I think my cat is transferring chiggers to me

rawlins02

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Lexi and I moved to southern Delaware in December. In early June I started getting intensely itchy red spots. A new one or two every few days. They each itch for 3-10 days. Some for weeks. I suspected chiggers. Our fenced back yard has a lot of tall grasses and flowering plants. I placed a piece of black cardboard in one area, and after 30 minutes saw tiny pink dots crawling along it. I strongly suspect chiggers.

Over the past few weeks I've avoided walking in suspected areas. Wondering if she's transferring them to me. I've avoided letting Lexi rub against me for the past few weeks. When I do lately, I immediately use shower head to scrub my legs. I've spread diatomaceous earth in areas of high grass. This seems to be working. She's on Revolution Plus and is not scratching any more than usual. In the past two days I've gotten two new bites. Articles online (I've read dozens) says go to a dermatologist, but it's a five month wait here. We have an appointment to get established at a new vet in early October. We drove an hour in May to see one. This area is severely undeserved for any kind of care.

Lexi screams if she can't go out and chase crickets. She spends most of the day lounging close to the deck and back door. She's very content. I'm losing my mind, not having slept well in over 2 months. A living nightmare.

Any thoughts?
 

cmshap

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From what I understand, chiggers are not like, say, fleas, in that they are not contagious and spread between hosts. That's not how their life cycle works.

When chigger larvae are transferred to a host from tall grass, they remain exclusively on that host for several days, then drop off to transform into adults. The adults need to live in soil and grasses (they overwinter in soil and emerge in spring to lay eggs).

This is unlike fleas, which lay eggs on/near hosts, and can thrive around multiple hosts for their entire life cycles. They also don't overwinter like chiggers, and mostly die off in winter if outside (hence, they thrive by opportunistically finding any and all hosts that come near).

If you've had chiggers on your skin, it's highly unlikely they came from your cat. Even if your cat makes physical contact with you. If your cat has chiggers, the larvae are feeding on your cat's skin, and staying there, until they are ready to drop off to become adults, at which point they are done feeding on all hosts.

If any larvae drop off inside your home post-engorgement, they are likely dying there, and any adults inside your home are very likely not mating there. Their natural environment post-larval-stage is outside in the soil and grass, where all the other adults are for mating. And that's where all the egg-laying happens.

As far as treatment for chiggers, I have no idea. I do know that tick/flea treatments are supposed to also treat for chiggers, but I have never had a cat that went outside, so I can't speak to this at all.

Edit to add some links for further reading:

https://extension.okstate.edu/progr...gers-harvest-mites-or-red-bugs-trombicula-sp/

https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Chiggers
 
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rawlins02

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Thanks. What you wrote is consistent with the dozens of articles I've read. I'm wondering if chiggers are being transferred from her coat to me. I've kept a log, and I've had around thirty or so individual red welts since June that look just like chigger bites. In fact, for the first several weeks, the vast majority of the itchy red marks were on my right leg. When I prepared her meals, she'd rub just that leg as I stood next to the kitchen counter. That's how I developed this hypothesis. If that's not happening, then I'm at a loss. Perhaps I should eat, sleep and work in my shower stall until I figure this out.
 
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Kris107

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Is there any chance it's just a rash? For instance, I occasionally get a rash that is a few itchy bumps on my limbs (mostly) with no real pattern or apparent cause. Almost like tiny little random mosquito bites.
 

cmshap

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Thanks. What you wrote is consistent with what I've read. I'm wondering if chiggers are going from her coat to me. If that's not happening, then I'm at a loss.
I know you said you've been avoiding walking in tall grassy areas, but the fact is you are going outside in an area with chiggers (I think you definitely confirmed this with your cardboard test). There are probably hundreds of thousands of tiny individual larvae out there during the warmer months, waiting for a host to walk by.

The simplest explanation is you picked some up while being outside. Whether you avoided walking directly in tall grass or not. That's what it sounds like to me, anyway, even if you are an extremely careful, hygienic person.

Or, they could not actually be chigger bites. I think you will know for sure if they disappear completely once the weather gets colder.

However, I am highly skeptical of your cat transferring chigger larvae to you. They stick to one host because that is how they survive their larval stage of their life cycle. It is possible that this could happen once or twice by sheer chance (like, say, a chigger has just crawled onto your cat's fur, and before it has a chance to find your cat's skin, gets brushed off by chance onto your skin). But this is not something chigger larvae do behaviorally, so if this did happen to you once or twice by chance, it wouldn't be a recurring event.
 
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rawlins02

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Yes I suppose it could be a rash. But the locations are consist with chiggers; where clothing fits tight. And I saw them in the grasses in my back yard. I've had few to no itchy spots after I changes behaviors, like limiting kitty rubbing against me, showering frequently, and after after applying diatomaceous earth in suspect areas. Awful that I can't see a dermatologist.
 
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rawlins02

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Thanks cmshap. I was on a research trip in Alaska the first week of August. Got one mosquito bite there, but none of these insanely itchy spots.

Will post again when I know more. Sorry, I seem to have forgotten how to add quotes to my reply.
 

cmshap

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Can you mow your yard, or part of it?

It sounds like your cat may enjoy the tall grass. Even if you were to mow some of your yard, while leaving a certain portion longer, that would reduce the number of chiggers out there.
 
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rawlins02

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I've been mowing areas of grass, with mower on lowest setting, for several weeks. Expert advice say that chiggers do not populate areas of low grass. Yes, I do believe I'm reducing their abundance. And yes Lexi is going into the tall grass/vegetation areas, particularly over the past few weeks as the grasses and plants have grown taller. When outside I almost always stay on the gravel paths. I never go near suspected chigger areas. I believe chiggers will not populate gravel. Also, my back yard is not full sun. It has much shade. But there are some small areas right now, adjacent to tall stuff, where the grass is 2-3" high, and wet lately due to high humidity. I plan to mow those areas today, then spread more diatomaceous earth. All my neighbors opt for pesticides. I won't, unless I confirm chiggers next year, and after transforming the property to rid it of unwanted vegetation.

Here's a test I'm considering: I'll stop going outside anywhere near there, while letting Lexi rub against me at will after she's been in suspect areas. This should confirm or refute the transfer hypothesis. Later today I'll put more black cardboard in areas of high vegetation. Considering using a hazmat suit.
 
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rawlins02

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Question for the group: Raise your hand if you have chigger habitat or your property and/or have seen them, your cat goes into those areas, and it vigorously rubs against your bare legs multiple times every day.
 

cmshap

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Here's a test I'm considering: I'll stop going outside anywhere near there, while letting Lexi rub against me at will after she's been in suspect areas. This should confirm or refute the transfer hypothesis.
I'm not sure that confirms anything, unless (A) you are certain you are getting chigger bites, (B) you are certain your cat is picking them up, and (C) you are certain you are not picking them up.

I think a vet has to make a diagnosis of chiggers on a cat or dog, because they aren't something you can easily see like fleas. But if your cat is picking up chiggers and they are surviving, then her medication isn't doing the trick to prevent against them.

Chiggers lay eggs in soil and under things, like logs, rocks, and yes, gravel is within the realm of possibility, depending on what's underneath it. You are just more likely to get them walking through taller grass in a heavily populated area.

Maybe consider getting your cat checked for them if you are this convinced she is spreading them to you. If she is picking them up, she is bound to have bites herself... and more bites than you.

I am not an expert or an entomologist. I just grew up in a household where it was an interest area (my dad was an entomologist and I read a lot about bugs for my own interest). The scientific consensus from people who are experts says that chiggers are not contagious, and are not spread from person to person, or from pet to person. I don't have any direct experience, but that's what all the sources say.
 

di and bob

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I, too, don't think your cat is transferring them to you. Any time at all you go outside they will find you. They find me even in short grass. They may be grass mites. Those are so small you can't hardly see them. They look like specks of dust and are usually red. I would suggest getting a good insecticide and spray all your property with a hose-end sprayer. Keep the cat inside until it is dried. Most are safe after dried, make sure you get one that says so. That would kill them and keep you all safe. You could apply a good bug repellent to yourself, especially your legs, that would keep them away too. This year is especially bad, everytime I go outside lately I get itchy spots, it must be grass mites. Not to mention the hordes of mosquitos!
 
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rawlins02

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I, too, don't think your cat is transferring them to you. Any time at all you go outside they will find you. They find me even in short grass. They may be grass mites. Those are so small you can't hardly see them. They look like specks of dust and are usually red. I would suggest getting a good insecticide and spray all your property with a hose-end sprayer. Keep the cat inside until it is dried. Most are safe after dried, make sure you get one that says so. That would kill them and keep you all safe. You could apply a good bug repellent to yourself, especially your legs, that would keep them away too. This year is especially bad, everytime I go outside lately I get itchy spots, it must be grass mites. Not to mention the hordes of mosquitos!
A search online returned a few articles that said grass mites don't bite humans. A few other said they do. Gah!

Will table the transfer hypothesis, and ask previous vet and new vet for their opinion.

I've been reluctant to reach for an insecticide without a clear identification of a culprit. Kills too many good things. A landscaper told me that birds will disappear. I know they are considered safe after dry. My next door neighbor offered to help. I told him I prefer to do landscape overhaul first, then spray. Bug repellent on me would need to be pet safe, since my cat rubs my legs anytime she's near me. She's confused and anxious lately that I've been nudging her away with my foot.

I think I'll manage OK until cold weather sets in, then transform the landscape. Will napalm the yard if this happens again next summer. Or sell and move.
 
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rawlins02

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I'm not sure that confirms anything, unless (A) you are certain you are getting chigger bites, (B) you are certain your cat is picking them up, and (C) you are certain you are not picking them up.

I think a vet has to make a diagnosis of chiggers on a cat or dog, because they aren't something you can easily see like fleas.
On second thought, you are probably right. Does not confirm anything. But I'm inclined to think it would provide more clues.

We're looking forward to seeing new vet in October. The manager there said we could get on cancellation list if needed.

Thanks for your insights. Curiosity about these things is great!
 

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It has been hot and very humid in my area and we recently had the tropical storm. My cats are indoor only and fleas have been a problem this year, but we have fought them using various products, wlth one cat being given Capstar as a back up measure. However, for the last week and a half I have been housesitting my neighbors dog. He is directly across the street, but has very different landscaping than I do with a certain amount of intentional taller grass in his backyard. The dog is well cared for, and appears to be meticulously clean.

After day one of playing in the backyard with the dog, I turned into one big welt. Nothing improved. Two days ago they returned home and I’ve already noticed a massive improvement. In the course of all this, I happened to see one of my doctors, not a dermatologist, but who noticed all of the bites all over me. She suggested something like chiggers or other microscopic type mites. The other interesting part of this is that, despite the fact that there has been a flea problem with the cats, my husband has absolutely no bites on him whatsoever, and he never went over to the neighbors property at any point.

this probably doesn’t help you at all, but just to let you know you’re not the only one who feels like living in the shower.
 
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rawlins02

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[snip]

this probably doesn’t help you at all, but just to let you know you’re not the only one who feels like living in the shower.
Empathy is a fantastic, enlightening, and phenomenal superpower. Many thanks.
 

di and bob

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I dont know what those things are that bite me but they are microsopic and red. They live in the grass, ive always called them grass mites.
Spray your yard in the afternoon. Most beneficial insects come out early in the morning. If you wont spray, apply a safe repellent on yourself. Chiggers burrow in your skin and last for weeks if not months. They are nasty.
 

cmshap

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Chiggers burrow in your skin and last for weeks if not months. They are nasty.
That's a common misconception that has turned into a myth about chiggers.

They do not burrow into the skin. They remain on the surface for a few days while they feed, then drop off.

While feeding, they pierce the skin with their mouthparts, inject a digestive enzyme that breaks down skin cells, and suck up the slurry. They do this for 3-4 days, then they leave. The bite does not start to itch or swell until after they have dropped off.

 
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