There is possibly nothing grosser than a botfly maggot in a cat. If you've ever seen one, you know that's no exaggeration. It's like a science fiction movie, with an alien being living inside your kitty. Fortunately, your vet can help get rid of this most unwelcome visitor.
While cuterebra is the scientific name for botfly maggots, there's nothing cute about them. Also known as warbles, the fly larvae develop in the tissue of an animal host, which includes domestic animals such as cats, dogs and horses. Felines generally pick up cuterebra when outside hunting. The botflies usually lay eggs near the front of rabbit or rodent burrows.
In cats, the larvae generally burrow into the skin around the neck and head. As it grows, you might notice a swelling in this area. If you look very closely, you might see a tiny hole that the cuterebra breathes through. Never try to "pop" the cuterebra out of Kitty as if it's some insect zit. If you see any type of swelling on your cat, contact the vet at once. Sometimes, the larvae doesn't stay at the cutaneous level, but ends up somewhere else in Kitty's body, like his brain. If that's the case, the first symptoms could be an apparent stroke or even death. If your outdoor cat appears to have a stroke, keep in mind that it could be cuterebra. Other symptoms of cuterebra inside Kitty include sudden blindness, disorientation and signs of neurological impairment.
If the larvae is still inside Kitty, your vet shaves down and numbs the area and removes it surgically. That's the really gross part, seeing this enormous thing come out of dear little Kitty. After extracting the creature, your vet flushes out the wound. She'll prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Sometimes, you might find Kitty with a large hole in his head or neck since the cuterebra already emerged. You could mistake it for an abscess. Take him to the vet to have the area cleaned up and antibiotics prescribed. Cats with cutaneous cuterebra usually fully recover. If the creature is inside Kitty's brain, lungs or other organs, that's a different story. Surgery is not generally an option in this situation. Your vet might use the broad-spectrum dewormer ivermectin to kill the parasite, but whether Kitty recovers depends on various factors.
The best way to prevent this nasty creature from growing inside your pet is to keep Kitty indoors. That also keep him safe from other dangers, such as cars, loose dogs and other feline threats.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.