Last Updated: December 30, 2016
Cat fleas are relatively small reddish-brown fleas that feed primarily on the blood of cats, though they can also feed on dogs and humans. The cat flea is the most widespread flea species in the world. Though cat fleas can feed on other animals, they require cats as hosts in order to sustain an infestation. Cat flea larvae generally feed on the dried blood of cats in the form of fecal waste left behind by adult fleas. Unlike many other fleas, cat fleas remain on their hosts. Though a small number of fleas on a cat will not likely cause much damage (and many cats live with fleas showing almost no signs of infestation), a large number, or any number in a cat that is allergic to flea saliva can cause some health concerns.
When cats clean themselves, they swallow any fleas that may be on their coats. This can make detecting fleas difficult. If you notice your cat continuously itching or biting itself, this should be a warning sign. In addition, if you have found any flea bites on yourself than this is a good indicator that you are dealing with fleas. One method that has been suggested to find out if your cat has fleas is to place it over a white sheet or piece of paper and comb it with a very fine comb. If fleas or little black (flea feces) or white (flea eggs) specks fall onto the paper, then your cat likely has fleas. The little black specks are flea feces, and if crushed together with water they will turn red, as there is dried blood in flea feces. The easiest places to look for fleas on your cat are on its back, tail, and rear. These areas tend to be the ones that itch the most as well.
Cat Flea Bites
As previously mentioned, cat flea bites in small numbers will generally not cause serious issues, but even then they must be treated. Flea infestations can grow easily, seriously affect your cat’s health, and spread to other animals and people. In most cases, biting causes only moderate itching, but in more serious cases, it can lead to dehydration, Anemia, hair loss, and the transfer of tapeworms. Cat fleas can feed on humans as well and it may be possible for cat fleas to transfer diseases as serious as typhus, lime disease, or the plague to humans. Cats who are allergic to flea saliva (hypersensitivity) experience aggravated effects.
Cat Flea Treatment
There are several methods of treatment for cat flea bites. It should be noted though that, no matter the form of treatment for the bites, the most important thing to do is to get rid of the cat fleas. So long as the fleas are there, they will continue to bite the cat. It is important to treat a cat with fleas not only when he has them, but also when they do not have fleas as part of a prevention methodology. Make sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any medication and it is important to note that what works for dogs may not necessarily work for cats and may even be fatal to them. In addition to all of this, if the cat has spent much time in the house or, if you or other members of the household have noticed flea bites, it may well be necessary to get rid of fleas in your house as well. With that being said, the following are methods for treating cat flea bites and getting rid of cat fleas:
- Topical treatments such as Advantage II, Frontline Plus, or Frontline Top Spot are great ways to get rid of fleas and keep them away from your cat. These treatments can be applied regularly and make your cat’s fur a poisonous place to fleas. Other topical treatments (e.g. bioSpot Spot On) contain Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), which stops larvae from being able to mature and halts the flea infestation’s life cycle. Be careful to read the packaging carefully as topical ointments can be harmful to cats if misused. Topical ointments are largely separated into ‘spot-on’ and spray treatments. Before topical ointments, several different powders were used for cat fleas. These are still available today but are not recommended, as they can be harmful to cats.
- Oral medications can be obtained from your veterinarian and release chemicals, which can both get rid of any parasites your cat may have gotten from the fleas, and the fleas themselves. These tablets can be tricky to administer as your cat needs to swallow them, and they must be administered repeatedly. They are, however, very effective. The active ingredient in the tablets collects under your cat’s skin, and works when fleas bite your cat. The tablets stop flea eggs from hatching. Such tablets can be acquired through a veterinarian.
- Special collars with anti-flea chemicals on them are another common method. These can be effective however, they can cause local irritation around the neck, and sometimes the chemicals do not spread well through your cat’s fur.
- Cats who develop hypersensitivity to flea bites may need to be taken to the veterinarian and prescribed antihistamines or steroids to treat their symptoms. The same goes for cats that have developed infections from open wounds after too much scratching or biting.
- Keeping a cat’s environment clean and flea-free is important in preventing infestations. If your cat has fleas and spends time inside the house or, if you or other members of the house have fleas, it may well be necessary to get rid of the fleas in your house.