Ringworm in Cats

What is Ringworm?  

Symptoms and Diagnosis. 

The signs of Ringworm are typically circular patches of broken hair with lesions which are scaly and red in a ring-like shape. They will grow in size and can often be very irregular in shape. These lesions are usually found on the cats’ face, ears, tails and paws.

They may or may not be itchy and diagnosis is usually quite easy as the obvious “bald” patch is evident.

There are three main methods of diagnosing Ringworm.Ringworm in Cats

1) Wood’s Lamp: When exposed to the ultra violet light of the lamp Ringworm will in most cases give off a fluorescent green glow.
2) Microscopic Diagnosis: This involves looking at the hair/skin from the area under a microscope for spores.
3) Culture: A scraping of the skin from the lesion is sent away to a laboratory to be grown in a special culture which promotes fungal growth. This takes about 10-14 days to complete.

Life Cycle.

The incubation period for Ringworm is 10-12 days after the lesion has appeared.

Ringworm has a life cycle of 2-4 months if no treatment is undertaken, however, it is advisable (and quite probable) that in most cases as soon as diagnosis is made treatment is commenced immediately.

This will significantly reduce the length of infection and reduce the time that the cat is contagious.


There are antifungal shampoos such as “Malaseb” available to treat the cat. Also diluted Iodine (Betadine is readily available in Supermarkets and Chemists). Dilute the Betadine and bathe the affected area/s twice daily. Antifungal Creams are also available from the Vet and should be applied twice daily.

It is imperative to completely isolate the cat immediately (if possible) and commence thorough Household and Personal Hygiene regimens as Ringworm is highly contagious. The fungal spores can live for up to 13 months.

Always wear gloves when handling the cat and working in the area. The cats’ bedding should be washed daily (separate from household washing). It is recommended to use an antifungal rinse such as Caneston (2 capfuls per load of washing) when washing all clothing and linen.

Change your clothing and shoes when you leave the area and keep separate from general household washing. All grooming equipment and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach (diluted).

Vacuum the area daily and dispose of the bag before taking the vacuum cleaner to any other area. The area should be mopped every day (steam mopping is more efficient at killing the spores) Stringent Hygiene Routines must be maintained to ensure the containment of the Ringworm.

Predisposing Factors.

Generally speaking healthy cats will have a good resistance to Ringworm. Kittens whose immune systems aren’t mature enough and older or sick cats whose immune systems are compromised are particularly at risk.

Other factors include overcrowding and stress (such as is found in pounds and shelters where the animals are often extremely frightened and disorientated at the sudden change in their surroundings and circumstances).

Poor nutrition can lead to the cats’ immune system being compromised at any age.

Getting the “All Clear”. The first thing would be to check the cat under the “Wood’s Lamp” to see if the hair Fluoresces. Also, it would be wise to do at least two scrapings for Culture (more may be needed) until you can obtain at least 2 negative results.

Depending upon the age and health status of your cat it could take a week or two to clear up or if older and/or the cats’ immune system is compromised it could take months.

If you're unsure always take your cat to your local vet for a proper examinantion. 

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