Cat Ringworm

Posted by Lianne McLeod D.V.M. on

Cat Ringworm

Ringworm is an infection that can affect cats of all ages and breeds. Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm but rather by a fungus that impacts the skin, hair, and nails. This detailed guide aims to offer insights into ringworm in cats, including its symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures.

How Ringworm Spreads in Cats

Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection that can spread in numerous ways. Understanding these can assist in preventing the spread of this infection among cats.

Direct Contact with Infected Animals or Humans

The primary method of transmission for ringworm is typically through direct interaction with a contaminated animal or person. The fungus flourishes on deceased skin, hair, and nail matter, presenting optimal circumstances for spreading through close proximity.

Contact with Contaminated Objects or Surfaces

Ringworms can also spread through contact with objects or surfaces that an infected animal has touched. These comprise grooming equipment, trimmers, linens, and various items. The fungal spores can persist on these surfaces for a duration of two years, presenting a persistent threat of infection.

Environmental Exposure

Ringworm is the result of a fungal creature that is frequently discovered in the surroundings comprising of soil. Felines can acquire ringworm from soil that is polluted, particularly if they have wounds or injuries on their skin that allow the fungi to infiltrate. 

Ringworm is a contamination with various manners of dispersal. It is pivotal to follow proper cleanliness routines, sanitize the setting of your cat, and remain vigilant for indications of infection to obstruct the propagation of this ailment.

cat looking back

How to Keep Ringworm From Spreading

Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection, but there are several steps you can take to prevent it from spreading.

Isolate Infected Cats

If one of your cats has been diagnosed with ringworm it's essential to separate them from other cats in the household until they have received treatment and are no longer contagious.

Use Protective Gear

When handling a cat with a ringworm, always wear gloves. Doing this will help prevent the fungus from transferring onto your hands and potentially spreading onto surfaces or pets.

Practice Good Hand Hygiene

After handling a cat with ringworm make sure to wash your hands using soap and water. This simple step is crucial in preventing the infection from spreading 

Regular Cleaning

Regularly clean your home by vacuuming to eliminate fur and skin flakes as they have the potential to transmit ringworm. Give care to the areas where your cat tends to spend time.

Remove Cat Hair

Get rid of cat hair by removing it from your furniture, bedding, and clothes. It is important because the ringworm fungus can survive on these surfaces and potentially infect pets or people.

Disinfect Surfaces

It's crucial to disinfect the areas where your cat sleeps or spends time including their carrier. Use a disinfectant that's effective against fungi to ensure disinfection.

By following these steps you'll be able to prevent the spread of ringworm in your home and keep your pets and family members safe from this infection.

maine coon

Causes of Ringworm in Cats

There are factors that can cause ringworm in cats. Understanding these factors is important for preventing infections and ensuring your cat's health.


Age plays a role in susceptibility to ringworm. Young kittens and older cats with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable to the fungus as their bodies may not effectively fight off infections.


The lifestyle of cats also affects their risk of contracting ringworm. Cats that frequently come into contact with animals in crowded places like shelters or households with multiple cats have a higher chance of getting infected. The fungus can easily spread through contact or shared grooming tools.


The climate also influences the prevalence of ringworm in cats since the fungus thrives in humid environments. Cats that reside in climates or those with fur that can create a comparable micro-environment on their skin might have an increased vulnerability to ringworm.


Taking care of cats is crucial in preventing ringworm. Regular grooming helps maintain a healthy skin and coat, reducing the risk of infection. However, excessive grooming or bathing can actually make the skin more vulnerable to ringworm.


Cats who have compromised immune systems, such as those impacted by FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) or FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), are more prone to ringworm. Furthermore, heightened stress and inadequate nourishment can also amplify their susceptibility. 

Although ringworm can affect any cat, specific elements can escalate the likelihood. By comprehending these factors, owners of cats can implement strategies to decrease the probability of their furry companions acquiring this infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of ringworms in cats is essential. It's important to note that some cats may not show any signs but still carry and transmit the infection.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptoms of ringworm in cats include:

  • Circular Bald Patches: These patches often have scaly sores and typically appear as an initial sign of a ringworm infection.
  • Hair Loss: This can occur in patches or affect larger areas of the cat's body.
  • Skin Inflammation: The affected areas of the skin may show signs of redness and inflammation.
  • Infected Claws: In instances the claws can also get infected, resulting in changes in color and potential deformities.
  • Excessive Self-Grooming: Cats with ringworms might engage in grooming to alleviate the itchiness caused by the infection.

Diagnosis Challenges

Recognizing ringworm can pose a challenge as it may bear resemblance to various skin ailments. If alterations in your feline's skin or fur catch your attention, it is imperative to seek advice from a veterinarian. They possess the expertise to conduct thorough examinations in order to precisely identify the condition and propose suitable treatment. 

 Although certain cats may not exhibit any indications of ringworm, others might manifest symptoms including patches of fur amiss, hair loss, and skin inflammation. Prompt detection and intervention play a vital role in impeding the transmission of this infection.

cute cat

Diagnosis of Ringworm in Cats

Diagnosing ringworm in cats involves a combination of clinical observation and laboratory testing. Here’s a closer look at the process:

Clinical Signs

The first step in diagnosing ringworm in cats is observing the clinical signs. These can include circular bald patches, hair loss, skin inflammation, and infected claws. However, these signs can also be indicative of other skin conditions, so further tests are needed for confirmation.

Examination Under Ultraviolet Illumination

One common diagnostic method is an examination under ultraviolet illumination. This special light causes some strains of the ringworm fungus to glow a fluorescent color. However, not all strains of the fungus will glow, and other substances like certain types of bacteria can also fluoresce, so this test is not definitive.

Microscopic Examination

Another method is the microscopic examination of suspected hairs. The vet will pluck a few hairs from the affected area and examine them under a microscope to look for evidence of the fungus.

Fungal Culture

One of the most reliable ways to diagnose ringworm is through a fungal culture conducted in a laboratory.  The veterinarian will carefully pluck hairs from the affected area. Send them to the lab to be grown on a medium that promotes ringworm fungus growth. Although this test may take up to three weeks for results, it remains the most accurate method for diagnosing ringworm.

While clinical signs can suggest ringworm, definitive diagnosis requires laboratory testing. If you suspect your cat has ringworm, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatment for Ringworm in Cats

Treating ringworm in cats involves a multi-pronged approach that includes systemic antifungal drugs, topical treatments, and environmental decontamination. Here’s a closer look at each of these methods:

Systemic Antifungal Drugs

Medicines to combat fungal infections in the system are medications given orally or through injections to address infections from within. These medications function by impeding the growth of the fungus, enabling the feline's immune system to eradicate the infection. The treatment period typically lasts 4-6 weeks, although it may vary based on the infection's severity and the feline's response to treatment.

Topical Treatments

Local treatments encompass creams, balms, and shampoos directly applied to the affected regions of the feline's skin. These treatments aid in exterminating the fungus on the skin and hair, thus diminishing the infection's spread. 

Environmental Decontamination

Because the dermatophyte fungus is capable of surviving in the surroundings for extended durations, ensuring cleanliness in the environment becomes a crucial aspect of its treatment. This involves meticulous purification and sterilization of the cat's living area, along with any items it has interacted with, like bedding, grooming tools, and toys. 

It is essential to emphasize that cats can still spread the infection during the treatment, therefore it is of utmost importance to persist with all aspects of the treatment until the infection is entirely eradicated. A culture for dermatophytes is the best way to monitor a cat’s response to treatment and to determine when the infection has been entirely eradicated.

To effectively treat ringworm in felines, it is essential to adopt a holistic approach that encompasses both the management of the infection and the elimination of possible sources of reinfection within the cat's surroundings. If you have reason to believe that your cat has ringworm, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a veterinarian who can assist in formulating a suitable course of treatment.

fluffy cat sitting

Will Ringworm in Cats Go Away By Itself?

While it’s possible for a ringworm infection in cats to resolve on its own over time, this is not the typical or recommended course of action. Here’s why:

Natural Resolution

In some cases, a cat’s immune system may be able to fight off the ringworm infection without treatment. This process can take about three to four months. However, during this time, the cat remains contagious and can spread the infection to other animals or humans in the household.

Risks of Untreated Ringworm

Leaving ringworm untreated poses several risks. The contagiousness has the potential to disseminate to various regions of the feline's anatomy, resulting in more intensified indications. Furthermore, it can trigger additional health complications for the cat by giving rise to subsequent bacterial contaminations.

Importance of Veterinary Care

If you have a suspicion that your feline companion might be affected by ringworm, it is advisable to arrange a trip to your vet. This trip will enable you to validate the diagnosis and obtain suitable advice for managing the condition. Seeking assistance from a professional not only expedites the alleviation of your cat's symptoms but also minimizes the likelihood of transmitting the infection.

Prevention and Management of Ringworm in Cats

Preventing and managing ringworm in cats involves a combination of good hygiene practices, and maintaining the overall health of your cat.

Isolation of Infected Cats

If your feline has been identified with ringworm, it is crucial to separate them from other animals and individuals until they are no longer capable of transmitting the condition. This aids in averting the dissemination of the ailment.

Good Hygiene Practices

Regular hand washing after handling an infected cat is essential to prevent the spread of ringworm to humans. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves when handling an infected cat or cleaning their environment.

Maintaining Cat Health

A healthy cat with a good diet is less likely to develop ringworm. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet can help to keep your cat’s immune system strong, making them less susceptible to infections like ringworm.

Preventing and managing ringworm in cats requires a comprehensive approach that includes environmental decontamination, good hygiene practices, and maintaining the overall health of your cat.

cat looking toward the camera

Concerns Regarding Ringworm

While ringworm is not typically severe in cats, it does pose several concerns due to its highly contagious nature. Let’s explore the most common concerns:

Spread to Humans and Other Animals

One of the main concerns is that ringworms can spread from cats to humans and other animals. This transmission can occur through direct contact with an infected cat or indirectly through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

Human Resistance and Vulnerability

Adult humans are generally resistant to ringworms unless there’s a break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, which can provide an entry point for the fungus. Youngsters, senior citizens, and people with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to contracting an illness.

Longevity of Fungal Spores

An additional worry revolves around the durability of the fungi's spores. These microscopic reproductive units have the ability to endure in various settings, such as bedding or carpet, for a duration of up to 18 months. This makes environmental decontamination a crucial part of managing a ringworm infection.


In summary, although ringworm in cats is generally not a serious issue, it does raise concerns because it can be transmittеd to humans and other animals. Additionally, thе fungal sporеs can survivе in thе еnvironmеnt for an ехtеndеd period. Thеrеforе, cat owners should be aware of thеsе concеrns and takе necessary steps to prevent and managе ringworm infеctions in thеir pеts. 

two cats sitting together



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Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.
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