Ringworm: This Much I Know

I’m a foster mom for kittens. With my second litter, we had ringworm. I learned fast that not many people know much about ringworm… not even rescue, foster or humane society folks. I don’t know it all… but this much I know….

I’m not a vet, vet-tech, or any other form of expert. I’m writing this from first-person experience to help others who may encounter ringworm as a pet owner or foster home. I know that there is a lot of scary stuff on the web: I was scared by it. Unfortunately, as you know if you’ve been following the ‘Spice Rack’ kitten album, our young charges got ringworm. I’m writing this from memory a couple of months later and wish I’d written this during our journey. I read a ton when we ran head-first into this challenge.

Many cats are exposed to ringworm and don’t develop ringworm. Like you being exposed to the flu and not getting it – it depends on how strong your immune system is at the time of exposure, and how much you are exposed to it. Young cats (kittens under one year of age), old cats, and sick cats are most susceptible to it because their immune systems are already low or compromised. If left untreated, most cats will just get rid of it on their own – but over varying periods of time. A few cats can’t shake it on their own. Cats who have it will recover and go on to happy and long lives and rarely (if ever) have another outbreak.

WHAT IS RINGWORM?

Ringworm is not a worm at all. This name is just an old word for it since it manifests in a circle or ‘ring’. Ringworm is a fungal infection and it’s common. This fungus is often based around a hair follicle and will spread to other follicles in the area… I believe it feeds on the keratin. It will not kill or deeply harm the pet but it can be very hard to shake. There are two things that make ringworm a huge challenge: it’s VERY contagious and it’s difficult to get rid of in the environment. A perfect storm really.

It’s very contagious because it’s propagated by spores which can be airborne and on any surface. These spores are exceptionally hard to kill and can remain viable (contagious) for up to 13-15 months. No really! And the more one animal is in contact with another, the higher the likelihood that all will get it. Often, it is not caught until it has already spread… it’s very fast. Everything in the space can become a carrier of these spores- especially pet beds, blankets, toys, carpets, your clothes etc. It’s very easy to get, easy to spread, and very hard to get ahead of.

The other thing about ringworm is that its zoonotic. What? It’s a new word for me too – it means that ringworm jumps from one species to another.  From cow to mouse to cat to dog … to human. It can lay latent in the soil for the next unsuspecting creature to walk by. So, yes, that means you can get it from contact with a contagious pet. It’s not species-specific – and the longer your pet is sick and shedding the virus the more likely you are to catch it.

Getting rid of it is a pain because you need to treat the animals and the entire contaminated space at the same time. Most cleaners cannot kill the spores or make limited difference, steam cleaning does not kill them, and soap/cleaners and water is pretty useless. Many breeders and animal shows have ongoing problems with ringworm, though they won’t admit it due to the stigma.

Humans can get ringworm (called other things like tinea) from other humans. These are part of the same fungus group, but not the same strain that your cat can get. Here’s your ‘eeww’ for the day… at any given time about 25% of humans on the planet have a form of ringworm. In people it mostly manifests as athletes foot, jock itch, or a form on the scalp. It is helped along by damp conditions.

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF IT’S RINGWORM?

Ringworm often manifests in a small patch of fur being lost. It didn’t look bad at all… just a small furless patch above an eye on one kitten. We noticed it and acted on it immediately. The kittens all lost some fur in patches eventually, but their case was milder because it was caught and treated early.

We noticed fur loss on one kitten, but were utterly inexperienced to know what it could be. It continued for about 2 days so we got in touch with the rescue right away. They had experience with ringworm in the past with one animal getting it and had challenges as it immediately spread to all in that one home. By the 4-5th day we had the kitten at the vet- who diagnosed it as ringworm. The faster the diagnosis the better, so you can act faster to contain it.

The doctor used a woods lamp (black light) to look at the affected area. If you see it glow, it’s ringworm. However, I have subsequently learned that there are over 100 varieties of ringworm, and most but not all glow. So glowing is diagnosis, but not glowing does doesn’t mean much. There are skin sample tests that can be done.

We learned it was ringworm right away: Ginger’s spot glowed. For us the source was easy to find: only her mom and siblings had access to her and the room she was in had never had an animal in it since the house was built. Cinnamon (the mom) was an asymptomatic carrier. The ringworm infection was passed to little Ginger by the time she was 5 weeks old through nursing. And this meant that if one kitten had it, they would all have it. Sure enough, all came down with it inside of a week, but Cinnamon remained asymptomatic.

** please read the note at the end of this as well, as it is relevant

WHAT DID WE DO?

As per the vet instructions, we immediately started on a topical cream for the problem. This was applied 1x a day. We would have liked to do 2x a day but with work, the mornings were not feasible for the time it required. One week later we began internal meds (liquid) given orally by syringe. All kittens got this treatment for 4 weeks, as did their mom since we couldn’t let her re-infect the kittens. The ointment application was 6 weeks since it started before the internal meds.

The rescue had opted for a more natural solution the first time they encountered ringworm (dipping the kitties in solution, isolation etc) and found that they became easily re-infected. I also know that two of the kittens from that group were traumatized by the dipping treatments and became fearful of people and less social from isolation. We concurred with the decision to go to prescription meds for a number of reasons and the vet felt it was safe for them though they were young.

If you treat the cat with medications but don’t address the space, then the spores in the space can re-infect the cat(s) as they recover.

Immediately upon diagnosis, we locked down the room. This was easier in our case since we had our foster kittens in one room only. Luckily ringworm manifested about 1.5 weeks before we introduced them to the rest of the house and its occupants. We always quarantine unvaccinated cats/kittens and new fosters for 6+ weeks. We have wall-to-wall carpet (which would harbor spores) and one of our cats is older (so more susceptible to ringworm) so I decided on a full-out lock down. No items could leave the room unless they had been ‘treated’. Litter and anything else from the room went straight to the outside garbage can … no stops… and with major hand washing.

With ringworm, you must simultaneously treat the animal and the ‘infected’ space. 10% bleach solution is the only thing I know to be fully effective at killing the spores. What is suggested is that you use both a strong vacuum and the 10% bleach solution. I chose not to use the vacuum because there would be no way to clean the vacuum 100% after its use with ringworm. It’s not recommended that you use it in the rest of the house again (where it would transmit the infection). I didn’t want to buy another vacuum for this purpose only (suggested method) and luckily the room was tiled. Since it was tiled and without upholstery, the bleach was more important than the vacuum for us. I brought in cleaning implements which stayed in the room for the duration of the treatments. Everything was discarded afterwards to avoid any re-infection or spread.

Natasha’s Bleach Protocols: Every toy, carpet, blanket, bed, etc was washed with 10% bleach solution each week during treatment. There are varying reports of how long anything has to be in contact with the bleach solution to be rid of the spores – I followed the 10 second rule. The room was cleaned from the top down (since spores would settle downwards) and every surface cleaned to saturation with the bleach solution. Since the kittens could not go to another room during this time, they were locked in the shower stall for the 45 minute clean of the walls/floors – with the windows open and the fan on. I should note that bleach is very strong, and every effort was made to minimize the kittens’ level of contact with it. I would not use bleach on kitten things in any other instance other than ringworm.

In addition to the weekly clean, all surfaces were wiped down, swept and wet-swiffered every 2-3 days to remove as many of the spores as possible and avoid re-contamination. The HVAC system in our home was run on a new hepa-filter, and physical filters were placed in the room’s heating vents to prevent ringworm spores from entering and being transferred through the house. As soon as the kittens were done the meds and got a clean bill of health, we changed  to a new filter again on the HVAC system.

We kept ‘kitty clothes’ inside their room. We would strip down and leave ‘outside’ clothes out, and put on ‘inside kitty clothes’ inside the room. These ‘kitten clothes’ were long pants, long sleeves and socks; in order to keep the number of spores in contact with our skin at a minimum. These clothes were washed with bleach to kill spores.

The conventional wisdom is to keep your contact with the cats to a minimum during treatment because you can catch ringworm – this is why cats with ringworm are usually kept in isolation. We obviously needed 40 minutes a day for their topical and oral treatments and time to clean litters. I was just past litter training, and in the middle of socializing and play-training our fosters. I opted to continue spending as much time with them as I had in the past; feeling that human-socialization was more important to their long-term health and happiness.

In order to protect ourselves, I purchased otc selsun blue shampoo (extra strength) which was indicated for tinea (same fungal infection slightly different strain). We used this as our shower gel and shampoo exclusively during the treatment of the kittens. This worked to keep us ringworm free with two caveats. One, J got one spot (1inx1in) of ringworm on his forearm – which we were checking ourselves for. This was likely because he did all the kitten’s topical cream application for the ringworm, and was in physical contact with it daily for a month. My solution was for him to treat it by dabbing undiluted bleach (yes I know its corrosive) directly on the spot 2x a day and letting it dry. During the day, I asked him to keep the spot covered by a band-aid to stop any transmission. It went away quickly, without irritation, and with no further spots. All clothing and linens he was in contact with prior to it being covered had to be washed in 10% bleach solution. (Not pretty on the nice sheets, let me tell you.) Secondly, I developed a rash from too much overall use of the medicated shampoo on my body … red itchy bumps. I take full responsibility for this since I was using a product for a use other than what it suggests – and after about 3 days of discontinued use, the rash went away.

All kittens recovered fully and got rid of ringworm. They seem to have no health impediments from the early use of internal meds. Our other pets did not get ringworm. We all have been ringworm-free since.

AND NOW…

Unfortunately, there is a stigma with animals who have had ringworm. The best shelters and rescues will disclose this information to the potential adopters. With our ‘spice rack’ kittens, their medical history and signed medical records were given to each adoptive parent. The fact that they had ringworm did scare a number of good adopters away from this litter of kittens.

We kept one kitten – I am fully aware that our little cat may one day get it again because ringworm lies dormant in the host. It could potentially surface again in times of great stress or illness.  I have to say honestly that there is a strong likelihood that our other two cats (one raised by me from 8 weeks old and the other an animal-control rescue) have been exposed to ringworm long ago. Likely at a time when their immune systems were healthy and strong, and they avoided catching the fungal infection … since neither have ever shown any signs of it. One was allowed to go outside in my yard and the 3-5 yards adjacent to ours (and could get it from mouse feces, earth, other cats etc) and the other from her life on the streets. I think many fears are unfounded… but are based on the craziness involved in getting rid of ringworm.

I don’t stay in hotel rooms designated for pets, don’t take my kitties on trips, and have never sent them (yet) to boarding. It only takes one inexperienced pet owner, someone who doesn’t care that their pet has ringworm, or one infection in a hotel room a year ago to reintroduce this to my home. While some of these places do a great job of trying to keep things very clean, I doubt they are aware of the rigors required to avoid ringworm transmission or follow the ‘natasha bleach protocols’.

Phew… that was a lot off the top of my head! I have not listed any references here since I am writing this from memory. There are great resources out there (but check where your info is coming from). I tended to seek vet information, vet medicine journals, and also first person accounts from rescues or breeders (only a few are honest). There is no one solution… do what works for you.

It was difficult, stressful and very tiring… but in retrospect, there is nothing I’d do differently given our circumstances.

If you have questions let me know… but remember I have no professional background!

**About a month after the treatment had concluded and the vet gave her a full health okay, Saffron developed 5 small lesions on her body. They were little scabs that were persistent. They lasted about 3-4 weeks and then went away on their own without ever becoming anything else. These were not play induced (there was a 6th which was just a play-scratch and healed much quicker), but I believe these were remnants of the infection surfacing in her body. They did not glow under the black light. My mildly-educated guess is that she was not contagious during this time. Like the scabs of chicken-pox not being contagious. And like the chicken pox virus with everyone who’s had it, ringworm lies dormant in my kitty now.
**Sadly I didn’t have the forethought to photograph the ringworm. In fact, I was busy trying to get photos without it thinking ahead to their coming adoptions. One kitten lost all the fur on her inside leg, one lost a large spot of fur behind her ear, some had patchy paws, and most lost some fur around their noses and mouths (where they were nursing). Because it was caught and treated early our kittens had a mild case.

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40 thoughts on “Ringworm: This Much I Know

  1. I got ringworm from an outbreak of it in our cat shelter…..I got it over a year ago but sometimes I still get small ones. It is a really hard infection to get rid of. Your writing was quite accirate and I think its good to have a person explain for both cats and humans considering its the most common way it spreads I believe.

  2. I appreciate your post and can relate to your troubles getting rid of it!! I’ve had it twice with my cats twice. The first time, my husband came home with a cat that his boss had determined to bring back to the animals shelter 9 months after adopting. I was volunteering at the shelter at the time and knew that wouldn’t go over well, so home he came. We had another kitten around the same age; we did not keep them separated more than a day since we had the documentation that he was UTD on shots etc, and had been indoor only, and they seemed to be getting on well. Long story short, he had ringworm (as did his former adoptive mom and her other two cats- once we had him diagnosed, my husband put 2 + 2 together and realized the “rash” his boss had was not eczema but a long case of untreated ringworm!). What a hassle- we went for the “dip” method for both cats, thorough vacuum, and wipe down of any possible surfaces, but living in a damp basement apartment in a humid Louisiana summer I’m surprised it wasn’t worse!! The other kitten never developed it to my knowledge (we treated her anyway), but 4 years later, she came down with it (this summer- currently). So did I, and I’m not sure who got it first… I’m not sure if I got it from her or vice versa; maybe I got it from a kitten that I rescued during a week-long vacation 2 weeks prior who had all of the parasitic troubles that come with being feral kitten… or if my own kitty has been an asymptomatic carrier for 4 years and had an outbreak with the stress of recently moving. I have 2 spots on my chest & neck, & the cat seems to be responding much better to treatment than I am! That’s why I came across your blog- looking for ideas to treat myself rather than my kitties. Been treating with mitraconazole for 2 weeks and only somewhat better. But maybe the humid southern summer is again working against me. I tried putting a bandaid over it during the day but it would always look worse that night, so I stopped… but it’s in a very visible place so it’s embarrassing! I may have to break down and visit the doctor for something stronger. ::sigh:: it’s definitely a bother to get rid of. Your description is accurate– I was surprised that on cats it looked just like some loss of hair, or breakage of hair, and not in circular patches. Looks quite different on cats than on humans. Good for you for being so thorough and such a good foster mom!!

    • You are amazing! Firstly let me thank you for caring and volunteering – you are making a difference to all those lives. We need more of you! Secondly- you are bang on with the issue of humidity. One of the reasons that ringworm (in all its human forms like jock itch, tinea, athletes foot etc) is so prevalent is that it loves humidity. If you are in the tropics or in summer almost anywhere, it gives this fungal infection a carte blanche to spread. Sending good thoughts your way for getting rid of this for good! And cudos for catching it and addressing it- so many shelters, breeders, dog/cat boarders, and even homes ignore it and just ‘wish it away’.

      • PS We didn’t get ‘rings’ because we started treatment so quickly (I think). By the 5th day of the first kitten showing one small patch of fur loss, they were all being treated topically. The internal meds began the next week. We also had this in January (winter in Canada) so we I could control the home’s humidity very effectively through the furnace/ humidifier settings.

  3. I ventured down to a nearby pet hospital who have 4 8wk old kittens up for adoption (for a fee). Fell in love with one. They told me they would give her vaccinations microchip desexing etc. however she weighed in less than the hospital Vet’s rule of 800 grams min. weight before a kitten can go to its new home. They said ring back in 3 days, but when I did they said the foster mum noticed some hair loss. They are keeping her for an extra week in case its ringworm rather than a reaction to the microchip.

    This is the first kitten I’ve actually ‘fallen for’ since searching. But on reading it seems the sensible thing to do is take a refund & look elsewhere before I get attached. (Only saw it for one visit)

    What say you? Move on while we are still strangers? I’ve got a bit of tinea myself & know its near on impossible to budge permanently.

    • Adopt a former ringworm kitty! I’m biased, but I’d hate to be discriminated against just because I’d had chicken-pox as a kid. Ringworm is a real pain to get out of a space, but has no lasting effects on the kitties. I adopted one of my foster ringworm kitties – in the 3.5 subsequent years, there has not one sign of ringworm’s return – just a purrfectly happy and healthy cat. There is a chance it can come back sometime (like when people get shingles later in life from chicken pox in their youth) – but it doesn’t pose a significant health threat. I’d say GO AHEAD AND FALL IN LOVE. It’s a small chance that it’s ringworm, and even that is not the end of the world. Saffron (in the photos) brings me joy every day and is the most amazing cat. No one loves you less for tinea – it’s just part of the bumpy road of life!

  4. You should DEFINITELY go for the kitten. It’s a pain to get rid of but once it’s gone, it’s usually pretty much over, Just to chime in with my experience, yes, it was a bother for me to get rid of – primarily because my (grown-sized) cats DON’T LIKE TO GET WET!! (shocker, right? lol). Grown sized cats, grown sized claws, and I used sulfur dip and they are inside cats so my tiny basement apartment smelled to high heaven for a few hours at a time. In the end though it was just loud and smelly and no blood or tears ended up being shed when I did the dip treatment with them. But you’re talking a tiny little kitten, who I imagine should be comparatively easy to treat (and my parents just rescued a little one with ringworm and they are not doing dip – they’re using topical and oral). I certainly got more stressed than I should have the first time. Sorry to hear your own tinea is difficult to treat – my husband had difficulty getting rid of athlete’s foot for quite some time, but I have never known anyone to have difficulty getting rid of ringworm. I commented above that my own ringworm was tenacious (surely being practically in the tropics doesn’t help), but as soon as I switched meds from miconazole, it cleared right up. I found a topical med with sulfur as active ingredient, figuring since that is what worked on my cats, it should work on me, and it did, pronto! Might be a thought for your own tinea?

    Until I read this article, I had no idea that ringworm was something that could recur later (Is that it is the same for athlete’s foot, etc?) I think recurrence must be a relatively uncommon, with a higher likelihood during times of stress. But even so, it’s not a big deal. So I know that’s a long answer but treatment in my experience has been time-limited and shouldn’t be too difficult with a kitten. Even when I had a cat with a very bad case of ringworm running all around my humid, hot, carpeted basement apartment (all ideal for ringworm infection), all I did was treat the cats, wash the blankets, and vacuum the carpet. No one else except for the one cat ever got it. This time I think I was the one who gave it to my cat – not the other way around! – because I’d spent a week trapping then cuddling my parents’ ringwormy stray kitten (kittens overwhelm my sensibility every time 😉 ). And even though that kitten had it, I was the only one who got it in that house of 5 people, 4 cats, and 3 dogs. That was over a month ago now. If there’s only one kitten (easy to treat compared to grownups!) I think treatment and prevention of spread is easy especially if you know it coming in, rather than after it has been running around your house for a week.

    In my experience, with treatment it goes away quickly, and if it is treated from the get go before you bring it home, I would think there is extremely little chance of it spreading in your house. And even if it did, it’s not like it’s a big deal to have or to treat (so long as you actually treat it, unlike the person who formerly owned my now ringworm-free cat). Unless you have immunocompromised (e.g., FIV+) cats around, or a severely immunocompromised person I wouldn’t think twice about bringing the kitten home. I’d do it all over again, and given our proclivity for finding stray cats, I’d say chances are very strong I will do so. My suggestion: Take a deep breath, realize in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal (assuming you’re not a breeder/ large rescue etc), and go for it! Best of luck!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! We’ve rescued 42 cats over the last 7 years and I just got my first litter with ringworm. And of course it freaked me out! They are about 4 1/2 weeks old and will see the vet tomorrow morning so I’m hoping to get it under control asap. I feel more informed than I did when I first found out that may be what’s ailing them. You also gave me some good ideas and I feel like I’ll be better prepared. Thanks again!!

  5. We used topical cream and oral meds – even on small 5-6 week old kittens and they were fine! No smells, no stress, and almost no work… and we were treating 6+mom cat! The only challenge was treating the space. I say when you fall in love with a kitty – that is something special. Even IF you had to deal with this once at a later date a life-time of love trumps it anyday!

  6. I recently brought a 8 week old kitten home. She came from a farm and the person said she thought they had had ringworm as she also had it. Her vet didn’t see the cat or kittens but said it was probably a fungus causing the hair loss and crusty, oozing sores. She started treating with Lamisil after discovering it. When I picked up my kitten her fur on her ears was growing back and she had 2 dry scabs areas on her torso. I gave her a bath with a little bit of dawn dish soap and have been treating her spots with cream. What is the time frame of when they are not contagious? Is it after the sores scab over? When their are no scabs or when hair starts regrowing back over the spot? I have other cats so want to know how long I have to keep kitten in quarantine. Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

    • A kitten with oozing sores of any kind should be taken to a vet as soon as possible. It’s impossible for me or anyone else to say what is wrong with her. I don’t know why she wasn’t seen by a vet before you took her, but for her health and the health of your cats I’d suggest professional evaluation asap. Has she had all her kitten shots? What symptoms are the others in the litter showing? It’s best not to treat it at all until you know what it is

  7. This post on my blog was not intended to create a managed public forum of advice or individual situations. It is meant as a real and detailed account that I hope helps you. There are vet sites and pet-ownership groups that offer Q&A boards. As always a vet is the best source of advice. I won’t be publishing any more advice inquiries or responses sent to me from this page on my blog. Thanks! Best wishes to you and your kitties!

  8. I really enjoyed your post. Most informative. I recently adopted a 2weeks old kitten. I really don’t know what happened to her mother. Anyway, after having the kitten for a few days, I noticed that one of her front and back paws had some kind of calise ( harding of the skin) . So I brought her to the vet and she was diagnosed with ringworm. The vet prescribed a medicated shampoo to be use once a day for two weeks. My kitten Suga is responding really well. After just one week of daily baths, I noticed all the spots that had hard calise had fallen off and hair is starting to grow back. My question is : is it safe to cuddle her yet? Or should I wait until the vet says she doesn’t have it anymore?

    • A kitten should never be separated from her mother before 8 weeks – they need to be nursing, getting immunity from mother’s milk, and learning how to be a cat. You always run the risk of getting a little ringworm (as you can see from my article above – you can use our tips there), however, a little kitten alone in the world wants nothing more than love. The more love and cuddles you give her now, the more friendly and loving she will be in all her years with you. Is it worth the chance? I think so – especially since you are going the route of shampoo – which many kittens don’t love. You don’t want her to think you are mean or punishing her and not loving her. She’s a kitty and can’t understand that you are trying to help her. IMO – the more love you give your cat, it comes back to you 2x! Good luck.

  9. I agree, esp. if she is only a few weeks old. (is she still being bottle fed?) She is very likely not even contagious anymore now that you have been actively treating her for a while, and assuming since you started treating you’ve also cleaned all her bedding and stuff. if I’m recalling correctly the research I’ve done in the past They definitely need lots of attention and cuddling at that age, ringworm or not. (and cuddling helps regulate their body temperature at a young age; I assume the vet talked to you about keeping her warm in the absence of other siblings / mom to help out with that). But even if she is still contagious I’d say go all out for the cuddles anyway because she’s so young; this is a critical time for her to be learning about socialization (have you been around any 6-12 month old children lately? They are already super social and that learning is crucial for normal development; your kitten is similar). I understand your concern though. If you’re super concerned you can always wear some thin gloves and then throw them in the wash (or throw them away if you’re using disposable) and there are lots of great tips in the original post. It can be a real pain to treat when your pets get it (especially if they are adult cats, or if you have a bunch of pets) but in people I’d say it is annoying but not that big a deal. I’ve had ringworm multiple times (mostly when I was a child, being barefoot and running around on a farm all the time) and in people with a normally functioning immune system it really is no big deal to treat topically. I assume your kitten at this age is limited to a certain room or part of a room, so you can always change clothes right after cuddling her and the chance of then carrying it to the rest of the house even if she was contagious is slim. I would probably just change my shirt and wash my hands even on my most cautious of days. She is very likely not even contagious anymore. Best of luck!

  10. Our new kitten has a patch of missing hair near his ear from a former bout of ringworm. The vet gave it the all clear. Will the patch of hair grow back?

    • Yes – make sure it’s fully gone. As long as your kitty is healthy, the fur will come back and it won’t take too long. We gave them the best kitten food we could afford so their sickness would not impeded their development

  11. Thank you for your encounter as this is my second round dealing with ringworm in 10 years. Everything you have done and noted is exactly correct. Our 3 kittens are in isolation and will be for 4 weeks. I am quite familiar with the routine unfortunately as my 9 year old suffered greatly from it as a kitten and so did we. My husband and I were covered and oraLly treated as well. Our cat is a picture of health to this day and it never reoccurred thankfully. As with him, We opt for griseofulvin treatment and anti-fungal baths twice weekly. One kitten is more infected than the other two but all are otherwise healthy and active. Invest in bleach, white towels and disposable gloves. It is a normal part of our routine for a few months to come!

  12. Very helpful as I just had a foster kitten diagnosed with ringworm, or rather advised it may be ringworm by animal control. They gave me oral medication and basically advised me to do everything you mentioned. Lucky I have tile floors and used Clorox cleanup on everything. Never had lesions however tiny hair loss patches on legs and in one ear. One and a half weeks to go and she goes in for surgery and hopefully a forever home. From your article I’m taking away even though my two grown cats have not shown any signs of ring worm they can still break out with it at a later date, correct? Should I stop fostering kittens due to this?

    • Good question! First of all, thank you for fostering – it is one of the kindest things you can do if you love cats. You can change a life forever. The hair loss patches sound a lot like what our foster kittens (all 6!) went though with ringworm. I should emphasize that we spent lots of time with them during their illness because we wanted them to be social – and socialization patterns are created in their 3-8th weeks. This is not the conventional wisdom of isolation and did increase our chances of getting ringworm. We weighed this and thought their future lives depended more on remaining people-friendly and social. Your other cats might catch ringworm in the coming weeks… some spores will remain in your home no matter how much you clean. I would clean the kitten room top to bottom at least 2x when she leaves you and not take on any fosters for at least 3 months. During that time, watch your cats to see if they develop symptoms. If they make it past 3 months and don’t get it, then they probably won’t. Ask your vet for input when you see him/her. I would NOT stop fostering kittens… they need you and it’s so enriching!

  13. Thanks for sharing! A year ago we got a new kitten and she introduced ringworm to our 2 yr old cat. He got it the worst on his face and she had it on her foot. It was a horrible ordeal that was luckily over after 4 months. However, a year later, I just noticed a small bump/scab under the armpit of the younger cat. Their is no fur loss (as of right now) and the cats have been playing more aggressively now that the younger one is a bit bigger. It’s interesting to read your note about the lesions that appears on the kittens after the fact that didn’t glow under the light. do you notices that those lesions have continued to appear? Also, was there hair loss with those or were they just under fur? She has a vet appointment in a few days so I guess worse case scenario we will find out then. Thanks!

    • I’m glad you asked this. The scabs on my kitten were persistent (with absolutely no fur loss) for a few weeks and then disappeared forever. She is now 4.5 years old… and has never had another bout of ringworm. However, 2 of her siblings had similiar scabs, and their new home took them to a vet who determined it was residual ringworm and had them go through one more bout of treatment. I learned of this, but opted NOT to have my kitten treated with any more meds. She was only about 15 weeks at the time – and I weighed my options carefully. I am sorry you are going through this – we adopted a rescue kitty 9 months ago and he’d had a bad case of FHV (kitty cold) and was treated. But he still had it and gave it to our kitty (the one who had ringworm) and she was quite ill – in fact she’s still dealing with some residual symptoms. It’s always a chance that a new cat will be ill – and will get your current kitties sick. Hang in there. Thank you for caring so much about your cats – we’re sending good wishes your way.

  14. This is most helpful. I can’t thank you enough for posting your experience. I am fostering a mother and 2 kittens right now with Ringworm. Can you tell me did you separate the kittens?

    Thanks again for your post!

    • The 6 kittens stayed with their mom at all times and all 7 were treated with meds simultaneously – though mom didn’t have symptoms. I always quarantine my fosters, so they had their own room – away from my own cats. I’m so glad I was able to help you!

  15. Thank you! So helpful. Its been so overwhelming with the little info from the vets I have seen. Putting the kittens back together after reading your post was huge help. Pnekitten was not eating from depression. She instantly starting eating!! Thank you.

    • The ringworm is mostly unobtrusive to them. It looks bad but they are developing, socializing, playing the way healthy kittens do. They really are healthy kittens with an annoying persistent ‘rash’ – I treated them that way. Ours didn’t know they were sick – so they were exactly the way 5 -9 week old kittens are during their entire illness. Isolation is shockingly hard on all cats – especially little ones. Your feedback note made my day 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for your info. Vet missed signs of ringworm at 2 appts when kitties were being treated for kitty colds and bacterial infections. By the time we saw a different vet and got started on treatment, we had 4 humans with it, the dog and two out of three kittens. It has been a BFD for our family. It has cost us thousands of dollars – not exaggerating. After two months of aggressive treatment our family is mostly clear of it, dog’s culture finally came back negative – he had 3 sores. One of the two kitties is healing well now and fur is growing back. One of the kitties has really struggled with it and when one sore healed another one would pop up. I have been disinfecting the room for over a hour a day for two months in addition to trying to eliminate spores in the rest of house so there is no reinfecting when they return to having run of the house. Praying and working hard to get kitties out of quarentine in time for Christmas. Over time I have added steps to my protocol because the fungus had been so persistent with our kittens. I pulled information from various sources but it takes time to gather info and so far I haven’t found anyone who has had it to the degree that we have. Here’s where we are at now – replaced furnace filters for allergy rated filters and changing them once per month. Increased our hot water temp so that tap water goes above 140 F. Crazy hot. For bleaching plastic toys ten minutes. All clothes and blankets that go in the kitty room get washed with half cup bleach – front load washer. Top load is one cup bleach. We use heavy wash setting to give it extra time to soak in scalding water. Now applying a topical three times a day – not what the vet started us on. The vet had us using an ointment that kept the sores moist. Fungus has to be dried out. Using ringworm products for small cats from Q Based Solutions web site. They also have a disinfectant that is expensive but works as laundry additive and can be diluted for spray bottles. Alternative to bleach that has worked well for us. I have also added it to my carpet cleaner and spray everything. Kitties are now taking probiotics and vitamins every day. My acupuncturist suggested I eat a lot of garlic or take garlic supplement for me and family. Garlic is toxic for cats though. Found a cat vitamin that has 100 mg garlic in it! More than the 20 mg that was in the previous vitamin we were giving. Every night I put all the kittens in separate carriers and move them to another room while I spend an hour and a half disinfecting their kitty room. Replace the litter. Spray all hard surfaces and let it sit for 10 mins minimum then wipe dry with paper towels. Vacuum thoroughly with Dyson. Since quarentine started we have been wearing paper disposable isolation gowns and tossing after each use as well as paper shoe booties and disposable gloves. We put up a fantastic and fancy bird feeder right outside their window so they have a huge variety of birds to watch every day. We spend lots of play time and lovey time with them. They have a radio on during the day and a nightlight when it gets dark. Wheat grass to nibble on that gets replaced every few days. The key – we think – is that the vet put them on oral meds right away but said it had to be one week on and then one week off. Finally we saw a pattern – every time there was a week off oral meds, the fungus seemed to get a foothold again and new sores popped up – in spite of weekly line sulfur dips. Now – finally – I told the vet we cannot do a week off of oral meds or this will NEVER end. Vet agreed and hope is that we will have enough time to get two negative cultures and get them out of quarentine right before Christmas.

    • I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. It’s a LOT of work… even in lighter cases. You are right about the meds, though. We did the topical treatment daily (should have been 2x a day but with 6 kittens it was too much before our work commute), and the internal meds daily for a month. No dipping was needed… we started treatment so early on. *Smiles* We have the same radio-on-a-timer set-up and views of our killer birdfeeder with year round bird bath. Haven’t met a kitty yet who hasn’t loved it. You’re doing a great job… I know it’s exhausting… hang in there.

  17. Thanks so much for your comments and insights. I too am a kitten foster mom. Have been since 2010 and this is our fourth time with ringworm. The first time I was in a total panic now I understand a lot more about it and I’m not taking it quite so personally. It’s nice to know and hear the words of someone else who’s also had to deal with this. It is exhausting and hard on everybody.

    • So, what protocol are you following this time around? I feel like I just can’t freak out anymore about this. All 5 humans (3kids, 2 adults) have it in our house after rescuing 2 kittens. They haven’t shown signs of it yet, but it has to be from them. I’ve been trying to diffuse essential oils that are antifungal. Treating all 5 of us with creams and tea tree oil. Any other ways to relax?

      • It’s strange that the people are showing signs before the kitties. Please seek vet advice on how to proceed – and to verify that what you are dealing with is actually ringworm

  18. Okay…I have a kitten, about 8-9 weeks old now. I call her ringworm, “severe”. Took her and her little sis to the vet. WIthin 1 week the smaller of the two died. She was sickly, but I feel the medication was way too stong, that was given for the ringworm. Since giving it to the other kitten, she has lost the ability to meow, or make any sounds. She has a hard time swallowing, which started about 5 days after starting the oral medication. She quit eating and was really loosing weight. Took her back to the vet, discontinued the medication, started it back seven days after it was stopped. She was only able to take it two days, and got sick just that quick. My experience, thus far, has not been very good, as far as the oral medicine is concerned. The vet never mentioned topical meds. So, are you telling me she is not too small for these. I bathe her, but thought she was too young to use any of the anifungular shampoos on her, let alone any of the topical ointments. She has a really bad case of them, got them from Mom. They did appear to get better with medication, but the risk for her health, otherwise, seems too great. I’m really at a loss here. I love the vet, but he really does not seem all that interested in this one way or another, and has suggested nothing else but the oral medication. I’m just sitting here now thinking, “what in the world have I not been doing, that I should have been doing”. I have been dealing with this about 4-5 weeks now. Right now, the ringworms look like I am back where I started, because I don’t know what to do. Was fixing to start the apple cider vinegar rinse with her. I am sick over this…

    • Tammy, I am so sorry you are going through this – but thank you for caring so much and working so hard for a solution. RIGHT AWAY – please go see another vet. Get a second opinion. I recently changed vets because the one I was using wasn’t listening to me. If I knew what meds we gave our fosters with ringworm, I’d tell you. None of the 6 kittens or mom became ill. They were just regular kittens – only with some fur loss. They were 5-9 weeks of age – because we treated them with a topical cream for 6 weeks and internal meds for a full month. It’s possible that this is something else – or the meds were not right.

    • I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I am not a vet and do not have any medical expertise of any kind – I am just like the other commenters here – sharing my experience. Definitely talk to another vet. We have talked to multiple vets at the animal clinic we go to and some have more experience and knowledge than others. It is possible that your kitten has an underlying health issue which is compromising the immune system. We adopted our three kittens when they were 3 months old and have been aggressively treating ringworm on two of them for 9 weeks. One kitten still has patches of missing fur and bright pink skin even though I feel like I have been doing everything humanly possible to treat him. It is frustrating that there is so much online information to sift through to try to find solutions which I why this blog has been very helpful – people who have experienced it. Our vet said to do lime-sulfur dips once per week for a minimum of 6 weeks. I did the dips myself at home for 4 weeks and then found out that I can bring them to the clinic to have it done. Now I am wondering if we should do the lime sulfur dip twice a week or do an anti-fungal bath every day at home. Should I change the furnace filters again? Is the vacuum somehow re infecting the room even though I spray the bottom with disinfectant and let it sit for 10 minutes before using it? Don’t give up. One of the vets said to think of it like this – infection that happened 2 weeks ago is just appearing now. One thing that everyone agrees on is that it takes time. New at our house – realization that the cat having the most trouble with it seems to groom much more than the other kitty who is healing well right now. Grooming kitty might be licking excessively because it’s itchy or from stress. Or both. I just added a plug in cat pheromone to the room two days ago in the hopes that it will help ease stress. Also working on trying to calm myself down – especially around kitties. Talking to them about how great it will be when they are healed and all the fun things we will be doing when they come out of quarantine. Looked up healing affirmations for pets online which was very helpful to me to focus on positive.

  19. I found this post just after taking in a little orphan kitty. He died in my hands. Along with ringworm, it seems he had Fading Kitten Syndrome. My heart is broken.
    The only thing that’s helped has been reading the comments on this page, I’m so sorry for everyone who’s had to deal with the nightmare that ringworm apparently is- but sooooo grateful that there are so many kindhearted kitty foster parents.
    It’s also made me realize I need a new vet- as yesterday she told me to use the same protocol for ringworm as was used for fleas. Which is just, so wrong! And frankly, terrifyingly awful advice!
    4 resident cats, took in a stray who turned out to be pregnant, she had 4 kittens a month ago. Yesterday a friend messaged me and said she had an orphan kitten, she wanted to see if maybe Ivy would take him. I picked him up (of course) but I saw the hairless patch and he was so weak, so we went right to the vet.
    He didn’t walk anywhere, he couldn’t, as he was terribly ill and only 5 weeks old. I kept him quarantined in a bathroom and stayed there with him syringe feeding.
    I feel so stupid, despite all the reading I’ve done, I have no idea what to do. Do I just shower in bleach? How long is this in the air? I want to hug my other cats so badly, but I feel contaminated and I don’t know what to do 😦

    • My heart breaks reading this. Just know that no matter what – he was loved and cared for by a good person when he passed. You have done a wonderful thing. The world needs more of you. Just breathe.. don’t bathe in bleach or freak out. But clean the room he was quarantined with bleach, working from the top down, and don’t let your cats in there. Not for months. I am not an expert… but please contact a new vet’s office and ask their opinion about how best to protect your own cats given the situation. As I mentioned this post of mine is not meant to be a Q & A – I am not qualified to offer that

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