Understanding Why Lyme Disease is Rare in Cats


As a pet owner, you might be curious about why cats, unlike dogs and humans, seldom contract Lyme disease. This tick-borne illness, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, poses a significant threat to many animals, yet cats are notably less susceptible. Gaining insight into this phenomenon can help you better care for your feline companion and appreciate their unique biology and behaviors.


Natural Groomers – One of the primary reasons cats are less likely to get Lyme disease is their fastidious grooming habits. Cats spend a significant portion of their day grooming themselves, which includes removing debris and parasites like ticks. This constant grooming often leads to the removal of ticks before they have a chance to transmit the Lyme disease bacterium.

Lower Exposure – Cats, particularly indoor cats, are generally less exposed to tick-infested environments compared to dogs. Dogs are more likely to roam in areas where ticks are prevalent, such as tall grasses, wooded areas, and parks. In contrast, cats are more likely to stay closer to home and may have limited access to such environments, reducing their risk of tick bites.

Immune System Differences – The feline immune system may also play a role in the lower incidence of Lyme disease. Studies suggest that cats have a different immune response to *Borrelia burgdorferi* compared to dogs and humans. This difference may help cats fend off the bacterium more effectively, preventing the establishment of the disease.

Tick Preferences – Ticks have host preferences, and certain types of ticks are more likely to bite dogs and humans than cats. While cats can still be bitten by ticks, the species that are most efficient at transmitting Lyme disease may not prefer cats as hosts. This preference reduces the likelihood of cats being bitten by ticks that carry *Borrelia burgdorferi*.

Symptoms Often Go Unnoticed – Even when cats are infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, they often do not show symptoms. This asymptomatic nature means that the disease goes unnoticed and unreported more frequently in cats than in dogs or humans. The absence of noticeable symptoms does not mean that cats are immune, but rather that they handle the infection differently.

Prevention is Still Key – While the risk of Lyme disease in cats is low, prevention is still important, especially for outdoor cats. Here are some tips to keep your cat safe:

  1. Tick Prevention Products: Utilize veterinarian-recommended tick prevention treatments specifically formulated for cats, such as topical treatments, collars, or oral medications.
  2. Regular Grooming Checks: Frequently inspect your cat for ticks, especially after outdoor activities. Pay close attention to areas like the neck, ears, and between the toes where ticks commonly hide.
  3. Environmental Management: Keep your yard tick-free by maintaining short grass and removing leaf litter where ticks can thrive. Establishing a tick-safe zone can greatly reduce the risk of tick bites.
  4. Stay Informed: Ensure regular veterinary check-ups and stay updated on tick prevalence in your region. Your veterinarian can offer the best advice based on your cat’s lifestyle and risk factors.

Cats’ unique behaviors, biology, and lower exposure to tick habitats contribute to the uncommon occurrence of Lyme disease in felines. Their grooming habits, immune response, and the preferences of ticks themselves all play a role in protecting cats from this tick-borne illness. However, vigilance and preventive measures are still essential to ensure your cat’s health and safety. If you have any concerns or need guidance on tick prevention, don’t hesitate to contact us.