Knowing the prevalence of parasites in a population is helpful in developing control programs for that population. The variety of treatments to which domestic cats are exposed, however, makes accurate assessment of the full complement of ectoparasites that a cat may encounter in a particular geographic area difficult. This study looked at a feral population of 200 cats in north central Florida to determine the potential parasite risk to outdoor, free-ranging cats in that area. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, was the most common parasite found, infesting 92.5% of the cats. A few other flea species were also seen: 4.5% of the cats were infested with fleas more commonly found on small mammals, Pulex simulans; 5.5% were infested with the stick-tight flea associated most frequently with fowl, Echidnophaga gallinacea. When the ears of the cats were examined with an otoscope, mite movement and the black ceruminous exudate typical of the ear mite Otodectes cynotis were seen in 22.5% of the cats. When swab specimens were examined, ear mites were found in an additional 14.5%. Eight of these cats had no or mild exudate. Few other ectoparasites were found. A total of nine ticks were recovered from five cats. Five of these ticks were adult female Dermacentor variabilis. Two of the 200 cats were infested with the Felicola subrostratus louse, and all superficial skin scrapings were negative for mites. In this study, fleas and ear mites posed the greatest risk for cats in this area. Parasite control programs need to consider these sources of continual infestation for pets that are allowed outdoors.

Prevalence of ectoparasites in a population of feral cats from north central Florida during the summer. Akucewich LH, Philman K, Clark A, et al. Vet Parasitol 109:129-139, 2002.