We all know how annoying an itch can get. Now imagine your feline friend experiencing the same or even higher amount of irritation but still not being able to convey their predicament easily. Wouldn’t you then want to get to the root cause of it and prevent it for the betterment of your pet?
Itches on animals can be caused by various reasons, and one of the most common is a flea infestation.
1. What are Fleas?
Fleas, a common name for Siphonaptera, are tiny, flightless insects that live as parasitic organisms on mammals and birds. Since they lack wings, their rear legs are exceptionally suited for jumping and can jump over 50 times their body’s length. These irritating parasites feed on animal or human blood for survival.
Adult fleas have flattened, compressed bodies and are reddish-brown in appearance. Fleas produce partially digested blood, often known as flea dirt, which flea larvae feed on as they grow. While their claws prevent them from moving, their mouth parts are designed for puncturing skin and sucking out blood.
2. How Do Cats Get Fleas?
The female flea lays eggs that fall off and develop into larvae. These flea eggs are found in the environment. Until they develop into pupae, the larvae consume organic waste. The pupae may lay dormant for many weeks to several months, waiting for the right environment prior to hatching into adults. Once the hatching is done, adult fleas attach themselves to host animals like cats and dogs.
Cats pick up fleas when they are exposed to an environment that is infested by fleas. Cats are at risk of fleas while spending time outdoors, at groomers, or in kennels. In most cases, an indoor cat is less likely to pick up fleas than most cats that go out often.
Newly developing adult fleas in your home or yard are the main source of cat fleas. Homes with rugs and heated floors offer the perfect environment for fleas to thrive all year. In the parts of the home where pets spend the most time, including the cat’s bedding and furniture, the highest concentration of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae can be found.
Cat fleas are known as Ctenocephalides felis and can jump up to 12 inches, feed on cats, and lay eggs in their fur. Moreover, these eggs might fall off the cat and onto the floors, carpets, furniture, or other areas, develop into adult fleas, and bite humans too. Therefore, it is best to try to get rid of fleas as soon as possible.
3. Symptoms of Fleas on Cats?
Bites and dirts from fleas can often times lead to cat scratch disease and a umpteen of other symptoms. Listed below are symptoms of some of the most common cat flea infection:
- Your cats are often spotted scratching their ears and heads because of irritated skin.
- when their paws can’t get there, they bite at skin and fur.
- licking, especially on the bottom and in the area between the legs.
- red rashes on the skin
- fur loss due to an allergic reaction or due to scratching and itching, especially on the top of the back
- black specks on the skin
- top side of the body covered in scabs
However, if your cat is not allergic to flea saliva, it might not show any of the symptoms listed above. In such cases, it is important to regularly check for fleas on cats using a flea comb and kill fleas if any are spotted.
4. Effects of Fleas on Cats
The effects and symptoms of cat fleas go hand in hand. Flea bites can make cats itchy and make them nibble and lick constantly, which may lead to noticeable patches of hair loss. It can also lead to visible red rashes and skin irritation. Since fleas feed on cats’ blood, it can cause anemia, weakness, and even spread tapeworm infection. Even a single flea hiding under your cat’s fur can grow into a large infestation in no time.
If cats are bitten by fleas regularly, they tend to become allergic to the bites. Allergic cats obsessively groom or scratch themselves, and as a result of this self-induced pain, they frequently develop skin infections. At the tip of the tail, lesions are most prevalent.
Adult fleas are blood-feeding parasites that live on cats or other animals. If a kitten or an elderly or disabled cat is infested with a lot of fleas, it can experience considerable blood loss and develop anemia.
A certain kind of tapeworm uses fleas as an intermediary host. Now, if the cat nibbles on these fleas and ingests them, it is more likely to be suffering from a tapeworm infection.
5. How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats?
If you see any signs of a flea infestation, then contact your veterinarian promptly to help with the cat flea treatment process.
Given below are also some flea control products that might help with flea treatment.
5.1. Manual Flea Removal
The first and foremost step to getting rid of fleas on cats is to remove fleas and kill adult fleas. Among other cat flea treatments, this method is the quickest way to prevent fleas.
This step will be broken down into two steps; follow them carefully:
5.1.1. Step One
If you spot fleas, flea eggs, or flea feces on your cat, the first thing you want to do is bathe your cat and comb off the fleas with the help of a fine-tooth flea comb. Use a flea shampoo and bathe your cat. If your cat is not fond of baths, then you can use a spray bottle to wet the fur.
5.1.2 Step Two
Once you’re done bathing or wetting your cat, the next step would be to comb off the fleas. Run a flea comb through your cat’s fur. The trapped fleas should be put in warm water mixed with dish soap. Repeat this process until you remove as many fleas as possible.
5.2. Spot on Flea Treatments
Cat flea treatments, known as “spot-on flea treatments” are a medicated liquid that is applied to the back of your cat’s neck and helps get rid of fleas on cats. A significant amount of these drugs is injected into your cat’s body once a month to safeguard it against parasites, including ticks and fleas.
Although these spot on treatments don’t require a prescription, it would be wise of you to consult your vet immediately before treating your pet with new veterinary medicine.
Make sure to carefully adhere to the directions on the specific label of the product to ensure appropriate dosage and application. And after you apply the medicine, keep a watch on your cat and make sure they stay away from other cats or other pets in the house. Also, make sure they don’t rub the medication off.
5.3. Use Oral Medicine
Using oral pills or medicine to treat cats for fleas is another quick method for flea control. Within 30 minutes of taking the pill, nitenpyram kills adult fleas on your cat. In contrast, these remedies do not work for a very long time and may need to be repeated if your cat contracts fleas again.
Yet another fast-acting alternative that helps remove fleas before they lay eggs and cause new infestations are chewables with the active ingredient spinosad. Apart from preventing fleas, these chewables offer a full month of flea protection.
5.4. Make Use of Sprays, Shampoos and Powders
Powders, shampoos, and sprays are additional flea preventative measures that are available for purchase at pet supply stores. However, it is warned that they don’t offer permanent coverage to address the hatching eggs and aren’t always effective.
Owing to its ineffectiveness, it is advised that you use prescription drugs prescribed by your vet that have a quick flea control effect.
5.5. Use Flea Collars
Using a flea collar is a simple alternative for getting rid of fleas. Chemicals are used in insecticidal flea collars to repel fleas. However, they don’t always work and can irritate your cat’s skin.
If you’re not sure if this course of action is best for your cat, consult a veterinarian who can help you assess the benefits and drawbacks.
5.6. Natural Remedies
Some of the natural or homemade chemical-free ways to get rid of fleas on cats are using essential oils, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, spraying lemon juice, rosemary, cumin, spreading cedar chips, and dish soap.
However, it is important to note that fleas have gotten tougher over time, and these remedies have proven to be insufficient to get rid of fleas on cats.
As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” Preventing fleas from developing is the simplest way to get rid of fleas. Given that fleas are considerably easier to avoid than eradicate, the majority of veterinarians advise year-round flea prophylaxis for all cats and dogs.
Some of the ways to prevent fleas are:
- Limiting your cat’s interactions with stray animals
- using flea repellents throughout the year
- Regularly checking your cats for fleas.
- frequent brushing and bathing of your cats
Another key method to prevent fleas or prevent future infestations of fleas could be by treating your home. To prevent re-infestation, a thorough cleaning of the house is mandatory. You must take similar steps to deal with lice, bed bugs, or other pests if you want to get rid of fleas from your home.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you do the following:
- Thoroughly vacuuming your house several times a week, focusing on floors, furniture, nooks and crannies around the cabinet, and places and objects that your cat goes to.
- Seal and discard the dirt extracted from the vacuum bag.
- To eliminate any remaining fleas, steam clean your carpets.
- Launder the cat’s bedding every two weeks to help kill adult fleas and kill flea eggs and larvae by dehydrating them.
Minimize the density of the bush and cut the grass in areas where fleas would want to hide. To keep the bothersome pests away, consider using outdoor flea prevention treatments in your yard.
Additionally, you can treat your house with insecticides. The most efficient ones come with substances like permethrin, imidacloprid, or dinotefuran that help kill fleas, and “insect growth regulators” like methoprene or pyriproxyfen that stop the development of eggs and larvae.
After treatment, it’s common to find more adult fleas, but if you keep vacuuming, the infestation can end without a second application.
Therefore, to bring this article to a conclusion, we can observe that although fleas are not usually fatal, they can infect both humans and animals with diseases. Fleas not only make your cat uncomfortable, but they also feed on blood, which can result in anemia. As a result of their frequent scratching, they can even spread tapeworms.
The best way to avoid a flea infestation would be to get rid of fleas from your cats and the rest of your home.
Fleas-infested cats excessively scratch and groom themselves and have what is described as a “salt and pepper”-like look on their fur.
Luckily, there are numerous treatments available, to treat and eliminate future flea infestations, including oral medications, collars, and spot-on treatments. It is also essential to see your veterinarian as soon as you find fleas on your cat since certain cat flea treatments require a prescription from a veterinarian.
Year-round prophylaxis is crucial for getting rid of fleas and keeping them away, especially for cats who have a history of having fleas. Additionally, vacuuming and cleaning your house regularly would be the best precaution to prevent fleas from cats.