Warbles in Cats

Warbles in Cats

Warbles, also known as Cuterebra, are fly eggs that manage to get into a cat’s or dog’s system and then migrate through the muscles in order to reach the skin and the outdoor environment.

Warbles are particularly common in the months of July and August in the Northern hemisphere, including in Canada and the United States. The maggots infect a wide range of species, from rabbits and wild rodents to our feline friends.

In today’s article, we are looking at how warbles affect cats, what symptoms they cause, how this infestation can be treated and if there are any ways of preventing it.

What Are Warbles and How Do They Affect Cats?

‘Warble’ is a popular name for the Cuterebra larva, which is known to develop in the tissues of hosts — they can be all types of animals, including cats.

The adult botfly can deposit its eggs in a place that’s commonly frequented by animals (such as pastures, rabbit burrows, or other such spots), making it more possible for these innocent creatures to ingest or inhale the maggots without realizing it.

Another way the maggot can get into your cat’s body is by coming in contact with a body opening — if your pet has a wound that hasn’t been treated, the fly can directly deposit eggs on the surface of the lesion and infest it in this way.

Ironically, the Cuterebra adult fly only survives for about two to three weeks, but it takes just about several days for it to mate and then lay its eggs either in the environment where hosts are most likely to spend time or directly on the hosts’ wounds.

In most cases, cats become infested with the maggot completely by accident since most botfly adults fly around rodent or rabbit burrows.


Sooner or later, the larva will try to create an opening in the cat’s skin which will become larger and larger as the maggot is preparing to leave its host.

Some pet parents aren’t even going to notice the infestation, especially if their cats tend to spend a lot of their time outdoors. While a small lesion might be present, even the cats themselves can rarely pay any attention to it unless the larva becomes particularly active.

When the maggot does leave the cat’s body, it usually leaves behind a cyst that can become infected. It is not normal for the pet’s flesh to be exposed to the outdoors, especially since there are microorganisms that can become pathogenic even in the air — not to mention that other flies can be opportunistic and use the same lesion for laying their eggs, too.

More often than not, the secondary skin infection causes more concern than the Cuterebra infestation per se — especially since the primary purpose of the maggot is to leave its host once it reaches maturity.

Treatment of Warbles in Cats

If you notice a lump on your cat’s skin, you take her to the animal hospital, and the veterinarian discovers that your cat has a Cuterebra larva, the lump can be removed (along with the maggot).

The surgical procedure is typically very simple and requires minimal sedation. Also, most cats tend to recover very quickly — pet parents have to make sure that they minimize the instances where their cats groom that particular area, though, since they carry potentially dangerous bacteria in their mouths and can infect the lesion even after the operation has taken place.

If the warble has already left your cat’s body, your pet will receive treatment for the secondary infection. Broad-spectrum antibiotics can prove their worth in this case, but if your cat’s infection does not seem to be clearing up that easily, your veterinarian can recommend a number of microbiology tests, which will reveal the specific medication that your cat needs to take.

If the hole is large, the vet can clean it for a number of days (while your cat is also undergoing treatment systemically with antibiotics) and then suture it.

Prognosis and Preventing Cuterebriasis in Cats

Most cats have a fairly positive prognosis, especially if the maggot has already migrated and reached the skin and doesn’t seem to have crossed any important organ or tissue.

On the other hand, there are cases where the cat might inhale the egg and its transit through your pet’s body could involve going through some highly innervated areas (the maggot could even cause small nerve damage) — and these are more difficult to treat.

As for warble prevention, the easiest way to make it practically impossible for your cat to come in contact with the botfly is to prevent your pet from going outdoors. It might seem complicated, especially for cats that are already used to living outside, at least in part, but indoor cats are in clearly much better health than their outdoor counterparts.

Treating your cat against external parasites with the product recommended by your vet could prevent warbles as they might not be able to thrive on your cat’s skin — however, if your cat ingests the larvae, she will still become infested.

Can You Get Warbles from Your Cat?

The short answer to this question is no. Once the adult fly escapes your cat’s skin, it will try to find another bot fly to mate with and will target an animal species such as a rodent or a rabbit, and dogs and cats might make possible victims only if they’re available.

The larvae cannot be transmitted by your cat to you. As for the fly itself, it prefers animals and while there are over 70 different species that exist on the planet today, only one seems to prefer humans and it can only be found in warmer climates — in South America.



One Response

  1. Hi, how can I treat a stray cat for warbles when I can’t afford a vet bill? Any home remedies?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Table of Contents