Felicola subrostratus (Burmeister, 1839) Ewing, 1929

(Figures 5-40 through 5-43)


ETYMOLOGY:Feli = cat and cola = tiller along with subrostratus = under beak

SYNONYMS:Trichodectessubrostratus Burmeister, 1839; Felicinasubrostratus (Burmeister, 1939) Bedford (1929); Bedfordiahelogale (Bedford, 1932) Kéler (1939).

HISTORY: This louse has long been known to occur on cats. Lyal (1985) divided the genus Felicola into two genera Felicola (containing the subgenera Felicola and Suricatoecus) and Loriscola (containing the subgenerra Loriscola and Paradoxuroecus). Timm and Price (1994) felt that the characters seprarating Felicola and Loriscola were not sufficient for the differentiation of genera, and considered all four subgenera within the single genus Felicola. There are 55 species within the genus Felicola, and within the four subgenera, Felicola, Suricatoecus, Loriscola, and Paradoxuroecus are 18, 11, 13, and 13 species, respectively. Of these 55 species, 48 are from hosts of the families Felidae, Herpestidae, and Viverridae, 5 are from the Canidae, and 1 is from the Lorisidae (Primates).

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION:Feliscolasubrostratus is within the subgenus Feliscola. Interestingly, the other 11 species of Felicola reported from the family Felidae, man of which are from the Americas, are in the subgenus Loriscola. It is believed that as the domestic cat was transported out of northern Africa where it originated, and taken along with the cat were the Felicolasubrostratus associated with it. Thus, Felicolasubrostratus is found throughout the world. Infections with this louse are not common in cats, but are present in the cat population. Infested cats have been observed in Europe (Trotti et al., 1990), Asia (Shanta et al., 1980); Philippines (Eduardo et al., 1977) Australia (Coman et al., 1981), South America (Santa Cruz & Lombardero, 1987)), and North America.

LOCATION IN HOST: The lice live on the fur of the cat (Fig 5-40). The eggs or nits are glued by the female to the hair shaft (Fig 5-41).

IDENTIFICATION:Felicolasubrostratus on cats is readily identified by the shape of the head (Figs. 4-42 & 5-43). As described by Ewing (1929) in his designation of the genus: "In this genus the forhead is trangular, the sides converging in a straight line from the bases of the antennae to the borders of the very narrow hair-groove at the apex.” If one is collecting lice from a non-domestic felid, it is highly likely that the species involved is not Felicolasubrostratus, and reference should be made to the key of Emerson and Price (1983) for Felicola spp. from the Americas and to Timm and Price (1994). Pérez-Jiménez et al. review some of the Felicola from from European hosts.

LIFE CYCLE: The biology of Felicolasubrostratus is very poorly known. The female glues her operculate eggs to the hair of her feline host. After several hours to days, the eggs hatch giving birth to a nymphal lice that feed and molt in several days. After probably two to three weeks, the adults will again be present, and a couple of days after insemination, the female will again lay eggs. It is not known how long the adults will live. If one observed the live adult lice, they hold onto the hair with their mandibles and are capable of rapid movement along the hair shaft using their legs for propulsion. It is presumed that thier only significant source of food is epidermal debris. Only two Mallophaga are known to ingest blood: Tichodectescanis of the dog (Bouvier, 1945) and Fulicaameriana a louse of birds (Bartlett and Anderson, 1989).

CLINICAL SIGNS AND PATHOGENESIS: Few clinical signs have been described in cats with infestations of Felicolasubrostratus. Debilitated cats can develop large numbers of lice if they loose the ability to groom.

DIAGNOSIS: The lice and nits are easily visible on the fur of the cat. For certain identification, the louse can be placed on a microscope slide and the triangular head observed. If only the eggs are present, they will be conspiculously operculate when examined under the microscope.

With lice, fleas, and mites in cats, it is not uncommon to find the suticular remains of the arthropod in the feces of the feline host. As cats groom, the ingest the arthropod, adn the cuticle is not digested. Thus, it is often that the infestation with one of these ectoparasites is actually detected by the performance of a fecal flotation, especially when a centrifugal sugar flotation method is used.

TREATMENT: Lice on cats are easily treated with most pyrethrin-based powders, sprays, or foams.

EPIZOOTIOLOGY: Very little is knwon about the epizootiology of this parasite. It is suspected that the infestation will be more comon in the winter than in the summer, but this may be an unwarranted suppostition.

HAZARDS TO OTHER ANIMALS: The species of Felicola seem highly host specific (Timm and Price, 1994). Thus, it is expected that the many species on wild Felidae will not be found on the domestic cat. It is possible that Felicola can infest other felines, but how commonly this occurs is not known.

HAZARDS TO HUMANS: It does not appear that these lice will bite humans.

CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Mainly by prevention of contact with infested cats. It is also important that cats be isolated for a period of time and treated with an ectoparasiticide before they are admitted to a cattery.


Bartlett CM, Anderson. 1989. Mallophaga vectors and the avian filaroids: new subspecies of Pelecitusfulicaeatrae (Nematoda: Filaroidea) in sympatric North American hosts, with development, epizootiology, and pathogenesis of the parasite in Fulicaamericana. Can J Zool 67:2821-2833.

Bouvier G. 1945. Die l’hématologie de quelques Mallophages des animaux domestiques. Schweiz Arch Tierheilk 87:429-434.

Coman BJ, Jones EH, Driesen MA. 1981. Helminth parasites and arthropods of feral cats. Austral Vet J 57:324-327.

Eduardo SL, Celo EM, Tongson MS, Manuel MF. 1977. Felicolasubrostratus (Nitzsch) (Mallophaga: Trichodectidae) from a native cat - a Philippine record. Philipp J Vet Med16:69-71.

Emerson KC, Price RD. 1983. A review of the Felicolafelis complex (Mallophaga: Trichodectidae) found on New World cats (Carnivora: Felidae). Proc Entomol Soc Wash 85:1-9.

Ewing HE. 1929. A Manual of Exernal Parasites. CC Thomas, Sprinfield, IL, pp120-123.

Lyal CHC. 1985. A cladistic analysis and classification of trichodectid mammal lice (Phthiraptera: Ischnocera). Bull Brit Mus (Nat Hist) 51:187-346.

Santa Cruz AM, Lombardero OJ. 1987. Resultatos parasitologicos de 50 necropsias de gatos de la ciudad de Corrientes. Vet Arg 4:735-739.

Shanta CS, Wan SP, Kwong KH. 1980. A survey of the endo- and ectoparaties of cats in and around Ipoh, West Malaysia. Malay Vet J 7:17-27.

Timm RM, Price RD. 1994. A new species of Felicola (Phthiraptera: Trichodectidae) from a Costa Rican jaguar, Panterha onca (Carnivora: Felidae). Proc Biol Soc Wash 107:114-118.

Trotti GC, Corradini L, Visconti S. 1990. Parasitological investigation in a cattery in Ferrara. Parassitologia 32:42-43.

Figure 5-40. Felicolasubrostratus. Tail of a cat that initially appeared to have dandruff.

Figure 5-41. Felicolasubrostratus. Eggs glued to hair of an infested cat.

Figure 5-42. Felicolasubrostratus. Several adult lice recovered from an infested cat; the triangular shaped head is obvious.

Figure 5-43. Felicolasubrostratus. An adult clinging to the hair of a cat by its chelicerae. The mouthparts and the legs are exquisitely shaped for moving along the hair shaft.