Quarantine A Cat with Ringworm?
Ringworm-infected cat owners often ask, “How long to quarantine a cat with ringworm?”
Quarantine times for cats with ringworm will depend on the severity of the infection and what length of time it may take to heal. Infected cats remain infectious for approximately two to three weeks if they receive the proper treatment. Ringworm-infected cats should be kept away from other animals until they are no longer infectious.
We all know how wonderful it can be when our cats share our lives and our homes. However, there are some things that are just not to be shared – such as ringworms!
Ringworms are among the few infectious diseases afflicting felines that can also be transmitted to humans. This means that if your darling fur baby has been infected by ringworms, then there is a very real chance that you can get infected too.
Before we talk about the treatment course (which includes quarantining your fur baby) for an infected cat, it is important to understand what a ringworm infection is, how the infection is spread, and which types of cats are most susceptible to infection.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm is by far the most common infectious skin disease that affects cats. Despite its name, the ringworm is not a parasitic worm. Ringworm is actually a group of fungi called dermatophytes that infect the skin, the nails, and hair of people as well as all domesticated animals. The name ringworm is given to this fungal infection because of the characteristic appearance of the raised round and red ring that marks the boundary of the inflammation.
There are many different types of dermatophytes, some of which will infect only one type of species, while others will infect multiple species – even transferring from animals to humans. Microsporum Canis, the dermatophyte that is responsible for pretty much all feline ringworm, can also infect dogs as well as humans. There is also another dermatophyte that can cause this infection in cats; it is the Trichophyton mentagrophyte, and this also infects humans.
How Does a Ringworm Infection Spread?
Your cat can get infected by ringworm when it is exposed to the dermatophyte spores through direct contact with another infected animal or even because of a contaminated environment or object. Dermatophyte spores are so tiny that they can be carried on dust particles and even air currents, which is why they are so invasive.
Once these tiny spores land on your cat’s coat and manage to survive its natural defense mechanism (self-grooming, sunbathing, etc.), they stick to the keratinocytes (cells producing keratin) that line your cat’s hair, skin, and nails. There skin fungus germinates and begin infecting your beloved fur baby.
Contact with ringworm spores does not always lead to an infection. The number of spores that are able to attach themselves to your animal’s hair (or even your body) needs to reach a certain threshold for infection to begin. The problem is that whether your cat is infected or is simply a carrier, it will need veterinary care as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the fungus.
Which Cats are Most Susceptible to Infection?
All cats are susceptible to contamination from ringworm. However, the most vulnerable are the kittens and the senior cats. And among the breeds, the long-haired cats such as Himalayans and Persians are more susceptible to infections since their long hair can protect the spores from being removed effectively during self-grooming.
Grooming is an important way by which cats can protect themselves from ringworm infections. This is why kittens and geriatric cats are more prone to these infections. Kittens have not yet learned to groom themselves, and geriatric cats are unable to groom themselves effectively due to loss of flexibility and other medical conditions.
Cats with concurrent diseases are also more vulnerable to infection from dermatophytes. For example, cats that have FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) are three times more likely to get infected by ringworms than healthy cats.
And finally, studies have shown that even genetics play a role in making certain cats more vulnerable to ringworm than others. It has been found that genetically related cats from the same cattery are more susceptible to ringworm infections than others. This means that cat breeders who are breeding cats for specific characteristics (such as a specific type of coat) are also breeding in susceptibility to ringworm!
Signs that Your Cat has a Ringworm Infection
Detecting ringworm infections in your cat can be challenging. This is because the characteristic lesions may so mild that they are not visible, or they may not be there at all.
Since the dermatophytes feed on the keratin found in the outer layers of the skin, hair, and nails of your cat, the only indication you could get would be a cigarette ash-like scaling deep in your cat’s coat. Some cats have alopecia (hair loss) as the spores infect the shafts of their hair. Others will have round and thickened patches of skin where the hair has fallen off. Another indication of infection in some cats is onychomycosis, an infection in the cat’s claws.
Generally speaking, lesions will appear around the head, forelegs, chest, and the ridge of the back. There are even cats who will have a more generalized form of the disease; they will simply lose patches of hair all over their bodies.
And finally, there are those cats that are called asymptomatic carriers – they are infected by ringworm, but they don’t have any symptoms. These are the cats that can really spread the infection – especially in cat shelters or in multi-cat homes – without their caregivers ever realizing they are infected.
A Quick Look at Symptoms
While we have listed some of the symptoms, here is a quick list of what you should look out for in case of a ringworm infection:
- Hair loss
- Nail Infection
- Hyperpigmentation on the skin
- Redness of skin
- Itchy ears
Please do remember that your cat could display one or a combination of these symptoms.
How is the Final Diagnosis Made?
If your cat has been showing symptoms of ringworm infection, then it is imperative that you take it to the vet immediately.
The fastest way to check if your cat is infected is by using a Wood’s Lamp, an ultraviolet lamp under whose light the M. Canis fungus will glow with yellow-green in the dark. The problem with this method is that not all cases of M. Canis infections will fluoresce and that there are other species of dermatophyte infections that will not glow at all under a Wood’s lamp’s light.
The most accurate way to assess whether your cat is infected is through a fungal culture. The downside to this is that a diagnosis can take as long as 4 weeks to come through.
Treatment for Ringworm
Once your cat is diagnosed with ringworm, then its treatment will begin. Treatment usually consists of a combination of topical and oral medication, as well as clipping of their coat, especially if they are long-haired cats.
Treatment has to be aggressive, and regular checks need to be carried out to see if the infection is subsiding. Your cat needs to get two negative diagnoses before it is declared infection-free. This can take anywhere from 5 weeks to 5 months.
Remember, for the treatment to be effective, you have to strictly follow your vet’s instructions – there can be no room for error. This is an infection that can haunt you for a very long time if you do not do exactly what your vet advises.
Why Should We Quarantine Our Cats?
If your cat has been diagnosed with ringworm, then it is imperative that you take the right steps to contain the infection. Remember, this is an infection that can spread to humans, so everyone living in your home (not just your pets) are vulnerable to this fungal infection.
Remember, an infected cat sheds its hair and skin – both of which are full of fungal spores. These spores can survive for months on end, so if you don’t quarantine your cat, it could end up spreading the infection to everyone and everywhere in your home. In fact, it has been reported that 50% of people who have been exposed to infected cats also become infected and develop ringworm lesions.
Thus, while your cat can be treated for this infection as an out-patient, it would need to be isolated to ensure that it cannot spread the infection to others in your home.
Your cat needs to be quarantined in a place that is easily cleaned and does not have any carpeting. A bathroom is actually the perfect place for this.
How Long Should We Quarantine Our Cats?
The duration of the quarantine will depend on each individual cat, its reaction to the treatment protocol, and its overall health. On average, the quarantine period lasts between 14 to 28 days. This is because this is the time that the most intensive treatment takes place, and your cat shows the most responsiveness to the treatment. During this time, your cat should be on the required oral medication and should have been given at least 4 medicated baths.
After this, your vet may allow you to give your darling cat greater access to your home – but still restricting it to rooms that can be easily cleaned and those without any carpeting. However, it needs to be understood that your cat will not be declared infection-free until it has tested negative 2 consecutive times for ringworm through fungal cultures.
Ensuring You Are Not Faced with Another Ringworm Infestation
Since ringworms can survive in an environment for as much as 18 months, it is critical to decontaminate your entire house. Here is what you need to do to ensure that you never have another ringworm infestation in your home – and that you and your fur babies are safe.
- All cat objects (rugs, beds, toys, collars, etc.) made from fabric should be discarded. Basically, anything that cannot be vacuumed, scrubbed and disinfected repeatedly should be thrown away.
- Decontaminate your home: wash all drapes, decorations, and linens, have your vents and heating ducts cleaned, and install dust filters in all your vents to prevent spores from finding a home in your heating ducts.
- Vacuum all surfaces and then dust them too. It would best to use a disposable dusting cloth, like a Swiffer.
- Use a pet-safe detergent like Seventh Generation to scrub all surfaces clean.
The idea is to disinfect your entire home as soon as you find out that one of your cats (or maybe more) is infected. However, this is just the first step. You will need to scrub your home clean once every week until your fur baby is declared infection-free. This is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.