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Fleas are a common problem for cat owners, and we all cringe when we spot the tell-tale signs of a flea infestation. These parasites thrive in warm climates, and feed on the blood of their host (your cat), which can cause discomfort, allergic reactions and even anaemia in some cases, so it’s essential to maintain a proper flea prevention and treatment program.
How Can I Tell if my Cat Has Fleas?
Fleas are so tiny (the size of a pinhead) that you may never actually see them on your cat. Rather than wait for your cat to start scratching, the best way to keep on top of this potential problem is to comb your cat regularly with a flea comb and keep an eye out for the signs. Look for any brown or black specks (flea dirt) and white specks (flea eggs), which are usually concentrated around the base of the tail, under the chin and around the ears – a flea’s favourite spots to hang out. Besides persistent scratching, other symptoms of a flea problem include irritated or itchy skin, hair loss, excessive chewing and licking, and pale lips and gums (a sign of anaemia).
How Did my Cat Get Fleas?
Fleas are usually bought in from outside, so if a person or animal brings a flea or any flea eggs into your home on their clothing or shoes, you have the beginning of a flea infestation. It only takes one flea to start off the cycle of feeding, laying eggs and hatching – flea eggs fall off one animal and hatch in carpet or between floorboards before hopping on to the next host that passes by.
How do I Get Rid of Fleas?
To eradicate fleas you’ll need to treat both your cat and your home. Even if you successfully treat your cat, there may still be unhatched eggs in your home, and as soon as they hatch into fleas they’ll hop onto your cat, and you’re right back at the beginning again. Even if only one cat in the house is showing signs of fleas, it’s important to treat all animals in the house to prevent a recurrence. Your vet will be able to recommend a flea treatment program for your cat, which is usually a monthly ‘spot-on’ application. You can also buy specialist sprays or powders to treat your home after you have thoroughly vacuumed and washed rugs, throws and your cat’s bedding at a high temperature.
How Can I Prevent Fleas?
Regular vacuuming of your home will help to eliminate any flea eggs and young fleas – make sure you tackle the dark corners of the room and under any furniture and beds. Using a flea comb on your cat daily and dipping it into a jar of water will remove (and drown) any fleas on him, and it’s an effective method if you don’t want to use chemicals. Bathing your cat regularly is another way to prevent and control fleas. Although cat fleas can’t live on humans, if they do happen to hop onto you they’ll certainly take a bite, and you are likely to end up with red, itchy bites on your ankles and legs. The best way to protect yourself and your cat from these unpleasant parasites is to be vigilant with flea prevention, and treat the problem immediately.
Image: Hisashi via Flickr