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Home > Cats > Can a Cat Get Lice From a Person? Our Vet Reviewed Answer

Can a Cat Get Lice From a Person? Our Vet Reviewed Answer

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Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

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School children are vulnerable to lice, but if you’re unlucky enough to catch them as an adult, you might wonder if you can pass them to your cat. It’s not one of those experiences you really want to share with your beloved pet, and you’ll be relieved to find out that lice are species-specific and Pedicures humanus capitis affects humans but not cats.

Cats can get lice, but they’re a different species than the ones we get. So, let’s examine the species that could affect your beloved feline.


What Are Lice?

Cat lice are called Felicola subrostratus and do not affect humans. While they aren’t as common as fleas and ticks, knowing what to look for regarding lice is important. If untreated, they can develop into an infestation and lead to tapeworm infestation, skin disease, and other problems. Much like the lice we get, they survive by feeding on the skin of a host animal, such as a cat.

The wingless louse survives on a specific species’ skin, feathers, or hair and absorbs its dander or blood. They’re small and are comprised of a thorax, abdomen, head, and six legs. Like fleas, lice lay oblong eggs called nits, which are sometimes the first indication that the pests are present. A nit takes 4 weeks to become an adult capable of reproducing.

Lice can travel from one cat to another, and felines can pick them up from contaminated items like bedding or grooming tools.

Head lice
Image Credit: devil79sd, Shutterstock

Signs of Lice

You can generally see lice on a cat by parting the fur and looking for the nits or mature lice on the skin. Other signs to be on the lookout for are:

  • Excessive itching and scratching
  • Dry, scruffy coat
  • Hair loss or scabs on top of the head, mainly around the ears, neck, shoulders, groin, and anal area
  • Visible lice eggs (nits) attached to hairs
cat scratching itself
Image Credit: Silarock, Shutterstock


Treatment for Lice

Treating lice is quite simple; your veterinarian will proscribe a medicated topical treatment, such as a shampoo. It’s essential to follow the vet’s instructions, and you may need multiple applications to eliminate the lice and nits.

Medicated Treatment

Insecticide treatment might include a topical medication, or medicated shampoo. It’s best to get a recommendation from your vet for this instead of getting your own to ensure the medication is safe for your cat.

vet holding the scottish fold cat in a veterinary clinic
Image Credit: Alice Rodnova, Shutterstock

Isolating Your Cat

This will only be necessary if you have more than one cat in your home, as it will be required to prevent the lice from infecting another cat. Additionally, isolating your cat will reduce the cleaning needed to eliminate the lice from your home.

Treatment for Your Home

You can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation to get rid of the lice around the house or contact a pest control professional. Various powders and sprays eliminate the lice and nits from furniture, carpeting, rugs, and hard flooring.

To keep your pet from being reinfected, thoroughly clean or dispose of the cat’s belongings, like bedding and combs. Items that can’t be washed or laundered can be kept in a tightly sealed bag.


How to Keep Your Cat Lice-Free

Lice are more likely to be a problem for elderly, very young, or sick cats. Cats can get lice from living in poorly sanitized areas, both indoors and outdoors. Cats can also get lice from overcrowded shelters and, of course, through infected cats and objects. You can help your cat stay lice-free by keeping a clean, sanitized home and avoiding contact with an affected cat. Outdoor cats are more prone to getting lice, but if you have a cat that is an indoor/outdoor cat, it’s wise to check for any signs of lice or fleas after being outside.



Your cat can’t get lice from you as they are species-specific, but they can catch lice from each other or infected bedding or grooming utensils. This means treating your cat for lice is only the first part of treatment—you will also have to treat your house and keep an eye on other cats in the household for signs of infestation.

Thankfully, lice are relatively easy to treat, and as long as you get your cat diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, they should recover quickly without any signs of the lice ever having been there!

Featured Image Credit: golubovystock, Shutterstock

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