Ringworm is a mild infection caused by a fungus that can affect both humans and animals. Although an indoor cat has a smaller chance of getting ringworm, it is still important to take precautions as it can spread through direct contact or through fomites. A cat outdoors meeting other cats is more likely to get ringworm than an indoor cat; however, the infecting spores can sit on an object and be transmitted, so it is important to be mindful of your movements when around infected people or animals.
Despite its infamy, ringworm is not that common in veterinary clinics. Other skin diseases are much more common, such as bacterial skin infections, allergy reactions, yeast infections, or mite infections. However, ringworm is highly contagious and can spread from cat to cat, from cat to humans, and between other pets. It is important to note that not everyone who is exposed develops an infection, but it is still essential to protect others from the contagion during treatment.
Kittens and adult immunocompromised cats are more likely to get ringworm. Since their immune system is still developing, kittens are more vulnerable, and adult immunocompromised cats cannot fight off the ringworm, and infection sets in. Cats stressed or living too close together are also more likely to get ringworm.
To confirm a ringworm infection, the veterinarian will need to perform tests. They might run a specific black light over the affected area because some ringworms fluoresce under it. However, this test has a high rate of false negatives. The vet can also send hair samples to the lab to grow—or not grow—the fungus on a Petri dish or see it under a microscope.
Treatment for ringworm requires antifungal medication from the veterinarian. Even though ringworm usually clears up on its own, it is probably a good idea to get it treated as treatment can shorten the amount of time it sticks around. During treatment, it is essential to keep it contained and from spreading to other humans or animals in the house. A cat with ringworm should be kept separate from others until it is completely healed.
Ringworm spores are strong and can stay hanging out in the environment for long periods of time—they do not die easily. The spores stay in the environment until the ideal situation comes along, and they can begin growing. Therefore, if environmental spores suddenly find themselves on a cat, they will try to grow, but if they are stuck on a wall, they will not. The spores themselves are difficult to kill with soaps and sanitizers but are easy to rinse, wipe, or scrub away. So, using simple soap, water, and elbow grease is the best way to clean away ringworm spores. A washing machine will easily clean it out of clothes or bedding. Wiping surfaces with warm soapy water clears the spores away.
Keeping your cat’s immune system healthy with a good diet, vaccines, and reducing stress is your best defense against ringworm. If you notice a spot on your cat that has lost hair, is dry, or wet, is itchy or not, is scaley, or flakey, have your vet examine it as all these signs could mean ringworm, but more than likely, it means something else is wrong with your cat’s skin. It is essential to keep your cat healthy and happy, so keep an eye out for any abnormalities in their behavior or skin to ensure they are always at their best.