Whether your cat is indoor or outdoor it can get fleas. You can take fleas inside without knowing and they might end up on your cat, other animals and on the carpet. But what do you have to do when you find out your cat fleas? Of course, you don’t want to end up in a house full of fleas, right?
Fleas have four main stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The total flea life cycle can range from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on environmental conditions.
The eggs are not sticky — like with some parasites, and they usually fall off of the animal into the carpet, bedding, floorboards, and soil. When the flea egg hatches varies — this ranges from two days to a few weeks, depending on environmental conditions.Larva will come out of the egg, using a chitin tooth, this is a hard spine on top of the head that disappears as the flea gets older.
The larval stage actually has three stages in which it developes. Larvae are about 1/4″ (6.35 mm) long, and semi-transparent white. They have small hairs on their body and they actively move. They eat the feces of fleas — which is mostly dried blood and other organic debris found in the carpet and bedding. Depending on the amount of food that they find and the environmental conditions, the larval stage lasts about 5 to 18 days, sometimes longer before it spins a cocoon and pupate.
The adult flea can emerge from the cocoon as early as 3 to 5 days, or it can stay in the cocoon for a year or more, waiting for the right time to emerge. The right time depends on temperatures — warm temperatures, high humidity, even the vibrations and carbon dioxide emitted from a passing animal will cause the flea to emerge from the cocoon faster.
The adult flea is very flat side to side. There are hair-like bristles on the flea body and legs to aid in their navigation through pet hair. Fleas have 3 pairs of legs, the hindmost pair designed for jumping. Fleas are of course known for their jumping abilities. Adult fleas prefer to live on the animal and their diet consists of blood meals courtesy of the host animal. The female flea lays white, roundish eggs.
Remove fleas from your cat by using a special flea-comb designed to remove fleas for your cat. If you find a flea during the combing, drown them by putting them in soapy water.
Combing your cat might not always be helping, and maybe you want to do combing in combination with anti-flea treatments like Frontline or Advantage. Flea-collars don’t work good enough, because they only work on the fleas on the neck-area. Treatments like
Frontline is a liquid that is applied on the skin in the neck between the shoulderblades. The liquid will enter the blood, so the fleas won’t drink from it again. But there are also oral anti-flea products.
Only use treatments that are meant for that animal. This means you don’t use anti-flea products that are meant for dogs, on your cat.
Anti-flea products for dogs are dangerous to cats.
I use Frontline, and so far it worked perfectly! The instructions are clear, understandable and not too difficult. It even gives you the possibility to fill in the dates you gave them Frontline, so you know when to give it to your cats the next time.
Vacuum, Vacuum and Vacuum
You better become best friends with your vacuüm, because you’re going to do it very often if you find out your pet has fleas. I suggest your try to vacuüm daily, and don’t forget about those places: corners, dark crevices, under furniture, under beds, pet beds, rugs and especially around baseboards (also called skirting boards). Put the nozzle attachment on your vacuüm cleaner and thoroughly vacuüm around all baseboards and edges of fixtures. Places that collect dusts are great places to lay eggs.
After vacuuming quickly dispose the vacuüm bag outside to prevent escaping of larvae.
Wash, Wash, Wash
Collect all the bedding, sleeping places from your cats and other pets, and rugs and wash them in soapy water. Soapy water is known to kill the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Do this weekly.
Use spray insecticide on carpets, rugs, floors, soft furnishings and places your pet sleeps with a spray that kills flea eggs, larvae and emerging adult fleas. Make sure you spray into every place, nook and cranny and pay special attention around baseboards and under rugs and furniture. Spray under beds and under couches etc. Developing fleas avoid the light and make their way to dark areas.
Ask your vet for spray that is also save to use.
When your cat is alright with having a bath, you can bathe your cat weekly with a special shampoo to get rid of fleas. Some pet-stores sell those kind of shampoos, but you can always ask your vet. Make sure you read the instruction before applying.
Professional steaming is the best way to get fleas out of the carpet. The steam will kill every stage of flea except eggs. Another option is that you shampoo the carpet with insecticidal carpet shampoo or have a pest control professionally apply an infrared heat treatment to the carpet, which kills all stages of flea. Beware however, this type of infrared heat treatment can cost a lot.
Pets that are allergic to flea bites will experience hair loss, usually around the base of the tail and often in combination with relentless chewing of the area, often until it becomes raw. Pets might become allergic to flea bites because of poor health or poor nutrition so make sure your animal is getting plenty of protein and a balanced diet.
Another reason cats might become allergic to fleas is because they are hypersensitive to the flea’s saliva. This allergy is a skin condition called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Flea saliva has many antigens which some cats (and dogs) are very susceptible to. Your cat does not have to have many fleas because just one bite from a flea can trigger an allergic reaction. Flea Allergy Dermatitis is a very itchy and painful disorder and is the most common allergy in cats and dogs.
Symptoms include severe itching and inflammation of the skin. The cat will groom itself a lot and scratch, bite and lick the affected areas which causes damage to the skin. Cats can develop small crusts or scabs on the body. Hair loss may occur mainly on the rump and on the back.
Signs Of Fleas
Check your pets and especially look in where your pet is unable to reach very well, like around the ears and under the upper part of the legs. Because fleas are very fast, you might want to look for flea droppings instead. These are black specks on the skin and fur. Since fleas are parasites and suck blood from the host, the droppings are dried blood. If you are not sure if the speck is a dropping or dirt, put it in water. It will turn a reddish-brown if it is a flea dropping.
Walk across your carpets and around your home in white socks. Fleas love to hitch a ride, they will jump on pets or even you when you are outside and ride into the house. When you walk in white socks inside your house, you will see the black or brown fleas against the white socks when they jump on.
Go through places where your pets sleep. Fleas will often choose these places to lay eggs at first because it is warm and the food source, your pet is readily available when it’s going to take a nap on their favorite pillow. If your cat or dog has fleas you will find droppings, live fleas and possibly flea eggs and dead fleas. Flea eggs look like white specks.
Signs on Cats
- Intense and frantic scratching or biting of their coat.
Flea bites can cause a cat’s skin and fur to feel very itchy. Your cat may suddenly start scratching his body with his paws or chewing his skin.
- Excessive grooming
- Hair Loss
Your cat may groom himself to the point that you start to see bald patches, especially on the back of the legs, neck and around the base of the tail.
- Avoidance of certain parts of your home.
Your cat may typically prefer the carpeted rooms, but if he’s been bitten by a lot of fleas in those rooms, he might quit going to those places.
- Agitation, edginess and restlessness
Fleas drive a cat literally crazy.
- Red skin lesions or scablike bumps
Some cats are so sensitive to flea saliva when they are bitten that their skin becomes red and inflamed.
- Muscle loss, pale gums and lethargy
These signs show anemia (low red blood-cell count), which can result when a huge number of fleas consume a cat’s blood or if the cat bites his skin so deeply that he bleeds excessively. Flea anemia is most often seen in kittens, seniors or sick cats.
- Tiny pepperlike specks on your cat’s fur
Known as “flea dirt”.
- Red spots on your cat’s sleeping spots.
This is also flea dirt.
- Pinhead-sized black or reddish-brown insects crawling on your cat’s fur.
These are the fleas themselves. If your cat is heavily infested, there’s a good chance you’ll see them. Part your cat’s fur in several places to see the skin. Fleas gravitate to the neck, lower back, hind legs and tail.
This can be severe, and may be all over or just where the rash is located.
with small bumps that itch and may bleed. Located on the armpit or fold of a joint (elbow, knee, or ankle). The amount of skin affected increases over time (enlarging skin rash or lesion) or the rash spreads to other areas. When pressed the area turns white.
- Swelling only around a sore or injury
These symptoms often begin suddenly, within a few hours.
Did You Know
- Even if you don’t see any, don’t assume there are no fleas in your home.
- The adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day 500-600 eggs over several months.
- Be very active in your exterminating efforts. A flea pupa, while in the cocoon, is impervious to treatment and can live for eight months without feeding, and an adult female can lay one egg per hour for every hour of her life (usually three months).
Never apply a flea product to a cat or kitten unless it is labeled as safe for cats. Cats are very sensitive to insecticides.
- Ingesting fleas could give your pet tapeworm.
- Home remedies will not always work.
- Restrict pets to areas that are easily cleaned. (No basements, bedrooms, garages, cars, etc)
- Provide bedding for your pet that is easily removed and cleaned. Lay towels anywhere your pets like to lounge, and wash them all every week until the fleas are gone, and every two weeks after that. Be careful when picking them up as you can spill flea eggs and larvae/pupae if you’re not careful.
- Scratching can lead to a skin infection.
So even if your cat is indoor or outdoor, always make sure you use anti-flea products for cats on your cat. The instruction will tell you how often to do this. The one I use from Frontline says every 3 months. You can also ask your vet for more information about this!
Rebecca Sweat on Catchannel.com.
Janet Tobiassen Crosby on vetmedicine.about.com.
Connie Whiting on ehow.com