Fleas can be a problem even for the cleanest cat and spotless homes. Here's how to check for signs of fleas and treat your pet and home to keep fleas away.
- Fleas are what are called external parasites. More than one kind can infect a single host. Different fleas include dog, cat, bunny, and human fleas.
- Only adult fleas suck blood from their host. Adult fleas have mouthparts just for puncturing the skin and drawing blood from their host.
- A flea can live between 2 weeks to a year; a female flea can lay up to 50 - 1,500 eggs in a lifetime.
- A flea can jump more than a hundred times its body size.
- Approximately 95% of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae survive in the environment and not your pet.
How To Rid Cats Of Fleas
As soon as you've confirmed the presence of these pesky hitchhikers on your cat, you'll want to eliminate them fast. And because not all flea products are effective in every life stage, you might need to do different things to completely remove fleas in your pet and home. You should take three steps to deal with these pesky creatures.
1. Remove as many fleas as possible with a comb and a bath.
If you can see fleas, flea dirt, or flea eggs in your cat, brush your cat with a flea comb. Follow this by bathing your cat to remove as many fleas as possible. I know this can be easier said than done, especially if your cat is not a fan of bathing (and many cats do not enjoy this). I suggest not forcing it. An alternative to bathing is using a spray bottle to drown the fleas without submerging your cat in water. To do this, gently spray your cat with water, then immediately run a flea comb through the hair. Put any fleas into the water and dish soap solution so they don't jump back onto your cat.
2. Administer a flea medication especially created for cats.
After removing as many fleas as possible with Step One, you'll need to treat your feline for fleas at every life stage: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. I recommend getting a long-lasting prescription product that guarantees to eliminate all. Because flea eggs can be dormant for weeks, treatment must cover several months so the eggs do not hatch and start the problem again. There are many flea medications that you can use for cats. Ask your vet for suggestions because the dosage depends on weight, age, and other variables. Be sure that what you're using for your cat is NOT for dogs, given that flea treatments for dogs can be poisonous when used on cats. It's best practice to always ask your vet for suggestions before starting any treatment, especially if your feline is pregnant or nursing.
Here's a quick rundown of the common kinds of flea treatments for cats:
Spot-On Flea Treatments
These are medicinal fluids applied to the back of your cat's neck. Most of these are applied once every month and are absorbed into your cat's bloodstream to protect against parasites; these medicines work instantly. When using these products, you should follow the label guidelines meticulously. After application, the goal is to keep your cat away from other pets in the home residence while the medication soaks up. Also, keep an eye so your cat does not rub it off. Not all spot-on treatments need a prescription. However, it's best to talk to your vet before administering medicines to your pet.
If a monthly spot-on flea treatment isn't the best choice for your cat, you may get them for a flea collar that contains the active ingredients flumethrin and imidacloprid.
Remember that cat flea collars need a breakaway mechanism to prevent your feline from getting entangled when climbing and hiding in small places.
Another quick way to get rid of fleas is with oral medicines. Pills with the active ingredient nitenpyram kill adult fleas within 30 minutes. However, these are not long-lasting; you might need another dosage if your cat gets fleas once more. Chewables with active ingredients are another fast-acting medicine that kills fleas before they lay eggs and gives a month of flea protection from possible infestations in the future.
Shampoos, Powders, and Sprays
You can find these in pet supply stores. However, I must caution that these products are not the most effective because they don't have a long-lasting effect that addresses the hatching eggs. Older flea products might also be less effective because fleas have become resistant to their effects.
Looking for "natural" remedies can be alluring. However, as fleas are evolving to be more resilient, natural or homemade solutions like essential oils, a concoction of dish soap, apple cider vinegar, etc., are not nearly enough to kill all the fleas on your cat.
3: Stop fleas from coming back.
Although oral and spot-on medicines may get rid of cat fleas in hours, it's essential to use them throughout the recommended time to completely eradicate the flea problem. You must routinely re-apply the treatments if needed and based on the product's instructions.
Treating Your Home for Fleas
In addition to treating the cat, you'll also need to take steps to eliminate any fleas or eggs that may still be inside your home. Fleas typically hide in furniture, rugs, and beds—mainly where your feline rests regularly. Flea eggs inside the house will hatch later and will start finding a furry friend to suck blood, so you should also kill these uninvited houseguests as soon as possible with assistance from the vacuum cleaner.
Professionals say that the combo of vacuum and washing makes a big difference in efficient flea treatment. Focus on vacuuming nooks and crannies such as couch cushions and anywhere your cats like to hang out.
Immediately put the vacuum bag inside a sealed plastic bag, and wash the canister immediately so no fleas escape. When you've treated your cat, steam cleaning carpets and furniture help to ensure fleas are killed, no matter their life stages.
Along with properly treating your pet, vacuuming and washing fabrics are usually enough to eliminate most fleas from your residence. Clean sheets, pet beds, and pillows within a week of treating your cat. Use the high-heat setting on your washing machine and clothes dryer.
However, cleaning and vacuuming are not enough for some homes— especially if they have a stubborn flea infestation. In this case, consider a home flea spray or "bug bomb" to manage an infestation.
If you still have fleas after doing the above steps, it's time to call a pest control expert. Experts will be able to assess the infestation and kill the fleas, their eggs, and their larvae. Complete treatment may take a few sessions.
Preventing Fleas from Coming Back
The key to preventing fleas is to never let them take hold in the first place. Most vets advise year-round flea prevention for all felines and dogs since they are much easier to prevent than eliminate. Also, while it is true that cats and canine fleas are technically different, they will not shy away from sucking the blood of whoever is available. Either kind of flea can crossover and infect both cats and dogs. Cats are worthy of flea prevention. We do this all the time for dogs, but most will not take the time to do this preventative care for cats.
Cats often get fleas outdoors. So together with preventative measures inside the home, do these to keep fleas out of your lawn:
- Cut the yard and reduce brush areas where fleas could, such as hideouts.
- Consider treating your yard with outside products for fleas prevention to keep the pesky bugs away.
Remember: Year-round prevention is crucial to keep fleas away, especially for cats with a history of flea infestation. Once you've treated your cat for fleas, invest a few weeks diligently vacuuming and washing. Removing every flea may take up to three months, so be consistent with cleaning and preventative flea barriers. Also, keep an eye on any skin issues that could need a closer examination by your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian for any concerns concerning treating your cat for fleas.