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How To Treat Fleas In Young Kittens

Apr 23, 2014 · Updated May 23, 2015 · ·
  1. Anne
    Getting rid of fleas is hard to do anytime but kittens present a whole different problem than cats. Their little bodies can’t withstand medicines that adult cats can handle. What do you do?

    Does the kitten really have fleas?

    First, be sure any itching is really due to fleas. Take a fine toothed comb and while the kittens are getting used to being handled and brushed, you’ll be able to remove a few fleas as evidence. It that plan fails, part Kitty’s fur and look for tiny black specks. This will be flea dirt (digested Kitty blood). It will turn reddish brown if wet.

    Kittens are tiny and don’t have that much blood to spare. Check Kitty’s gums and tongue to make sure they’re still a nice, rosy pink. Pale gums mean anemia from flea bites and require a fast trip to the veterinarian as anemia is dangerous to tiny cats.

    Don't forget about the mother cat

    If the kittens are still nursing, you’ll have to treat Mama Cat too. Remember, any medications you give Mama Cat will migrate to the kittens through the milk - unfortunately, bathing is the best answer. Read more here about bathing an adult cat.

    The decision to bathe newborn or young kittens should not be taken lightly. Read more about the challenges of bathing very young kittens. It's very difficult for kittens to regulate their body temperature and they can get dangerously cold. However, faced with a flea-infested kitten, we have to consider the alternatives. In this case, the risk of anemia outweighs the risk of hypothermia, especially as the latter is easier to control in a home environment.

    Use the sink for Kitty’s bathtub - it will help your back not to have to bend over and there’s less space for an escape so you’ll have more control over a squirmy kitten. What will you need to have prepared before bringing Kitty to the sink?
    • Very mild shampoo, a puddle about the size of a dime or ½ inch in size. Pour this into a plastic dish or on the edge of the sink where it won’t run off, rather than try to hold the shampoo bottle and a wiggly cat while pouring. You can also mix it with water and pour it over Kitty but be very careful of the temperature. Kitty can easily be burned or get chilled if the water isn't just right.
    • Don’t oversuds - it will take forever to rinse Kitty clean. Soap left on Kitty’s skin will make him itch too. The point of the soap is that the fleas won’t be able to run or jump and will be readily seen through Kitty’s fur. It will also soothe his skin from the bites.
    • A comb. Get one where the teeth are really close together or a proper flea comb.
    • A bowl or cup with warm, soapy water. This is not for the kitten—it’s for any fleas that you can grab off the cat before you suds Kitty up. Fleas are lightweight enough to float on water. The soap will break the surface tension of the water and the flea will drown. Do not feel sorry for it. It was making your kitten ill.
    • Petroleum jelly. Put this around Kitty’s eyes, inside his ears, around the mouth, and on his butt. Fleas will head for high ground which is also the driest area, as soon as Kitty’s feet get wet. This will be very uncomfortable for Kitty and he’ll make sure you suffer too. The petroleum jelly will trap the fleas so you can grab them as well as keep them out of sensitive areas.
    • Several towels—one for Kitty, one for you. There will be splashing. Also have one for Kitty to stand on while you dry him.
    • A wash cloth. Put this in the sink so Kitty has a grippable surface rather than your arm.
    Prepare yourself and then put Kitty into the warm, not hot, water and get him wet. Add the shampoo/soapy water as soon as possible so fleas don’t have a chance to make a run for it. If Kitty is being relatively calm about the whole thing and isn't chilled, leave the soap on for a minute or two. Never let go of the kitten and never let its head get under the water!

    Treating fleas in kittens - keep working at it!

    Baths may have to be repeated. Fleas lay eggs and although you may have done in the fleas that were on the kittens, there are more who were lounging on the rug, Kitty’s bed, and on Mama. Vacuum, throw out the used bag so flea eggs don’t hatch inside it and let the fleas escape. Wash all the bedding Kitty and Mama use. As the kittens get older, if the problem persists, treatment gets easier since Kitty’s system will then be able to handle medicines, preventatives or flea shampoo.

    Although it may feel like the siege will never end, you can win the flea wars.


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  1. catsknowme
    Great article! I would add that salt is effective against fleas, especially in the bedding and carpets - it dries them out. A comb dipped in warm salt water is effective at immobilizing fleas while de-fleaing but use only a tsp or less of salt per cup of water. And have a strong salt solution nearby to dip the comb full of fleas into, so they don't escape.
    I especially like the hint about applying vaseline on the sensitive areas!
  2. stephenq
    Great Article!!!  I will also mention that Capstar, a pill that can be crushed in a kitten's food, can at the proper dosage and under a vet's supervision be safely given to kittens as young as 4 weeks old, and will kill all the fleas in 3-6 hours.  It does not control fleas long term, but will rid the current infestation and it is safe to give daily if needed.  Talk to your vet if you think this is useful to you.
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