Maggots on and in domestic cats

Botfly. Image (greatly cropped) by Marc Pascual from Pixabay
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I want to start this article with a personal experience. Many years ago, when my elderly female cat was dying of kidney disease at the age of 18, she spent a lot of time in the back garden, on the grass, snoozing. She was static for a long time and as a consequence she acquired maggots in her fur. She must have acquired these maggots by either a fly depositing eggs in her fur which developed into maggots or maggots crawled from the grass onto her.

Combed-out fly eggs
Combed-out fly eggs. This is a screenshot from the video on this page.

I noticed them because her fur was black, and maggots are white. There was no question that they were maggots and I simply removed them with a flea comb. In short, I combed them out. That was as far as it went.

So, maggots when they are in the fur of a cat can be removed fairly straightforwardly. However, they find an orifice such as a wound in order to penetrate the cat. Or the cat might ingest a maggot or maggots when they groom themselves.

The maggots are then inside the cat, and they migrate to the skin where they take up residence as a “warble”. You will see a small breathing hole through which the warble breathes in the skin. It looks ghastly. The hole enlarges as the warble matures and is about to leave the cat, its host for this parasite.

Botfly larvae extracted from cat
Botfly larvae extracted from cat. Image: in public domain.

And there will be a lump around that breathing hole and the lump will be inflamed. The warble can be removed by veterinarian with tweezers. It is quite disgusting and there are some unpleasant images on the Internet of warbles being removed. I’ve seem one removed from the nose of a kitten. They can be enormous and of course they are very ugly!

VCA hospitals say: “Antibiotics are usually prescribed to combat any secondary bacterial infection. Surgery may be required to close the injured site in certain cases.”

Disgusting warble
Disgusting warble. One of two removed from a small kitten by vet techs. Image: MikeB based on screenshot.

The visual presence of a warble under the skin is obviously a clear diagnosis of a “cuterebra infection” (myiasis)as the veterinarians call it. However, they may have to diagnose this infection without seeing the warble and the symptoms can include:

  • Cough
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • circling
  • paralysis
  • blindness
  • lying down
  • lesions caused by lover in the eyeball

I would like to refer once again to my personal experience. If your cat is spending a lot of time in the grass, not because they are ill and resting there, but because they are snoozing and enjoy the place, I think it would be wise to check their fur for maggots from time to time as a precaution particularly in the ‘maggot season’.

The problem is seasonal in northern US with, according to a well-known veterinary website, most cases occurring in late summer and early autumn when the adult flies are active. Where there are warmer temperatures the seasonality of this disease is less of a factor because the flies are active through longer periods of the year.

Below are some more articles on cat parasites.

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