If fleas make their way to your cat and your home, they can quickly become an itchy and irritating problem for your cat and potentially cause the spread of other diseases, among other issues. Because of this, it is essential to prevent or control upon early detection to avoid infestation and stress.
Thankfully, there are a number of options to choose from when it comes to cat flea prevention, but let us get to know more about cat fleas first.
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
According to research, the cat flea (aka Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common flea that can be found in felines and canines. While it’s usual for cats to have fleas in the course of their lives with little to no symptoms of being infested, it is best to control fleas due to reasons such as:
- Fleas can spread other diseases among cats;
- When a cat ingests cat fleas, usually during grooming, it may carry Dipylidium caninum tapeworms (in their larval stage);
- Cats and dogs can develop an allergy to fleas, which can cause extreme itchiness and skin disease;
- Since adult fleas suck on blood, it can lead to kittens becoming weak, anemic, or may even cause death;
- Cat fleas can also cause itchiness in some humans.
Read more: Cat Dermatitis: How To Help An Itchy Cat
Causes of Fleas on Cat: How Did My Indoor Cat Get Fleas?
There are many ways in which your cat may get fleas. One instance may be when your cat interacts with another cat that has fleas. In that case, it is probable for the fleas to jump onto your cat. The fleas are then likely to lay eggs, hatching more fleas.
Apart from directly getting the fleas from another cat, they may also get fleas when they visit the vet, at a cattery, or when they happen to chase rodents. Once a flea hops onto your cat, it won’t be long til they multiply if it isn’t controlled.
Flea problems are also commonly caught at home. The thing is, it’s in the nature of fleas to pupate, so they can stay dormant even until 6 months in carpets and fabric furnishings. Because of this, flea prevention is advised to keep fleas from your home and your cat.
Symptoms of Cat Fleas - How To Tell If Your Cat Has Fleas
What are some signs of fleas on cats and what do cat fleas look like to the human eye?
Among the symptoms of fleas in cats are:
- Flea bites on the skin;
- Dark flea droppings or “flea dirt”;
- Scratching more than normal;
- Bites on your skin (particularly in the ankles).
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Bites on your skin (particularly on the ankles) may indicate that fleas are present on your cat or in your home.
Meanwhile, symptoms of a flea allergy include:
- Skin inflammation;
- Hair loss brought about by excessive scratching and licking;
- Scabs on the cat's neck or at the base of their tail.
How To Tell If A Cat Has Fleas
When cats groom themselves or their other feline companions, they often eat any fleas that they may find. Because of this, it may be hard to detect it in your cat’s fur coat. However, there are telltale signs of infestation such as a scratching cat as well as human ankles having tiny bites.
So what is the best way how to tell if a cat has fleas? One effective way is to use a fine-toothed comb / what you call a flea comb. Look for a plain white surface such as a piece of paper and comb on your cat’s coat above it.
If there are fleas on your cat, “flea dirt” will fall into the surface when you comb their hair. If you find tiny black debris or specks, place this on wet cotton. If it is indeed flea dirt, it will dissolve and leave brownish-red marks of blood. Even if adult fleas aren’t found there, it’s a telltale sign of the presence of fleas in your cat.
Treatment & Home Remedies
There are a variety of commercial flea treatments and medications available from your veterinarian, pet care shops, and grocery shops. Depending on the product used, these products aim to eliminate fleas from your pet while some provide protection from fleas for the next few months.
Before using a product, consult with your veterinarian to make sure that it is safe and can really help in treating your cat for fleas.
While there are commercial pet flea treatment products, there are also home remedies that you can also consider. These remedies may be variable in how effective they are and should be used cautiously in cats with sensitive skin or who are severely irritated by fleas. Anything applied to the fur may also be licked off by a kitty and ingested. Always consult with your vet before administering a home remedy. If you’ve already consulted with your vet, here are some of the home remedies to help get rid of cat flea problems:
Lemon contains citric acid which is a highly effective and natural way to deter fleas. What you can do is spray your cat’s coat with a solution that can be made by boiling lemons and letting it steep for a few hours, and draining the liquid before pouring it into a spray bottle. Make sure not to spray on their eyes so as not to cause them pain.
Yes, spices can also do the trick. For example, you can use a mixture of oregano oil (which contains the natural compound- carvacrol, which fleas don’t like) and olive oil. Spray it in areas of your cat’s body and coat where fleas are often found such as the stomach, neck, tail, and ears.
You can also try grinding rosemary leaves (which fleas are not fond of) into powder form, and sprinkle it around the house, especially in soft furnishings and carpets, and areas where they often frequent.
Another thing you can try is to put some cumin on your pet’s food. This spice will release a scent that will make your cat’s skin unappealing to fleas.
If you don’t have the spices above, you may also use table salt. This helps dehydrate the fleas on your cat. You can also sprinkle it on carpets and other similar surfaces to help kill fleas and flea eggs.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
While this doesn’t exactly kill fleas, it can cause the fleas to hop upon first contact with it, making it a good first defense against the buggers. A solution can be done by mixing the vinegar with water (at a ratio of 2:1), and spraying it on your cat’s hair.
4. Dish Soap
Simple as it may sound, dish soaps actually work well in killing fleas. What it does is it breaks town the exoskeleton of fleas, killing them in just a few minutes. Wet your cat’s fur and spray or lather it with dish soap for a few minutes before washing the area. Remember to only use cat-safe dish soap as some may have ingredients that are not safe for your cat.
5. Lavender and Chamomile
Another home remedy is to mix lavender with water and spray it into your cat’s coat. Not only does it work in killing fleas. The scent may also relax your cat. On the other hand, there’s also chamomile tea that can be applied to your cat’s coat to attack fleas.
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Make sure the cat cannot lick off or ingest what has been sprayed as it may be harmful to the cat.
6. Cedar Chips
Fleas hate the smell that cedar chips produce. What you can do is try placing cedar chips in your cat’s bedding and on carpets. Cedar oil spray may also be sprayed onto your cat’s coat or around their collar. Again, make sure the cat cannot lick any applied oil off after application, as ingestion could be harmful.
Remember that you should never use dog flea treatments as they may contain certain chemicals that may endanger your cat (even if it is safe for dogs).
If you are not sure what flea treatment to use, contact your veterinarian for advice.
Preventing Fleas on a Cat
Getting a regular flea treatment from your vet may help prevent fleas on your cat.
Remember that when you want to eliminate cat fleas, it is necessary to treat both your cat and your home as well. Normally, a combination of topical products that specifically kill adult fleas as well as home treatments will help eliminate and prevent flea eggs to become adult fleas.
Wash your carpets and soft furnishings well and regularly, ideally on high heat. These prevention measures will greatly help keep your cat and home flea-free.
Note that it is vital to talk to your vet before treating your cat and home, especially when you have young kittens and pregnant cats. That way, you are assured that the treatment that you provide won’t harm your cat/kitten in any way.
A pet camera such as the Petcube Cam may also help you detect issues with your cat such as a flea problem. The interactive pet camera is an affordable smart HD pet camera that also has a 24/7 Online Vet service.
In taking care of your pet’s health and wellness, an emergency fund such as Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund helps give you peace of mind when your cat gets sick in any way. It is the best pet insurance alternative to help protect your pet.
Not only that, availing of the emergency fund also gives you access to their Online Vet, which allows you to consult about anything regarding your pet, anytime and anywhere.
My cat has fleas. How do I clean my house?
Regular vacuum cleaning can help reduce fleas in your house. However, it doesn’t eliminate it. Dispose of vacuum bags immediately so as not to further spread the infestation.
If your carpets or beddings are heavily infested, it is recommended to dispose of them since it may be hard to eliminate all fleas, and they can also live there for up to six months.
What to do with fleas on a cat’s ears?
Cat fleas can live in different parts of a cat’s body, more specifically around the neck, stomach, tails, and ears. If you detect or suspect that your cat has fleas around their ears or in other parts of the body, it is recommended that they be treated as soon as possible. This would help prevent the spread of fleas that may also cause diseases to your cat and can spread fleas to other cats and your home as well.
Not to mention, it’s an irritating problem for your cat as it may cause increased itchiness and uncomfortability.
Can humans get fleas from cats?
Humans cannot get infested with fleas. They can bite you (usually in the ankles), but it is unlikely for them to keep on biting you since they don’t feed on human blood.