Fleas are much more than just a nuisance. In just 30 days, 10 fleas can become an infestation of up to 250,000. They can turn your pet into an itchy, tired mess – or worse. There are several steps to determine if your cat has a flea infestation and how to control cat fleas. Here’s everything you need to know to complete the task quickly and safely.
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How to tell if your cat has a flea infestation
There are some common signs that a cat is infested with fleas, but it takes some research on your part to be sure. Fleas are tiny, which means if there are only a handful of them, they are not as easy to spot. Plus, their reddish-brown color can blend in with your cat’s fur. If you want to control cat fleas, watch out for these common signs of flea infestation:
- Itchy skin and excessive scratching: Although fleas can multiply quickly, it doesn’t take many of them to tempt your cat into a scratching attack. In addition to the flea’s general movement across your pet’s skin, your cat may also be allergic to flea saliva, which turns into an irritant that causes sensitivity, itching, scratching and even small scabby bumps on the skin.
- Excessive biting of the fur and legs: In addition to scratching, your cat may bite or gnaw at its fur, legs or feet for relief.
- Patchy hair loss: saliva from even one flea can cause an allergic reaction that leads to hair loss, not to mention the fur your cat removes itself by scratching or biting.
- Lethargy: A single flea can bite its host hundreds of times a day, sucking blood each time. In severe cases, if your pet is bitten by many fleas, this blood loss can lead to anemia. Lethargy is a common symptom of this.
- Visual signs: once fleas begin to multiply, you will be able to see them. Look for bright spots in your pet’s fur or on bedding (these are flea eggs) or black, pepper-like black in the fur or on the bedding (this is flea excrement). You may also see the darker insects scurrying around in your pet’s fur.
To find out which plants are toxic to cats, read here !
How to fight cat fleas
The best defense to help your cat avoid problems with fleas is to completely eliminate the flea infestation and prevent another one. There are several things you can do:
- Treat your pet. Start flea control by treating your pet and all of its belongings, even those that don’t appear to be infested with fleas.
- Flea and tick collars for cats help to immediately kill fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae and ticks, as well as repel fleas.
- Topicals and shampoos also help kill adult fleas and lice and prevent new flea eggs from hatching.
- Flea tablets and chewable tablets are a fast-acting way to kill fleas and relieve symptoms.
- Control cat fleas in the home. It’s important to treat not only the infested pet, but also your home. If you neglect your home, fleas will find their way to your pet and the cycle will repeat.
- Clean and wash all bedding in your home and use a spray or powder on upholstery and carpets.
- Wash all of your pet’s bedding regularly.
- Vacuum your entire home, including hardwood floors, upholstered furniture (including the underside of furniture), carpets and rugs. Remove vacuum bags and dispose of them after each use to prevent flea eggs from hatching inside.
- If necessary, contact a professional flea control company for assistance.
- Treat your yard. One of the best protective measures against fleas is to keep your cat indoors. However, if you let your cat outside, you should take extra care to treat your yard for parasites as well. This includes constantly mowing your lawn and using a garden spray that kills bugs around your home.
You can find out which poisonous houseplants for cats you should know about here !
Important. Cats are usually silent sufferers. Therefore, it is especially important to pay attention when they act differently and watch for the signs of flea infestation.
Fleas cause your cat more than just a faint itch. They can lead to serious medical problems and should be taken very seriously. Some common problems include:
Flea allergic dermatitis: some pets are allergic to flea saliva, causing severe irritation, itching and aggravation when bitten. You can tell if your cat is suffering from an allergy if small scabs and redness appear at the bite site or if there is excessive hair loss. Secondary infection at the bite site may also occur.
Treatment: removing all fleas in your home and yard and giving your cat a preventative can help alleviate your cat’s symptoms. Your veterinarian may also prescribe steroids or antibiotics to help relieve the itching.
Tapeworms: If your cat happens to ingest a flea that carries a tapeworm larva, the tapeworm will develop and grow in your cat’s intestinal tract. If your cat has tapeworms, they will appear like small grains of rice in your cat’s anal region or in its feces.
Treatment: see your veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Your veterinarian will recommend deworming treatment and tell you what preventive measures your pet should take.
Flea bite anemia: If a heavy flea infestation occurs and your pet is infested with a large number of fleas over a long period of time, there is a risk of flea bite anemia. Especially if your cat is very young, watch for signs of lethargy.
Treatment: flea bite anemia can be fatal and may require blood transfusions, iron supplementation, or even hospitalization. Be sure to seek immediate veterinary attention if your cat has become very lethargic, especially if it is younger than 12 weeks.