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Ringworm in Cats and Kittens

08/30/2018 by Colleen Williams
August 30th, 2018 by Colleen Williams

ringworm in cats

It might make you feel better to learn that the term “ringworm” is a bit of misnomer, as there aren’t actual worms involved. Ringworm is actually a skin fungus that gets its name from the common ring-like patterns that present when an animal or human has been infected.

For ringworm in cats and kittens, it affects the outermost layers of their skin and nails. Below you’ll learn what ringworm symptoms to look for, how to treat the infection, and how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.


Ringworm presents on cats and kittens similarly to the way it does on humans, dogs, and other mammals, including:

  • Balding patches on your cat’s head, ears, or front legs that appear flaky and red. This can look like dry skin or even dandruff and is often written off as such by pet parents.
  • As the ringworm progresses, symptoms spread to other parts of the body and fur will begin to look patchy — sometimes even circular patches are present.
  • In some cases, ringworm appears via boils, or what’s referred to as “granulomatous lesions.” These are round, knotty lumps that typically have a liquid discharge.
  • Itchy skin along with other symptoms, and “paronychia,” which is itchy, inflamed skin around claws.

It’s important to note that sometimes cats with ringworm may not show any signs of infection at all. Even if they’re asymptomatic, though, note that they’re still contagious. To determine if your cat has ringworm, your vet may take a fungal culture from their hair or skin cells. They also use a UV light over your cat’s body since the ringworm fungus glows under black light (eerie or cool, you decide). Skin checks are part of routine vet exams, which is yet another reason why it’s so important to take your cat to the vet at least once per year.


If your vet determines that your cat or kitten has ringworm, treatment will begin immediately. The method of treatment depends on your vet’s recommendation, but typically involves anti-fungal medication that’s applied topically to your cat’s skin. Shampoos and oral medication are also sometimes prescribed.

To prevent your cat from inadvertently or purposefully ingesting the medication, it’s ideal that they wear a cone throughout treatment. While being treated, your vet may also suggest you quarantine your pet to prevent spreading the ringworm to others. There are also other measures you’ll want to take throughout the house to prevent spreading this disease. These measures include thoroughly vacuuming, mopping, and wiping surfaces, as well as changing your filters and washing fabrics that your infected cat might have come in contact with.

Fortunately, once treatment begins, ringworm can be eradicated from your cat entirely within a month’s time.


It is much easier to prevent ringworm than it is to treat it. The best way to do so is to keep your cat indoors and to minimize any interaction they may have with strays or potentially infected animals or humans. You should also check your cat regularly for lesions and go to the vet annually to catch any infection in its early stages. There is a ringworm vaccine that has pros and cons associated with it. We recommend speaking to your veterinarian about this to determine if it’s an appropriate treatment for your cat.

Can I Get Ringworm From My Cat?

While many diseases aren’t contagious between cats and humans, ringworm is one of the few that is unfortunately transferable. This is inversely true, as well: your cat can get ringworm from you, other humans, and other animals with which they come into contact. Ringworm is highly contagious, which is why swift treatment is required, and why quarantining may be necessary if they’re diagnosed.

By enrolling your cat early, conditions and illnesses like parasite infection treatments will be covered up to 90% by your Healthy Paws pet insurance. Find out more by getting a free quote.