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If your cat suddenly has intense itching, fleas may be the cause. These parasites are not just trouble but often cause additional problems. In this article, I will briefly tell you how to recognize and successfully treat fleas in cats.
Are fleas dangerous for cats?
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At first glance, apart from intense itching, fleas are not a big danger. But a flea infestation can always have subsequent consequences:
- Flea saliva allergy: When fleas bite, they secrete saliva. It is responsible for itching. Some cats are allergic to flea saliva, which leads to particularly severe itching.
- Tapeworms: Fleas can transmit tapeworm larvae. If the cat eats a flea while taking care of itself or tries to scratch itself, the eggs enter the cat’s gut. Therefore, it should also be dewormed internally if it has fleas.
- Anemia: A very severe flea infestation can result in significant blood loss and lead to anemia.
- Hemobartonellosis: This infectious disease is caused by a bacterium from the Mycoplasma family, Haemobartonella felis. Fleas transmit the bacteria, which destroys red blood cells in the cat’s blood.
- Bartonellosis, the cat scratch disease: Fleas are the main carriers of Bartonella. In cats, the bacteria usually do not cause any symptoms, but they can cause bartonellosis in humans.
Symptoms: What are the signs of a flea infestation in cats?
The main symptom of fleas in cats is itching. So, if your cat scratches extremely often, fleas should be at the top of the list of suspects.
Local skin reactions, such as red spots, are additional signs. Scratching flea bites can also lead to the appearance of pustules and crusts.
Diagnosis: How to recognize fleas in cats?
Depending on the severity of the infestation, you can already recognize fleas in cats with the bare eye, on their fur. Bites and redness of fleas’ favorite areas like ears, back, tail base, belly, and inside of hips are also important clues.
If fleas are not seen with the bare eye, check whether the cat has flea droppings through the fur:
Place your cat on a smooth, light-colored surface, for example, on tiles or in the bathtub.
Comb the cat with a brush as thick as possible. If flea droppings exist, they will remain in the form of black crumbs in the flea comb or fall on the floor
Put the crumbs on a white cloth and moisten them
If red spots are formed around the crumbs, it is flea excrement, because the feces contain the digested blood of the cat.
Treatment: How to get rid of fleas?
A successful flea treatment always consists of two components:
Treatment for the flea-infested cat
First of all, you need to control the fleas that sit on the cat and make their life difficult. There are drugs with different active ingredients and application types available for this purpose. You can choose between collars, drops, and tablets.
Most drugs do not get rid of only adult fleas. They also prevent egg laying or the development of larvae. In any case, you will need to perform the treatment three times in total, at four-week intervals.
Treatment for the environment and other animals
If you have other animals around the house, they all will need to receive prevention against fleas. Otherwise, the pets will infect each other. In addition, make sure to deworm all animals internally, as tapeworms are easily transmitted from one to another.
In addition, only about five percent of the flea population is actually on the cat. That’s why it’s important to treat the whole house against fleas. Pay special attention to dark areas where the larvae hide, such as cracks in the floor or the lower part of the carpets.
Vacuum everything well and then immediately throw the vacuum bag, preferably in a separate bag. In the case of particularly massive infestations, spray systems have been shown to be effective in treating the environment.
Put all blankets, pillows, and any washable material in the washing machine to at least 60 degrees Celsius.
Are parasite control products harmful to cats?
There are many reservations about antiparasitic treatments. Most of all, many cat owners are worried that they contain neurotoxins. Unlike insects, humans and cats have a so-called blood-brain barrier. Therefore, the active ingredient does not get where it could cause damage.
Intolerance to flea drugs occurs naturally because unfortunately, every drug can have side effects. The diversity of products is so great that it is impossible not to find something that your cat can tolerate.
However, there are also problematic active substances like Permethrin, flumetrin, and deltamethrin, that are toxic to cats. So always make sure that the product is approved for cats.
Are there natural remedies for fleas in cats?
In individual cases and in the case of a mild infestation, home remedies, such as vinegar spray or herbal preparations, can work for cats. But these gentle methods are not suitable for serious infestations. This is because they stress both the olfactory sense and the need of the cats to be clean.
Given the wide range of approved drugs, there is definitely a suitable remedy for every cat to reliably get rid of fleas.
Prognosis and prevention: How hard is it to get rid of fleas?
If you treat both your cat and your home as recommended, you should not have trouble getting rid of parasites. But also, in this case, prevention is easier than cure!
The same remedies that are used to combat flea infestations are also suitable to prevent them. In addition, most drugs are effective against ticks as well. This protects your cat from two types of parasites at the same time.
Prophylaxis is especially important if your pet suffers from an allergy to flea saliva. It regularly uses protection against parasites in this case, because even a single flea bite can trigger massive itching.
Causes: How does a cat get infected with fleas?
Cats usually become infected with fleas when they come into contact with other infected animals. But parasites can also hide on contaminated objects. For example, cat fleas like to nest in fabrics such as carpets, pillows, and sofas.
Besides this, the living spaces, unfortunately, offer ideal conditions for the development of fleas. And if conditions are not optimal, fleas simply turn into pupae and can survive for several months even in inhospitable environments.
What are fleas?
With more than 2000 species, fleas are among the most common parasites in mammals and birds. Cat fleas, Ctenocephalides Felis, are most common in dogs and cats. But there are also other species, such as dog fleas, Ctenocephalides Canis, or hedgehog fleas, Archaeopsylla erinacei, that feed on the blood of our cats.
Fleas are insects one to six millimeters long, flat, and without wings. Having strong legs, it is not uncommon for them to jump up to 25 centimeters. Cat fleas are light brown to dark brown in color and are equipped with strong mouth organs that pierce the skin of the feline and suck its blood.
Reproduction of fleas
Fleas develop from the egg, going through three larval stages to the pupae and then to the adult fleas.
Adult females begin sucking blood shortly after contaminating the cat and lay their first eggs after about a day. During the 50-100 days of life of females, they lay an average of 30 eggs a day.
Eggs fall into bed or other places where the cat frequently sits while resting. There they continue to develop until they reach the pupae stage. If the external conditions are unfavorable for the further development of fleas, the larvae transformed into pupae can survive in their cocoon for up to 50 weeks.
The best way to keep your cat safe from fleas is to first prevent a flea infestation. It is important to check your cat regularly and prevent it all year round. Prevent fleas from disrupting the lives of your pets and your family.