FELINE SCABIES IS A
PARASITIC SKIN DISEASE
caused by the obligate parasite
Notoedres cati, a mite that can only
survive a few days off the host.
It has a worldwide distribution but
is generally considered to be rare,
with pockets of endemic infection in continental Europe for
example. In the
UK the mite was
in the 1940s
and 1950s but
disappeared since (Thomsett and
With the advent of
pet travel there is a small risk of
acquiring the disease.
- Notoedres cati is a member of the
- In appearance it is very similar to
other members of the family such
as Sarcoptes scabiei var canis of the dog
with some differences.
- Notoedres is smaller and the eggs
are round (Paterson, 2008).
- The two pairs of anterior legs
have long-medium length unjointed
stalks with suckers and the two
posterior legs do not extend beyond
the borders of the body, which is
- The most notable distinguishing
feature of Notoedres cati is that unlike
Sarcoptes scabiei, which has a terminal
anus, it has a dorsal anus.
- It is important to distinguish
between the two species as Sarcoptes
occasionally affects cats and may have a poorer prognosis as described
under differential diagnosis.
- The disease is extremely pruritic
and as it progresses will not respond to
- Lesions begin on the medial side of
the pinnal edge with a rapid spread to the face, eyelids,
neck and become
if not treated.
sometimes resemble “battle scarred tom cats”
(Thomsett and Baker, 1990).
- Lesions are crusts – yellowish to
grey in colour and the skin becomes
- Excoriation due to severe pruritus.
- Emaciation, anorexia and death is
- Transient pruritic lesions in humans
are common. Spread to other animals
such as dogs and rabbits is also
- Otodectes cynotis – especially
associated with hypersensitivity to the
- Hypersensitivity – flea bites, food
- Demodex gatoi.
- Autoimmune diseases – pemphigus
- Sarcoptes scabiei var canis.
Cats appear to be resistant
to infestation from contact
with a canine scabies case.
Occasional cases do present
themselves in the UK (Hardy
and others, 2012). These cats
are extremely pruritic with
There is often an abundance of
mites demonstrated by skin
scrapings or tape strips. Mites
in these patients will have
a terminal anus, important
in the differential diagnosis.
There is often an underlying
attempts should be made to
diagnose this and treat it if
possible, otherwise cure will
- The history and
is very suggestive,
with human lesions,
failure to respond to
rapid spread being
- Tape strips. These
should be employed first as they are
easy to do and are
A transparent tape
strip is pressed
against lesion areas
and transferred to a
- Skin scrapings.
are usually easy to find – much more so
than with the canine
disease. Therefore a therapeutic trial
is rarely necessary,
although not to be
discounted if doubt
- Treatment is generally effective
according to experience in those
countries where the disease is present.
Products that are used to treat canine
scabies should be effective and three
are mentioned here.
- 2% lime sulphur dips (Dechra).
Between six to eight weekly applications
may be necessary.
- Selamectin (Stronghold, Zoetis).
This is applied as a spot-on at 30-day
intervals for three applications. It is
preferable that the professional staff
of the clinic perform this to eliminate
any possibility of poor compliance,
particularly in the rare case where the
treatment is a trial therapy.
- Fipronil (Merial Animal Health.)
Applied as a spot-on or spray.
- Glucocorticoids will help alleviate
the extreme pruritus but should only
be used short-term and after there has
been a definitive diagnosis.
References and further reading
- Hardy, J. and others. A case of feline sarcoptic
mange in the UK. Vet Rec Case Rep 203 (1): 1-2.
Hnilica, K. A. In: Small Animal Dermatology – A
Color Atlas and Therapeutic Guide, 3rd edition,
p138. Elsevier, 2011.
- Miller, W. H., Grif n, C. G. and Campbell, K. A.
In: Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology, 7th
edition, pp319-320. Elsevier, 2013.
Paterson, S. In: Manual of Skin Diseases of the
- Dog and Cat, 2nd edition, pp115-116. Blackwell
Thomsett, L. R. and Baker, K. P. In: Canine and
Feline Dermatology, pp142-144. Blackwell Scienti c