If your cat has been scratching himself all day, you might be about to join him. Mites are an irritating problem for your pet. Luckily, feline mites aren't dangerous to humans, although they can stay on a person long enough to leave a few trails of itchy bumps.
Mites live for only a few days, but they spread out and reproduce as much as possible in the little time they have. These microscopic insects can live on the surface or burrow into the upper layers of their host's skin. Your cat's thick coat is a great place for them to hide.
Mites naturally seek out new hosts, so a human hand gliding through your cat's forest of fur is a tempting opportunity for them. People can also get mites by holding or handling cats that have them.
Cats and people can both get scabies, a contagious skin disorder caused by infestations of the scabies mite.
You can't actually get scabies from your cat, though. There are several variations of the mite species responsible for scabies, and the one that "specializes" in cats can't establish itself on humans, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. However, it is possible for cats to carry the human version of the mite for a short period of time.
Even cat-specific mites can bite you. They can linger for hours or even few days before dying. They are practically impossible to see, so don't rely on your eyes as you look for the cause of your discomfort. The most obvious symptom are red bumps from the mites' bites.
Scabies and other burrowing mites create clusters or trails of itchy red bumps as they dig small tunnels through the surface of your skin. The idea of tunnels in your skin is a little gross, but the mites don't get very far. They live in a small world, after all.
Prevention and Treatment
If your cat is itchy, shedding or showing other signs of skin inflammation, take him in for a checkup. If your vet identifies mites, follow the treatment plan he sets out for your kitty. Ointment, shampoos and dips are all potential treatments for mites. Every case is different, though, so follow your vet's instruction to the letter.
Watch for bites on yourself and family members. Keep your kitty in a separate room until he's cured. Vacuum your carpet and wash all fabrics, including blankets, to help eradicate the mite problem.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.