How to Deal With a Botfly Infestation In Your Cat?


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Contrary to popular belief that botflies infest rabbits and rodents, it has come to notice that botflies can latch on to felines if they get a chance. Bot fly infestations can affect cats, and you might notice this when you are stroking your feline friend and suddenly feel a lump. On parting the fur, you see a small hole in the skin with something moving in it. Such a situation is bound to evoke disgust, but you need to consider a botfly infestation. A clear understanding of such an infestation will help you get deeper into the matter.

What are Bot Flies?

Botflies, also called Cuterebra, are commonly found in most parts of North America, particularly in the northeastern region, which is known as the hub spot of botflies. These large, frizzy flies look like bees and lay eggs near the entry point on their host animal’s body. Once the botfly eggs hatch, cuterebra larva emerge in the presence of a potential host nearby, such as a cat. The newly hatched larvae latch onto the cat’s fur and gain entry into its body through any opening like the mouth, nose, or anus, and finally burrow into the skin. This life cycle continues with the larvae migrating through the host’s body, causing various symptoms.

Symptoms of Botfly Larvae Infestation

The symptoms of botfly infestation, also known as feline cuterebriasis or cuterebra infestation, vary depending on the larvae’ location in the cat’s body. Although skin symptoms are common, botflies can have a virulent effect on the central nervous and respiratory systems, and eyes. The symptoms are as follows:

Respiratory Symptoms

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Breathlessness

  • Upper respiratory tract infections

Neurological Symptoms

  • Paralysis

  • Circling

  • Dizziness

  • Neurologic disease

  • Head tilt

  • Neurological manifestations

Eye Symptoms

  • Blindness

  • Lesions

Skin Symptoms

  • Sores and lumps

  • Excessive grooming of the infested region

  • Breathing hole in the skin

  • Warbles in cats

In addition to respiratory infections and neurological signs, secondary bacterial infections can occur due to the open wounds caused by the larvae. Nasal discharge and acute onset of neurological signs can also indicate a severe infestation. A migrating larva can cause lumps and warbles under the skin, often accompanied by a small hole through which a thin, relatively clear liquid drains.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The primary treatment options for botfly infestations include surgically removing the larvae, using anti-parasitic medications, and carefully removing the larvae through extraction. Veterinary medicine emphasizes the importance of prompt and proper care to prevent complications from these parasitic infestations.

A veterinarian usually examines your cat’s respiratory, neurological, eye, and skin symptoms and draws a conclusion. Warbles under the skin are the clearest signs that botflies have infested your cat. Diagnostic tests are essential to confirm the presence of cuterebra larvae. Veterinarians use physical examination, bloodwork, and diagnostic imaging to identify larvae in the cat’s body. However, there is nothing much to worry about because a number of treatment options are available, which are as follows:


A surgical procedure may be employed to remove the botfly larvae from the cat's body. Although helpful, the process may subject your cat to side effects, anesthesia, and intravenous fluids. It also entails a longer recovery time.

Anti-Parasitic Medications

These medications are used to kill the parasitic larvae within your cat's body, particularly in the nervous, respiratory, and other vital organ systems where surgical removal is not possible.


Considered less risky than surgeries, extraction of the larvae does not require the cat to undergo painful procedures. Local anesthesia is used to numb the infested area, and the larva is carefully removed by making an incision.


Corticosteroid medications suppress immune reactions and control inflammation. Although not that effective in removing the larva, these medications can treat nervous and respiratory symptoms.

Immediate veterinary attention is essential if your cat shows symptoms of a botfly infestation. Identifying larvae early and understanding their migration path can help in providing effective treatment. Veterinarians often refer to sources like the Companion Animal Parasite Council and Merck Veterinary Manual for guidance on managing these infestations in cats.

Prevention and Awareness for Outdoor Cats

Botfly infestations can occur year-round but are more common in late summer and early fall. Indoor cats are less likely to be affected, but it is still important to regularly inspect your cat’s fur and skin for any signs of infestation. Educating yourself about the symptoms and treatment options can help ensure your cat’s health and well-being.

  • Keep indoor cats away from outdoor environments where botflies are prevalent, especially during late summer and early fall.

  • Outdoor cats are more susceptible to botfly infestations due to their exposure to botfly eggs in the environment.

  • Regularly inspect your cat’s skin and fur for any signs of larvae or warbles.

  • Immediate veterinary attention is crucial if you notice any symptoms of botfly infestation.

  • Understanding the migration path of the larvae and the life cycle of Cuterebra spp can help in early detection and treatment.

  • Refer to trusted sources like the Companion Animal Parasite Council, Merck Veterinary Manual, and Today’s Veterinary Practice for more information on botfly infestations in cats.

Botfly infestations in cats, particularly cuterebra infestations, require prompt attention and proper treatment. Recognizing the symptoms, understanding the life cycle of the botfly, and seeking immediate veterinary care are crucial steps in managing these infestations. With the right knowledge and care, you can protect your feline friend from the harmful effects of botfly larvae.

What happens if a botfly is not removed from a cat?

Botflies are parasites that can infest a variety of animals, including cats. Cats cuterebra, a condition caused by botfly larvae, occurs when a botfly larva (also known as a “warble”) infests a cat. It burrows under the skin and creates a painful swelling, which can cause discomfort and irritation to the cat. If a botfly is not removed from a cat, it will continue to grow and develop inside the cat’s body. As it grows, it can cause more damage to the surrounding tissue, leading to inflammation and potential infection. In some cases, the larvae can even migrate to other parts of the body, which can lead to more serious health problems.

Can cats survive Botflies?

Prompt veterinary care is important in the management of botfly infestations in cats. With appropriate supportive care and treatment, most cats can recover from botfly infestations within 14-24 days. However, without treatment, botfly infestations can lead to serious complications and even death. In some cases, the larvae can migrate to other parts of the body, causing tissue damage and potentially leading to secondary infections. If the larvae are located near the respiratory system, it can lead to paralysis of the diaphragm, which can be life-threatening.

How do you treat bot flies in cats?

The primary treatment for botfly infestations in cats is to remove the larvae from the cat's body. The veterinarian may use various methods for removal, depending on the location and severity of the infestation. The veterinarian may use forceps to extract the larvae from the skin gently. This method is typically used for larvae that are close to the surface and easy to access. In some cases, surgical removal of the larvae may be necessary, especially if they are located deep within the tissue. The veterinarian may apply an ointment or cream to the affected area, which can suffocate the larvae and cause them to detach from the skin. The veterinarian may administer an injectable medication that can kill the larvae and cause them to detach from the skin. In addition to removing the larvae, the veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics or pain medication to manage any inflammation or infection that may occur.

Are Botflies painful for cats?

Yes, botflies can be painful for cats. When a botfly larva infests a cat, it burrows under the skin and creates a painful swelling, which can cause discomfort and irritation to the cat. The larvae feed on the cat's tissue and can cause inflammation and potential infection. Botfly larvae have spines on their body, which help them anchor themselves inside the host's skin. These spines can make it difficult to remove the larvae, as they can cause pain and further damage to the surrounding tissue if not removed carefully.

Is it painful to get rid of a botfly?

Removing a botfly larva can be painful, especially if the larva is deeply embedded in the skin. The spines on the larva can cause pain and further damage to the surrounding tissue if not removed carefully. However, the pain and discomfort can be minimized by using appropriate techniques and tools for removal. It is not recommended to try to remove botfly larvae yourself, as improper removal techniques can cause more harm to your pet and potentially lead to further complications.

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