He looked diseased and a little scary, as cats with mange often do.
Is This Cat Too Scary?
If you saw a cat that looked like this, would you take him home?
Cat Mange - Loss of Weight
What is mange?
In short, tiny parasites called mites are the cause, while mange is the symptom/result of the mites' infestation.
Mites on cats are highly contagious and can spread from one cat to another. The tiny parasites burrow under the cat's skin causing irritation and itching. Cats will usually scratch themselves a lot in response to the irritation, often breaking the skin and causing scabbing. If left untreated, mange can kill a cat.
Types of Mites
There are several different types of mites that can infest cats. Here are a few of the most common.
- This particular kitty had feline scabies, aka Notoedris cati. These mites burrow under the skin and generally affect mostly the head and neck area.
- If you've ever had a cat that constantly scratches and paws at their ears, that cat may have had Octodecttes cynotis, aka ear mites. This is the most common type of mite to infest cats.
- Cheyletiella blakei causes extreme itchiness and skin irritation including flaky and/or reddened skin.
Tell-Tale Signs of Mange
Tommy had all the tell-tale signs of mange. Ridges on his head (caused by the skin thickening), scabs caused from him scratching (mange itches like crazy), and patches of missing fur. Tommy's mange was so bad that his eyes were mostly swollen shut, which is probably why he had lost so much weight. Tommy may have stopped eating with the other kitties and begun wandering off on his own. I was afraid that he might have been trying to find a place to be alone and die.
I got a sedative from my vet and mixed it in some soft cat food. I enticed Tommy to eat the food, waited for him to relax, then nabbed him and put him in a carrier to bring to the vet. The vet gave him an anti-biotic shot for the infection. Next, I treated him with Revolution to kill the mites.
You'll find more in depth articles online about the various kinds of mange, but the treatment ends up being the same. Do be careful, because there is one type of mange that is contagious to humans. Generally, however, it can't survive in a human host for more that a few weeks.
Cat Mange - Eyes Swollen Shut
Tommy's Mange Treatment
I didn't think Tommy was completely feral, because he would meow to me, but he definitely wasn't the friendliest. Nevertheless, I took him home and locked him in one of my bathrooms so I could treat him.
In the photo, Tommy's nose is raw because he freaked out in the carrier and scratched up his nose trying to get out. I felt terrible for the little guy, but knew if I hadn't gotten him treatment, he was going to die. He calmed down once he was out of the carrier.
He did start to trust me and would let me pet him if he was the one that approached me. I was able to give him the Revolution treatment and to rub cortisone cream on his head to relieve the itching.
Starting to Heal
In this photo, Tommy still looks bad, but you can see his nose has started to heal, and his left eye has begun to open, indicating reduced swelling due to the treatment of the infection.
Cat Mange - First Stages of Healing
Cat Mange - First Stages of Healing
Ridges on Head
You can feel the ridges on the cat's head, if you're brave enough to touch it. Even though it looks bad, and feels really strange to touch, the kitty still loved being petted and rubbed just like any other cat does. The ridges feel like very thick skin. Kind of scaly. I wondered if the cat's skin and fur would ever feel normal again...it just felt so bad. I couldn't imagine what it felt like to the cat.
As he was healing, some of the scaly skin was flaking off. It really came off if I scratched his head. Really kind of gross, but he enjoyed it SO MUCH!!
Cat Mange - Second Stage of Healing
The anti-biotic was doing its thing, getting rid of the infection. The anti-parasitic was doing it's thing, killing the mites. And the cortisone cream was doing its thing, relieving the itching so Tommy wasn't scratching so much, so the skin was healing. In this photo, you can see that the swelling finally went down enough that his eyes were no longer swollen shut.
Not a great photo...but you can see how much better he looks than he did in the first few photos. He was definitely much happier. I could tell he wasn't feeling the discomfort that he had been originally.
Cat Mange - Second Stages of Healing
Cat Mange - Third Stage Healing
In the final photo below, you can see Tommy after he was completely healed.
He almost didn't look like the same cat! All the ridges went away. His skin felt normal again. All his fur grew back in beautifully!
If you have a cat (or dog) that you suspect has mange, please take him or her to the vet. If left un-treated, mange can kill an animal.
Cat Mange - All Healed
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Amber Killinger