Dealing with Fleas

The warmer summer months are enjoyed by human and feline alike. However, warm weather is also enjoyed by certain unwelcome guests – fleas. No matter how clean you keep your house, if you have cats or other furry housemates and you don’t treat them regularly for fleas – throughout the year – you are putting out the welcome mat for these parasites.

What do fleas do to cats?

As a minimum, having fleas will make your cat feel uncomfortable and itchy – think how irritating that midge or mozzie bite is to you! However, in some cases fleas can cause more significant issues:

  • In the same way that some humans suffer allergic reactions to insect bites, so can some cats. We see numerous cases each year of cats which suffer from flea allergies. Often this causes the pet to scratch itself to the extent that its skin is red-raw, with significant loss of hair.
  • Fleas are parasites that feed on blood. A strong adult cat can usually cope with this, but not so the younger or frail kitty. For a less strong cat, severe flea infestations can result in anaemia, which can ultimately result in death. We sadly see this all too often with kittens in particular.
  • Fleas and worms go hand in hand – flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs which a flea-infested cat can eat when grooming itself. When treating your cat for fleas – also treat it for worms.

It’s easy to see if your cat has fleas:

If your cat is scratching regularly, it’s well worth inspecting its coat. In many cases, it is possible to see adult live fleas on your cat without carrying out too detailed an inspection. Another easy way to see if your cat has fleas it to give it a brush with a fine-toothed comb held over a white surface – a piece of paper would work. Any black ‘dust’ on the white paper are likely to be flea droppings. If you dampen the paper, the black dirt turns red as the flea dirt is basically digested blood. Tiny white spherical eggs may also be seen.

Flea treatments are readily available:

There are a number of products on the market to treat both your cat and your home for fleas – powders, collars, sprays and spot-on treatments. Your vet should be able to recommend the right product(s) for you and how often treatments should be given. In our view spray and spot-on treatments are by far and away the most effective ways of treating your cat.

A couple of pleas in the fight against fleas:

  • Please, please, please only use vet-quality products – many of the products available in supermarkets are at best ineffective and at worst can cause serious damage to your cat.
  • Cats are NOT small dogs!! Please only use cat-designed flea treatment products on your cat. Some dog flea control products contain ingredients that are highly toxic to cats and can even kill them.