This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
How can you tell if your cat has fleas?
non-stop scratching..spots showing hair loss..skin irritation..excessive grooming..lethargy and pale gums caused by flea-related anaemia..black speck in the cat’s fur or bedding.
Are cat fleas visible to the human eye?
There are over 2,000 species of fleas, and in the U.S., the cat flea is responsible for nearly all of the fleas found on both cats and dogs. … Most adult fleas are visible to the human eye, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hide. They enjoy living in carpets, bedding, cracks in floors or other hard to reach areas.
Can an indoor cat get fleas?
Yes, your indoor-only cat does have fleas, and here’s how. … It can happen from simply being outdoors, being around other animals, or around any other person who has animals at home (even if they do not have an active flea infestation).
When springtime brings warm weather, you may be visited by some uninvited guests. Fleas become most active when temperatures are favorable (35C and a relative humidity of 70 percent are ideal conditions for flea populations). In parts of the world where winter temperatures fall below this for more than 40 hours per month, households and pets get a bit of a break from flea activity.
The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail may appear red and bumpy, especially if your cat is doing a lot of scratching. Hair loss may occur in certain areas that are being scratched excessively, and there may be black spots on the skin along with scabbing.
As you know, cats like to sleep on top of things like the window sills, kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, so be sure to get up high when examining their favorite haunts. Another method to search for flea dirt in the house is to wear white socks and walk through areas frequented by your pet.
The most common type of flea found on cats is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), but rabbit and hedgehog fleas can also show an interest in your cat! Flea bites are itchy for all cats, and can lead to some developing allergies (known as flea-allergic dermatitis). As if fleas werent pesky enough, they can also provide a thriving environment for certain types of tapeworm, and heavy infestations can cause anaemia in kittens.
If your cat develops a flea allergy they may also have scabs and red, sore areas on their skin. Regularly grooming your cat wont necessarily prevent parasites, but it will at let you have a chance to check their fur for any signs of unwanted visitors, so that you can quickly seek treatment.
You might spot them in your carpet or notice tiny black specks of flea waste in your cats fur during combing. non-stop scratching spots showing hair loss skin irritation excessive grooming lethargy and pale gums caused by flea-related anaemia black speck in the cats fur or bedding But even if your feline is a homebody, parasites such as fleas might have plenty of occasions to land into the luscious fur of your indoor cat.
Getting out of the house Even a quick trip to the vet is enough time to allow a pesky flea to find its way to your indoor pet. But if one of their victims is the host of a few pairs of fleas, they can easily jump ship and infect your cat instead. If youve recently moved in with your cat, take into consideration thoroughly cleaning the place once again, or even contact experts in flea control for a professional service if you think its necessary.
Remember, its very important you speak to your vet before treating your cat, particularly if theyre pregnant or feeding new kittens. However, a pump action spray containing an ingredient called fipronil can be used on very young kittens, which arent allowed to use spot-on treatments. They usually consist of a small vial of liquid which should be applied to the back of your cats neck, killing fleas and sometimes the development of eggs.
Dont use sprays near fish tanks and always make sure your pets are kept away from treated areas until theyve been well-ventilated. These products usually havent undergone any stringent safety tests, so they may not be effective or could potentially affect your cats health.
About this article
To check a cat for fleas, drape a white sheet over your lap and set your cat on it. Then, comb your cat with a flea comb while visually checking for fleas, which are small and brown. Some of them may jump off onto the cloth while others will get stuck in the comb or remain on the cat. Even if you don’t see fleas, check your cat and the cloth for flea eggs and feces, which look like salt and pepper. For advice from our Veterinary reviewer on symptoms and treatments for fleas, read more!
In severe infestations, it’s easy to spot fleas jumping and moving on and off your cat’s body. In less obvious situations, you may notice that your cat is restless and doing more scratching or chewing on certain areas of his body. Shaking the head often and scratching at the ears is another indication of a possible flea infestation in your cat.Excessive and constant licking at the haircoat is another sign of potential fleas, especially in cats. Many cats will even groom the fleas out of the haircoat before you get a chance to see the evidence.
Check the Skin and Haircoat
In order to see actual fleas on your pet, you may have to look fast. Fleas can jump very fast and very high. Fleas are very small (1/16-1/8 in.), flat-bodied insects that are a dark brown, almost black, color. The more blood they ingest the lighter in color they may appear.Turn your cat on his back and check areas that allow fleas to hide. The armpits and groin are two areas that are warm and protected; favored spots for fleas to hide out. Check your cat’s ears carefully for signs of scratching, redness, blood, or dirt. These can all be signs of fleas. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail may appear red and bumpy, especially if your cat is doing a lot of scratching. Hair loss may occur in certain areas that are being scratched excessively, and there may be black spots on the skin along with scabbing.Get a flea comb (a specially made comb with closely set teeth) and run it through the hair on your cat’s back and legs. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas out from under the haircoat where they are hiding. Make sure you get close to the skin when running the comb through the hair so you have a greater chance of getting to where the fleas are hiding out. Have a bowl of soapy water on hand to douse any live fleas into as you find them while combing.One trick that may help you if the fleas are hard to see is to place a white piece of paper or paper towel on the floor next to your pet while coming through his hair. Flea dirt (i.e., flea feces) will fall off of the cat’s skin and land on the paper. One way to differentiate between regular dirt and flea “dirt” is to wet any black specks that fall off the cat onto the white paper towel (using regular water sprinkled on the specks). If they turn a dark reddish-brown color, you are seeing the digested blood that the flea has passed through its body and excreted.
Check the Environment
Fleas don’t just stay on your cat. They can also be found throughout the house and in areas where your cat spends a lot of his time. Closely examine your cat’s feeding area, bedding, and other favorite locations for signs of flea dirt (black specks), or for the fleas themselves. As you know, cats like to sleep on top of things like the window sills, kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, so be sure to get up high when examining their favorite haunts.Another method to search for flea dirt in the house is to wear white socks and walk through areas frequented by your pet. Fleas and/or flea dirt may be picked up by the fibers of the socks and will stand out on the white background.A “light trap” may also help detect the presence of fleas in the household. At night, before turning off all the lights for the night, set a small bowl of water with dishwashing soap near a nightlight on the floor. Fleas will tend to jump toward the light and will fall into the bowl, where they will drown. In the morning, you may find several floating in the water.
Introduction to cat fleas
The most common type of flea found on cats is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), but rabbit and hedgehog fleas can also show an interest in your cat! Flea bites are itchy for all cats, and can lead to some developing allergies (known as flea-allergic dermatitis). As if fleas weren’t pesky enough, they can also provide a thriving environment for certain types of tapeworm, and heavy infestations can cause anaemia in kittens.However there’s no need to worry, as there are a number of different cat flea prevention options for you to look at.
What are cat fleas?
Cats are excellent groomers, so it might be tough to imagine your preened pet catching parasites! The most obvious sign that your cat has fleas is persistent scratching, or sometimes over-grooming, which can result in bald patches on their coat. If your cat develops a flea allergy they may also have scabs and red, sore areas on their skin. Regularly grooming your cat won’t necessarily prevent parasites, but it will at let you have a chance to check their fur for any signs of unwanted visitors, so that you can quickly seek treatment.
What do cat fleas look like?
Cat fleas are dark brown and 1-2mm long. You might spot them in your carpet or notice tiny black specks of flea waste in your cat’s fur during combing. A good way to test for fleas is to put these black specks onto some damp tissue paper – if it is from a flea, the specks will turn red because of the digested blood they contain.Fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, which means late summer is the peak season for fleas on cats, however central heating in the winter means that flea prevention is a must all you round.
Top 7 topical cat flea treatments
There are a wide variety of cat flea treatments available that can be applied directly to onto your cat’s skin and fur to target the fleas where they live on your pet.Powders are a rather old-fashioned and messy way of treating cat fleas, as the powder needs to remain on your cat’s coat to be effective and can cause illness if it’s swallowed or inhaled.Sprays are also used less frequently than they used to be, thanks mainly to the invention of the ‘spot-on’ treatments. The noise of the spray can also upset nervous cats. However, a pump action spray containing an ingredient called fipronil can be used on very young kittens, which aren’t allowed to use spot-on treatments.Flea collars aren’t usually very effective as they have a limited range – that is, they only treat the area around the neck – and can also cause hair loss or irritation. However, there is a new generation of cat flea collars – available from your vet – which are much kinder to your cat’s skin and fur, and work by dispersing the active ingredient through the body rather than simply sitting on your cat’s neck. Remember, all cat flea collars must have a quick-release mechanism, otherwise your cat can get easily tangled.These products are the simplest form of cat flea prevention. They usually consist of a small vial of liquid which should be applied to the back of your cat’s neck, killing fleas and sometimes the development of eggs. There are several brands available, so talk to your vet to find the best one for your cat.As well as topical treatments, you can treat you cat from the inside with medicines. This type of cat flea treatment is something you should consult your vet about.Cat fleas can also be treated orally through tablets and liquids which are absorbed by the cat and then kill or sterilise fleas when they bite.Cats can have an injection in order to prevent flea eggs, but you’ll usually have to use a topical treatment at the same time to totally get rid of the existing cat fleas.
Household flea treatments
Some of the cat flea prevention methods mentioned above are helpful in treating your house as well, as they prevent fleas from laying eggs, or prevent the eggs from developing. However, there are many household sprays available that can be used on carpets and furnishings.Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which will usually tell you to vacuum your carpets to bring cat fleas and eggs to the surface before thoroughly spraying your carpet, and then vacuuming again. Always spray the vacuum cleaner with flea spray and throw away any vacuum bags so that fleas can’t continue to develop inside.Don’t use sprays near fish tanks and always make sure your pets are kept away from treated areas until they’ve been well-ventilated. Unfortunately, very severe infestations in a house may require pest control treatment.