You may never see a single mite, but you'll know something is wrong when these virtually microscopic parasites find their way into your house. Scabies mites can infest people, cats or other animals. They are highly contagious between people or between animals, but rarely go from animal to human.
Types of Scabies
The Sarcoptes scabei mite causes scabies in both humans and cats, but separate variations of scabei species specialize in either animal or human hosts. Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis targets people, while the sarcoptic mange variation mostly lives on cats, dogs and other animals. Mange mites from your kitty can get on your skin and leave a trail of itchy bites, but they can't infest you and spread from you to others. Cats and dogs share some variations of scabies, but the feline sarcoptic mange mite is mostly a kitty problem.
Scabies mites have less than a week to live, so they make the most of it by seeking new territory and bodies to feed on. Mites spread out after they hatch to find fresh skin to dig into. They lay eggs in the small tunnels they dig through the upper layers of your cat's skin. The process repeats when young mites emerge from the eggs. After hatching, mites may go to a new area of your pet's body or seek a different host altogether. Mite populations grow explosively and exponentially, so the situation can get out of control quickly.
While feline mange mites can't become a human-borne infestation, that doesn't mean your cat can't carry the human variation. Hominis mites can't survive forever on a cat, but they can last long enough to get a free ride into your house. Unfortunately, you may not even know you have mites for weeks. First-time mite victims can take over a month to develop symptoms, while people who have had the mites before tend to show signs in a day or less, according to University of Illinois McKinley Health Center.
Hair loss, constant scratching and anxiety are the primary signs of mange mites in cats. Since there are a lot of factors at play when considering skin issues, you should take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis as soon as possible. Visibly red, itchy bumps appear when the mites bite people. Wear gloves when handling your kitty if he does have mites. Look for red bumps on your wrists, elbows and ankles every day, as mites tend to target these areas, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. If you continue to get new bites for several days or more, then you may actually have the human version of the scabies mite.
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.