Fleas are a common skin parasite that affect cats (& dogs), they aren’t fussy about which species they live on or feed off. They can be incredibly uncomfortable for your cat and left untreated they can lead to more serious illnesses.
Will my cat only have fleas in the summer?
It’s a common myth that fleas are only around when the weather is warm, this isn’t necessarily the case. Fleas can be more prevalent in the summer months, but a flea infestation can happen at any time of the year, for example when you switch on your central heating in the colder months. In fact, because flea eggs fall from your pet, they can easily become lodged in carpets and cat beds around the home. The signal to hatch can be when you next turn your heating on.
When and how should I check my cat for fleas?
It’s important to check your cat for fleas all-year round so that you can catch any fleas early, before they have an opportunity to lay too many eggs around your home. It is equally important to ensure that you regularly clean your cat’s beds and any blankets that they love to lounge on.
Check for fleas when you are grooming your cat, depending on the colour of your cat they can be pretty easy to spot, especially if you are able to use a fine-tooth comb. They will tend to be in warmer places such as under the chin, around the neck, in the ‘armpits’ and also under collars if your cat wears one. You might see live fleas or just the ‘flea dirt’ on your pet, be warned fleas are very quick and some can jump 100 times their own body length.
To tell the difference between flea dirt and regular dirt, place some onto a white paper towel and sprinkle a few drops of water onto it. If the speck turns a dark reddish-brown colour, it’s most likely flea dirt.
Does my cat have fleas?
If your cat appears to be spending a lot of time scratching, or licking or biting themselves, then the chances are they have got fleas. Or if you or the rest of the family are experiencing unexplained and itchy bites. Remember though that a cat can have fleas and not be itchy, it just means they haven’t multiplied enough…yet.
Could my cat be allergic to fleas?
Yes, it is not uncommon for cats to be allergic to the saliva in flea bites. If your cat is allergic to flea bites you may notice one or more of the following:
- Over grooming to the extent that there is visible hair loss
- Sore and inflamed skin
- A cluster of small scabs, usually around their neck or the base of their tail
If you believe that your cat is allergic to flea bites, then you should consult your vet who will be able to help.
What’s the best way to treat my cat for fleas?
Flea treatment should be used all-year round to provide your cat with the best protection from fleas. While it is possible to purchase flea treatment and collars over the counter and in many supermarkets, these tend to be older and less effective products, that many fleas are resistant to. The treatment that your vet can prescribe will not only be more effective, it will usually treat other parasites in single treatment too. There are many different options available, talk to your vet about the best option for your cat.
If you have more than one pet, you must treat all pets or you will never get rid of the fleas, they will simply hop back on at the next opportunity. Similarly, you must treat your home too as there could be hundreds of eggs waiting to hatch and find a host at any given opportunity. It is estimated that around 5% of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live on your pet, the other 95% live in the environment. Your vet will be able to discuss effective treatments for around the home and offer advice on ensuring that the fleas are eradicated.
Important: You should never use a flea treatment formulated for dogs on your cat. They often contain permethrin, which is very toxic to cats. Also bear in mind some products are unsafe for kittens.