Treating an individual cat for multiple days is not easy, and it’s nearly impossible to do effectively in a cat colony! The feral cat colony is a herd, and cats are very social with each other. Therefore, when one cat has an infection or parasite, the rest have been exposed to it. This is true for ear mites, mange, lice, intestinal parasites and respiratory infections!
Some or most cats cannot be handled, and medicating only the individual and leaving the herd untreated won’t be effective because the issue will return. Success is achieved by effectively treating all of the cats through their diet and getting all to take the medication.
How Get Rid of Worms in Feral Cats
Parasites are the first place to start when deworming feral cat colonies because they do the most damage and removing them is where you get the most results for your money! Parasites eat the cat’s necessary nutrition, and they beat down the immune system, making respiratory infections more prevalent. The result is rough hair coats and skinny cats.
Treating Ear Mites in Feral Cats
Most feline ear mite treatment programs fail because of the mite eggs, not because the adults were not killed. Mites and ear mites in cats are easy to kill in the adult stage, but it’s nearly impossible to get the egg. The eggs hatch in seven to 10 days and start reproducing. It is essential to get the mites that hatch before they can start reproducing. If you don’t, the mites will repopulate and be just as bad in six weeks. Ivomec one percent is very effective at getting rid of ear mites, mange mites and lice.
Feral Cat Worms
Panacur™ (fenbendazole) is a very safe, effective, and cost-conscious product for deworming cats. It will help control roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms (taenia species) and giardia. It has a very wide safety margin, so the chances of overdosing a cat on Panacur is very unlikely. It is available in both granules and liquid, both of which can be mixed with milk replacer or canned food. Panacur should be dosed at 50 mg/kg once daily for three days.
How to Treat Feral Cats for Worms with Milk
Treating and deworming feral cats with milk replacers is inexpensive and cats seem to like it. If a cat has never had milk replacer given to them in the past, it can take a little time for them to warm up to the idea. Most cats have a built-in trust “issue” that helps them to be such good survivors. It takes about three days of tasting something new for a cat to trust it. Start the process with unmedicated milk replacer to establish trust (most will drink it after three days of sniffing, testing, and looking at it).
The next step is to establish a count of how many cats are going to be treated. After feeding milk replacer in several pans at the same time for three days and all the cats are coming up for milk, get a count of how many cats are in the colony. Next, establish how much medication to add to the milk. The average feral cat weighs eight pounds, so multiply the number of cats by eight to get total weight. (For example, if there are 20 cats, then the needed dose of dewormer is for 160 pounds. We add that total dose to the milk replacer.) Be sure to use multiple pans if you have a large colony, or some might not get a chance to drink. If a cat does not get a drink or does not come up today, then make sure they get it tomorrow.
The first time deworming a feral colony, the 3-day Panacur protocol should be repeated in three weeks, then again in three months. Deworming feral cats should then be repeated quarterly, unless there is an issue with ear mites. You need to treat each cat, even if you have to trap them; otherwise the untreated cat will keep sharing his ear mites.
Confined Feral Cat Colony
If you are adding to a confined cat colony, be sure you treat before mixing. The last thing you want is to bring anything in once the colony issues are controlled!
The key to healthy feral cats is to treat all of the cats, and this can be done effectively and easily. This same milk treatment has been used for farm cat colonies and has had great results in getting them healthy.
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Written by: Amy Hanson, DVM
Amy Hanson, DVM
Dr. Amy Hanson is an associate veterinarian at the Cat Clinic of Lawrence in Lawrence, Kansas. She is a 2010 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her special interests include felines, acupuncture and dentistry. Her hobbies include showing cats and she is a judge for the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA).