Published 03/19/2021

Cat Fleas: What You Need to Know

cat fleas
While fleas are commonly associated with dogs, cats, even indoor-only cats, are also at risk of getting fleas. Fleas, though small in size, can lead to big problems for your feline friend. These tiny parasites can not only cause your cat discomfort, but they can also pose more serious health issues if left untreated. Learn how to spot the signs of fleas, and how you can protect your cat from these pesky parasites.

What Do Cat Fleas Look Like?

The ‘cat flea,’ or the Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common flea species found on cats (and dogs!) throughout the U.S. Though less common, cats are actually susceptible to other types of fleas as well, including rabbit and hedgehog fleas!

Although cat fleas are quite small – measuring only between 1-2mm in length– these tiny, wingless pests survive by ingesting the blood of warm-blooded hosts like cats.

How do Cats Get Fleas?

If your cat lives outdoors or regularly goes outside, chances are they will come in contact with fleas at some point in their lives. This is because rodents and other wild animals that your cat may encounter outdoors often carry fleas or leave flea larvae behind in your yard.

Though fleas are most common amongst outdoor cats, even indoor cats are susceptible. Fleas can make their way into your home by hitching a ride with you, your dog, or simply by entering through an open window or door.

What Effects Do Fleas Have on Cats?

While external parasites, such as fleas, may simply leave behind itchy bites on your cat’s skin, they also can be carriers of internal parasites and other diseases. 

Other problems that can arise from flea bites include:

  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)
  • Flea-bite anemia
  • Tapeworm
  • Bartonella (aka “Cat Scratch Fever”)

While some of these diseases may merely cause your cat discomfort, some can be life-threatening and should be assessed by your vet immediately.

How Do I Know if My Cat Has Fleas?

If you notice your cat scratching, chewing, or biting at their skin — particularly near the base of the tail fleas are a likely culprit.  This scratching can lead to open wounds that are susceptible to infection.

Other signs to look for are:

  • Visible fleas or “flea dirt”
  • Excessive grooming
  • Restlessness
  • Patches of hair loss, particularly around the tail and neck
  • Inactivity or fatigue

What should I do if I suspect my cat has fleas?

For many cats, it may not be obvious that they have fleas because these parasites like to burrow deep into a cat’s fur and are not always visible, making them difficult to find.

Cats may sometimes eat fleas while self-grooming, making them harder to find. So while you may not come across any adult fleas when checking your cat’s fur, it’s possible that flea eggs could still be present. With the use of a fine-tooth comb, you can look for flea eggs throughout your cat’s fur. 

You should also be keeping an eye out for flea feces, commonly known as flea dirt, which is pepper-like and can be found on their fur or bedding. 

To verify that it is flea dirt, you can place the black specks onto some damp tissue paper, and if they turn red, it is because of the digested blood they contain.

Cat Flea Protection & Treatment

Protecting Your Cat From Fleas

Staying proactive is the most effective way to prevent a flea infestation in your home. Regularly check your cat (and all other pets) for fleas and talk to your vet about year-round flea protection for your pets.

Treating Your Cat For Fleas

If your cat is showing signs of fleas, speak to your vet to learn more about the different flea treatments available and which option is best for you.

Some flea treatment options for cats include:

  • Powders
  • Sprays
  • Spot treatments
  • Internal treatments
  • Prescription and Non-Prescription Medication
  • Injections

Use extra caution and stay away from any products labeled “for dogs” as these can pose serious risks to your cat’s health. 

Many over-the-counter dog flea products, especially those containing permethrins or pyrethrins, are extremely toxic to cats, even in small amounts, 

Always talk to your vet before using any over-the-counter products on your cat, and follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding dosage and frequency when it comes to prescription medication.

Treating Your Household for Fleas

If your cat becomes infested with fleas, it is likely that you will also need to treat any other furry members of your family, as well as your upholstery, furniture, and living spaces.

Fleas are notorious for their prolific breeding, therefore, if you suspect an infestation, you need to act quickly and speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

To eradicate fleas and stop the spread of infestation in your home, you should:

  • Clean and vacuum all of the bedding, upholstery, hardwood floors, carpets, rugs, and even the bottom of any furniture
  • Use a spray or powder, if necessary
  • Give your cat’s bedding a deep clean as well
  • In the events of extreme infestation, a professional flea exterminator can help

As always, before using any cleaning products or chemical treatments, be sure to review the ingredients list as some could be toxic to pets.

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Keep Your Cat Flea-Free with PetPro Connect

With the PetPro Connect app, you can schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss flea protection for your pet, and even order flea protection products directly from the app!

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Visit the PetPro Connect app and schedule an appointment with your vet today!

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