All pet owners dread the tick season. Rising temperatures increase the chances of encountering these parasitic pests on your cats and dogs. It is primarily because warm weather offers an ideal environment for fleas to multiply and jump from one unsuspecting cat to another. While they may not always be apparent on your cat, the fleas find ideal hiding places on these quiet pets. Moreover, even indoor-only cats can catch them as well. Fleas on the cat are quick-paced, tiny creatures that run through your cat’s soft fur, feast on the poor pet’s blood, and lead to constant itching. So, if your cat is suffering from fleas then, keep calm and read on to find out all about fleas on cats and how you can get rid of them.
What Are Fleas?
Cats love to remain adequately groomed at all times. Therefore, it is quite hard to imagine that your beloved feline can be home to blood-sucking parasites. However, an itchy flea bite can put your cat in a scratching frenzy.
Cat fleas are usually brown and are about 2mm long. They are easy to spot on your cat’s fur while combing it. You may also catch some on your carpet.
A flea can lay nearly 50 eggs in a day. It goes through the following four stages to become an adult and create havoc on your pet’s body.
The entire lifecycle of a flea takes place on the host animal’s body. It is where they lay their eggs. There is a possibility that some eggs may fall off the cat’s body and land on your carpet or furniture.
In the second stage, the larvae ‘hatchlings’ develop between 7 days to 7 months. During this time, they feed on the feces left by the adult fleas.
In this stage, the larvae surround themselves by spinning cocoons in which they continue to evolve into fully grown fleas. A larva can take up to 12 months to emerge from this stage.
Once the egg has reached the adult stage, it starts feeding on its host and repeats the lifecycle by mating.
Understanding this flea lifecycle is essential to know what you are dealing with. Fleas look for warmth and vibration. Given our current lifestyles where we try and maintain optimum temperatures even in winters, fleas can live all year round. Therefore, it is essential to perform flea control on your pet regularly.
Does My Cat Have Fleas?
You can easily find out if the black spots on your cat are fleas or not. Just place them on a damp paper towel and wait. If they change color to red, then they are fleas. Be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms of fleas on cats to know if your pet is affected or not,
- Persistent scratching is the most obvious sign that your cat is home to these parasites.
- Another common sign is over-grooming. Cats love grooming themselves. However, if you feel that your pet is doing this more frequently and is creating bald patches on their coat, then it may be a flea invasion.
- Scabs, redness, and soreness on the skin are also signs of fleas on cats. This condition will become visible, especially if your cat is allergic to fleas.
How Did My Cat Catch Fleas?
Cats that stay outdoors or step in and out of the house are more susceptible to catching fleas than indoor cats. Most cats pick up fleas outside at groomers to kennels where they interact with other animals. Also, flea eggs can survive on carpets and furniture. Therefore, if previous infestations are not removed entirely, then your cat can catch fleas when it comes in contact with that particular area.
Among all the different kinds of fleas, cat fleas are the worst. They can jump nearly 12 inches between one host to another. Also, cat fleas can bite humans as well. As a pet owner, your ankles and feet are most vulnerable to these parasites.
Common Disease Spread By Fleas
Unfortunately, a flea attack on your cat is not limited to scratching and itching. Because fleas are known to jump from one pet to another, they can transmit a host of diseases in this process. It can severely impact your pet’s health. Some common diseases that are spread by fleas are,
Tapeworms are parasites carried by fleas and are usually found in cats that have been attacked by fleas.
Fleas thrive by sucking blood off your pet’s skin. Therefore, a long-term flea infestation can result in anemia in your cat. If left unchecked, it can prove to be fatal, especially in kittens. The most common symptom in kittens is pale gums. They can indicate possible anemia due to flea infestation and requires a visit to a veterinarian.
Mycoplasma haemofelis is a blood-borne parasite that can be carried by fleas onto your pet’s skin. It can lead to fever, anemia, and severe illness in your pet. Your vet will, most likely, recommend laboratory tests for diagnosis and antibiotics as treatment. However, in severe cases, your pet may require blood transfusion as well.
Getting Rid Of Fleas
Prevention is always better than cure. Cat flea prevention can be done in the following ways.
Periodic Anti-flea Treatment
- A monthly anti-flea treatment can kill any fleas that might have latched onto your pet. For instance, products like Bayer Advantage II can help prevent fleas in cats in all the four stages. A single dose starts working within a day and is effective for nearly a month. Apart from killing existing fleas, it also helps prevent any new fleas from laying eggs, hatching, or sucking your pet’s blood.
- Flea collars are another excellent alternative. Most collars are water-resistant and last for up to 8 months. However, their biggest disadvantage is that these collars only prevent flea infestation around the head and neck areas. The rest of your cat’s body is still vulnerable to flea attacks.
- Flea powder is proven to provide overall protection to your cat. Products like Zodiac are effective in controlling fleas, lice, as well as ticks in your cats.
Make sure you consult your veterinarian before using any anti-flea treatment product. Also, use products that are specific to cure cats. Dog anti-flea products can cause a reaction or a skin rash on your feline pets.
Also, anti-flea treatment must be carried out on your carpets and furniture as well. An anti-flea spray should do the trick.
Hosing down areas in your front and back yards with water is an excellent idea. It can prove to help prevent fleas outdoors, especially in warmer months.
A vacuum is an excellent household cleaning tool to eliminate any fleas or flea eggs that can come in contact with your carpets and furniture. As an additional precaution, you can insert a flea collar into the vacuum bag to get rid of any remaining fleas or hatchlings.
Keep an open eye for ‘flea dirt.’ It is essentially flea droppings that are curly and black. Also, watch out for flea eggs. These are white and look like dandruff.
Getting Rid Of Fleas On Your Cat
Despite taking preventive measures, your cat can contract fleas. Consult a veterinarian and start a flea treatment program.
The best way to kill any fleas on your cat is by giving them a thorough bath in a flea shampoo. However, Don’t overdo the bathing part as the shampoo only begins to work once your pet is out of the batch. And, always use shampoos that are approved for cats.
A bath with flea shampoo must be followed by a fur combing using a flea comb. Dip the comb in warm soapy water after every stroke to remove any fleas or eggs that you may catch.
Flea dips are topical chemical solutions that you apply to your kitty’s body and don’t rinse off. While these are effective, they are not recommended by most veterinarians, primarily because cats can lick and ingest the chemicals.
Your cat’s skin can be very sensitive. Therefore, avoid mixing different treatments as multiple chemicals can harm your feline pets. Also, don’t use chemicals on kittens as they contain strong ingredients.
Getting Rid Of Fleas From Your Home
Vacuum and fogging are good options to get rid of any fleas indoors and outdoors after a confirmed flea infestation. Also, do a load of laundry with all the bedding, including your cat’s bed. Throw in your cat’s toys and blankets as well.
Home Remedies For Cat Fleas
Almost every pet owner goes through multiple flea treatment cycles during their pet’s life. So, there is no need to panic if you find fleas on your cat. While commercial treatments and medications are available to most of us, there is a range of home remedies that you can approach the problem with. These come without any side-effects and keep your environment healthy. Some of the popular flea treatment home remedies include,
Citric is one of the best natural flea killers available to us. Lemon juice is rich in citric acid, which makes it our top natural remedy for flea treatment in cats. Make a solution by boiling a couple of cut lemons for a few hours. Once the solution has cooled down, strain it into a clean spray bottle. Spray the coat of your cat with this lemon solution as often as needed. Make sure that you don’t spray into your kitty’s eyes as it will sting. You can also use a comb dipped in this solution to brush your pet’s hair. It can be a helpful alternative if your cat does not enjoy a spray over its body. Lemon juice also acts as a natural disinfectant. You can simply add a cup to your pet’s laundry and make sure that you get rid of all fleas attached to it.
Common kitchen spices can be added to your cat’s food or used topically to treat and prevent flea infestation. For instance, mixing half a teaspoon of cumin powder in your pet’s food can make their skin unappetizing for fleas to live and breed on.
Similarly, a solution of 1 portion oregano oil and three portions of olive oil can be applied topically on your cat’s tail, stomach, behind the ears, or any place where fleas tend to gather. You can do the same with rosemary powder.
If none of these spices are available, then just mix a little bit of table salt with water and apply this saline solution. Salt tends to dehydrate and kill fleas and their eggs. You can even sprinkle it on affected areas.
Fleas abhor cedar chips. You can surround your cat’s bed with a few of these or scatter them outdoors to ward off fleas. You can also spray cedar oil on your cat’s collar and fur.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Unlike the home remedies mentioned above, apple cider vinegar does not outright kill the fleas or their eggs. However, it can make them jump ship. It is one of the first remedies that you can apply before launching a full-fledged anti-flea treatment. After the application of apple cider vinegar on your kitty’s fur, make sure that you vacuum the floor and clean the furniture to ensure that you are rid of all the fleas.
Chamomile and Lavender
Chamomile is incredibly soothing for your feline pet’s skin, and lavender acts as an excellent agent to combat fleas. Research has shown diluted lavender to be an effective flea treatment agent. It can have results similar to most commercial sprays that are replete with chemicals.
For an effective treatment, steep fresh lavender overnight in water. Follow this is straining it and spraying it on your cat’s coat. Once again, make sure that you avoid your cat’s eyes.
While natural and home remedies are free from any side effects, it is always beneficial to take the opinion of a veterinarian before embarking on any possible treatments.