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Cat Fleas

Nov 4, 2011 · Updated Nov 11, 2013 · ·
  1. Anne
    Fleas - if your cat ever goes outdoors or comes in contact with animals that do, you are probably familiar with these pests. Given the right conditions, these tiny brownish insects can quickly multiply and turn into a horrible infestation.

    Many cats are allergic to fleas. For them, even a single fleabite can trigger an acute response of dermatitis. For cats that are not allergic, fleas can be just plain itchy and irritating and also a source of tapeworm infection.

    Kittens and sick cats are particularly vulnerable to fleas. Left untreated, hordes of fleas have been known to cause severe anemia in kittens and even death.

    Know the Enemy

    Fleas are small parasitic insects that feed on blood. There are dozens of species of fleas, each adapted to a particular host. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common type found in modern homes. The cat being their preferred host, these fleas can also suck blood from humans, dogs and other animals.

    The flea's life-cycle consists of four stages. An adult female flea lays several thousand eggs in her lifetime at a rate of as many as 50 eggs a day. Eggs usually fall off the host and then hatch into larvae.

    Flea larvae prefer warm dark places, such as carpets and soft furnishing, where they feed on flea droppings for several days. Then they weave a small cocoon where they turn into adult fleas.

    The adult flea can lay dormant in its cocoon for many weeks, waiting for a potential host to pass by. Triggered by heat, movement and exhaled carbon dioxide, they come out of their tiny silky shells and jump onto a passing animal or person.


    It can be hard to tell whether or not your cat carries fleas. These insects prefer to be in dark places and hide deep inside the cat's coat. If you part your cat's hair, you may just glimpse a flea as it scurries away into safety. What you are more likely to notice are tiny black specs - easier to spot on white cats. Wipe those black specs with a wet tissue and note how they turn into small red dots. These are in fact fleas feces made out of dry digested blood.

    Treating the Problem

    The fleas that are actually on the cat represent only a fraction of the flea population present in the house, so treatment must include the surroundings as well as the cat.

    Regularly vacuum your house, giving particular attention to carpets and upholstery. Because vibrations trigger fleas to come out of their cocoons, they often come alive right after vacuuming, while inside the vacuum bag. To prevent them from returning to your home, make sure the bag is sealed and quickly disposed of.

    If you have a major flea infestation you should consult a professional exterminator and treat the house with special anti-flea products. Make sure you use only products that are not toxic to cats.

    As for treating your cat, there are several good products on the market that are very safe and effective. Available from your vet, these products can be used orally (Program) or topically Advantage Flea Control For Cats or Frontline Plus Flea And Tick Control to inhibit various stages of the fleas' life cycle. There are other products in the form of drops, sprays, collars and shampoos that can be used to fight fleas. While cheaper and available over the counter, many of these are either not safe enough or simply ineffective.


    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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  1. CaptainKirk
    Purchased a seresto cat collar today after several failed attempts to kill fleas.
    I am reading some stories about skin burns on cats. Has anybody had some bad experiences with it? Before I was just using a flea brush and spraying Vet Spray for Cats on the brush, because it burned my cats skin.
  2. donnareynolds
    Im a caretaker for a 90 yr old lady who has so many cats I cant even count, They just had babies adding to maybe 30 kittens. UNBIELIEVABLE to say the least. These poor kittens are completely covered in fleas. What could I give them to somehow give them some kind of relief from itching. One has itched so much her back is bleeding as her white hair is discolored, that's how I can tell.
  3. marianc
    In my area at least (the Columbia River Gorge area in WA and OR), Advantage and Frontline are not working. My vet recommended Revolution, which is expensive but works.
  4. litehearted
    When we had a house and our male cat was allowed out, we had to combat fleas every year.  First infestation happened during a particularly warm February with little snow.  I had no idea it could happen in winter!  Long story short, after a lot of suffering I learned what worked for us: a) year round application of monthly flea treatment for our cat combined with Capstar for the worst months b) portable steam cleaner for carpet/drapes/furniture c) obviously wash all bedding often in hot water.  http://www.ah.ca.novartis.com/companion/cat/capstar.shtml -- I can't tell you how happy I am that he is a condo kitty now and no more fleas!
      StefanZ purraised this.
  5. sweetthangtx
    When i raise kittens that come in with fleas I bathe them using Dawn dish washing soap. You lather them up and then let the soap sit on them for a few minutes before rinsing. The fleas smother in the soap. We change all if the bedding at the same time. The kittens are in a room with a hard surface floor so fleas don't hatch there.

    We usually find a flea or two on them after the first bath. We repeat the process in about a seek Twice usually does the trick. I also change the kitten bedding every 24 hours. I do a lot of kitten wash loads!
      kirathecat and StefanZ purraised this.
  6. oneandahalfcats
    I just posted about a natural product called 'Natural Flea & Tick Control'. This product features natural oils rather than toxic chemicals making it a safer and healthier flea control solution to conventional flea products. Dr, Karen Becker, DVM talks about this product, here : http://products.mercola.com/healthypets/natural-flea-and-tick-control/
  7. shoshanna
    I had a horrid infestation from my first kitten when I brought him home.  Was totally dumb about cats and did not think to check for them and had a carpet full of fleas and the vet was having a hard time getting them killed off the kitten he had so many.  Between using the Advantage II and calling the exterminator we finally got rid of them.  The carpets were done by using 20MuleTeam Borax on them like a carpet deodorizer powder and working it in with a broom and leaving overnight and then vacuuming.  It takes a good vacuum cleaner and a lot of times doing it (every other day for 3 weeks) but the stuff is cheap and found at most grocery stores.  The exterminator told me it was what saved his mothers kitten who was horribly allergic to the chemicals he would have used to kill them.  Nice man and did not charge me a thing for the advice.
      CaptainKirk purraised this.
  8. sherit
    I have found a   non toxic flea preventative for cats and dogs.
    It is economical..they will eat it on the floor each morning with a treat beside it
    before breakfast, a once a day treatment..in the form of a wafer.
    My cats have not had a flea or tick in 3 years and they are outside cats most of the time
    in a rural area in the woods.
    I get nothing from the companies not a thank you or any free product which I could use...
    so I am letting you know that they are not paying me...or acknowledging my comments.
    It is Petguard wafers and they are  sold on Amazon and on the Pet guard site also
    The other company is Four Paws.
    The wafers have garlic which you can not smell on the cat and brewers yeast in each wafer.
    If you have a 10lb cat the cat gets one wafer a  day at breakfast time.
    It is based on weight of the cat or dog.....
    I break it in half and place it on the floor with another dry treat and then when they eat
    it feed them breakfast..It takes 3 weeks to get into  their system...
    It is the most wonderful product I have ever found.. we are sensitive to fragrances
    and so many things and this does not bother us to hold our cats..you can not smell
    anything on them hwen you hold the cats.
    Sheri T
  9. kaos8
    I also use Brewers Yeast & Garlic Tablets for all my animals... I crush them up and put in wet food for the cats.  It makes the blood bitter causing bugs to usually leave them alone...This is not an immediate response- must be using this as a regular routine.  I usually only do this in the summer months, as we are in a pretty high tick area.  I can report that I have only ever had a flea problem 1x and that was probably 15yrs ago- before I started using this stuff.  Never a problem since.
    1. StefanZ
      Garlic is supposed to be poisonous for cats, so its difficult to wholeheartlly recommend this. However, it seems garlic in small dosages isnt dangerous for cats. There are even quality cat foods with garlic taste... So, be sure you are giving small dose, never double dose "to be extra safe". And yes, garlic prevents many a bug bites, works wonderfully for us humans.
  10. kaos8
    I regularly use a spray called: Natural Chemistry, Natural Flea and Tick Spray.  It is good for dogs and cats and for on the pet and bedding.  I use it everywhere.  There is no pyrethrins in it.  It smells good too.  It contains cinnamon oil, cedar wood oil, clove oil, etc... really works well.  I love this stuff!  It kills fleas & Ticks on contact and with residual effect.  Can be used on pets of any age, but recommended to conact a vet before using on newborns.
  11. beautikatz
    During the summer we suffered an infestation after looking after a friends cat for a week. We managed to clear them out eventually and another friend recommended a small flea trap called "Gotcha Flea Trap" which we placed in the living room. It consists of , basically. a sticky pad with a small light bulb as a heat source to attract the fleas, this is non-toxic and, at least for us, it works. This might be worth a try.
      StefanZ purraised this.
  12. mewlittle
    Okay I will tomorrow thanks
  13. Anne
    Interesting question. Could you please bring it up in the Cat Health forums? I'm sure members will be able to help you there :)
  14. mewlittle
    what do you recommend for cats allergic or sensitive to all flea treatment meds?
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