It’s a known fact that cats are one of the cleanest creatures on earth with an apparent and instinctual obsession to groom themselves now and then.
This feline habit works to their advantage, but can it prevent fleas? And just in case it won’t, what are the common signs on how to tell if cat has fleas?
Well, believe it or not, even if cats spend 10% of their waking hours cleaning themselves, they are still twice as prone as dogs to fleas.
And even indoor cats are not totally protected from these parasites since fleas can enter your home through unsuspecting visitors, other pets, or even you yourself can introduce these pesky parasites inside your home.
If you're curious as to how cats catch fleas and unsure whether your cat has fleas, below are common signs to watch out for. We’ll also talk about flea prevention, and ways to get rid of cat flea when your beloved pet has been infested.
Also Read: Best Flea Treatment for Cats
How Do Cats Get Flea Infestation?
Wandering around outside all day seems to be a surefire way to bring home a flea brood. However, even if your feline buddy prefers to stay at home, fleas and other parasites may still find lots of opportunities to land in his fur. In short, cats can get fleas from almost anywhere, including:
Getting Out of the House
A bothersome flea can infest your indoor pet even after a brief appointment with the veterinarian. Catteries, grooming salons, or vet clinics are visited by several cats. And these felines may leave fleas behind and transfer to another unsuspecting host like your cat.
If you live in a multi-pet household, it's possible that these other animals brought in these tiny insects, making your cat their ideal next target.
Cats adore going on quick hunts for mice. However, even if only one of their potential victims is a host of these pesky parasites, these fleas can easily jump ship and infest your feline friend, instead.
Moving to a New House
Moving into a new home doesn't always imply that the previous residence is completely empty and that the fleas have left as well. Consider doing a complete cleaning job again if you just moved in with your cat. If you think it's essential, you could even hire professional flea control services.
How to Tell If Cat Has Fleas: 11 Common Signs
The easiest approach to determine if your cat has fleas is to watch out for the symptoms and indicators listed below:
1. Excessive Grooming
Flea bites can cause cat irritability and irritation, so it makes scratching a common way to detect flea infestation. But remember that cats scratching themselves during grooming does not usually signify an infestation of fleas. However, when cats scratch frequently, this is usually done to relieve an itchy feeling that is caused by fleas.
2. Hair Loss and Skin Issues
Excessive grooming can result in bald patches on your cat's neck, tail base, or back of legs, as well as increased hair loss from licking, chewing, scratching, or constant biting. Take a closer look at your cat's skin to see if you can spot any signs of fleas.
Also, watch out for even a small difference in his meticulous behavior. If your cat is grooming, and scratching excessively to the point of having wounds and losing patches of hair, it’s best to seek veterinary advice to rule out other medical problems.
Flea allergy dermatitis is yet another factor contributing to hair loss and skin issues in cats. This is a disorder that can affect both humans and animals. Saliva is transferred while a flea is eating blood. When exposed to flea saliva, either you or your cat will have an allergic reaction, which can appear as a rash that is itchy and painful.
3. Presence of Red Skin Lesions or Scab Like Bumps
Once your cat gets bitten by a flea, the flea's mouthparts penetrate its skin like a needle in order to feed. Your cat could experience an allergic reaction from flea saliva.
While the reaction varies in severity depending on the cat, it usually results in red, swollen skin. To lessen irritation and prevent infection, you must immediately consult a veterinarian if you discover red skin sores or bumps that resemble scabs.
4. Pale Gums and Body Weakness
Pale gums in a cat can be an indication of anemia and can be a symptom of a serious flea infestation. When there is a larger loss of red blood cells than the production of new ones, this condition arises. The daily blood consumption of fleas can reach a maximum of 15 times their own weight.
Due to their tiny size and developing bodies, kittens are more likely to get flea anemia. Larger and more developed than kittens, adult cats can tolerate some blood loss from fleas. Flea anemia can have a detrimental effect on a kitten's health and, in extreme situations, be lethal because kittens cannot fight off the disease.
Body weakness or lethargy is also one of the common symptoms of anemia not just in cats and other animals, but also in humans. Hence, if you notice that your cat has suddenly become lethargic, it’s possible that he has been suffering from flea infestation for some time.
5. Weight Loss
The fact that fleas can transmit the larval stage of a common tapeworm is just one of the many risks that come with them.
When your cat consumes a flea that is carrying a tapeworm, the tapeworm matures and attaches to the intestinal wall of your cat to feed and spread. Although tapeworms rarely show symptoms of sickness in cats, they are nevertheless ugly and a health risk, especially if you have small kids at home.
To keep you, your cat, and the rest of your family healthy, your veterinarian can assist you in preventing fleas from spreading the tapeworm and in treating it.
6. Suddenly Avoids Certain Parts of Your Home
Fleas hide in carpets and furniture and like warm weather to thrive. (Note that even while wood and tile floors are not the best places for fleas to live, they can still be found in their cracks and crevices.) If your cat starts to avoid carpeted sections of your home, take it as a warning sign. They are skipping these areas to stay away from the fleas.
Flea eggs and flea larvae are frequently discovered in soft furnishings, under skirting boards, and in carpets. So, pay attention and take note. Regular thorough vacuuming is essential, and you should always empty the vacuum bags to prevent the growth of fleas.
Make sure to wash your cat's bedding in hot, soapy water if you discover fleas. Pupae of fleas can remain latent for months. Flea control with extended protection is the only thing that can get rid of fleas.
7. Changes in Behavior
Fleas can literally drive your cat crazy (not in a good way). As a result, he may exhibit significant behavioral changes due to the itchiness and irritation brought about by fleas.
Intense growling, head shaking, aggressive head and body rubbing on the floor, or darting from one end of the room to the other are behavioral changes that you may notice if your cat has fleas.
8. Black Specks in Your Cat’s Coat
The presence of “flea dirt,” which are actually dark brown flea feces, is another indication that a cat has fleas. The regions where they are most frequently found are on the neck and rump, but you might also notice some of these specks on your cat's comb or brush.
These grains will turn red when misted with water and placed on a white paper towel. This is due to the fact that feces are made up of digested blood.
9. Presence of Tiny Black Specks in Your Cat’s Bedding Fabric
These dark specks on your cat’s bedding or furniture are flea dirt once again. Speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible to learn how to properly get rid of fleas and protect your other pets from being infested.
10. Rice Grains on Your Cat’s Bedding or Around His Anus
There is a strong likelihood that your cat has tapeworms if you spot rice grains in their bedding, excrement, or around their anus. The egg packets that tapeworms release are the rice grains.
In order to complete their life cycle, tapeworms need fleas. Some cats can get tapeworms via eating infected prey animals, while the majority of cats get tapeworms from inadvertently consuming an infected flea while grooming.
11. Presence of Pinhead-Sized Black or Reddish Brown Insects Crawling on Your Cat’s Fur
This is perhaps the most obvious sign if you're wondering how to determine if your cat has fleas. The fleas themselves are those little, reddish-brown, or black insects you see on your cat's fur. You may notice fleas and flea eggs on your cat or his bedding if there is a severe infestation.
After parting the hair, check the skin to see if your cat has fleas. Check these areas thoroughly because the lower back, hind legs, and stomach are where fleas like to congregate.
Also Read: Best Cat Flea Collars for 2024
What Should You Do With Your Cat’s Flea Problem?
To rule out fleas, you should visit your veterinarian if you see any of the symptoms mentioned above on your cat.
Your veterinarian can suggest possible treatments if your cat does really have fleas. It's vital to understand that fleas are very tough tiny bugs. Their pupae can remain latent for months before hatching and latching onto your feline buddy or other members of your household, and repeating their complete life cycle.
Fleas must be treated for at least three months continuously with an effective method to completely get rid of them. For the best results, use three-month flea prevention that kills both current fleas and any eggs that may hatch soon.
Remember that in addition to treating your cat, your house also needs to be treated if you want to get rid of cat fleas. To kill adult fleas, you should combine topical medications with a home remedy that will stop the eggs from hatching into adults. Ensure that all carpets and soft furniture are routinely properly cleaned on high heat. Keeping a home free of fleas requires doing all of these preventative measures.
Does Your Indoor Cat Need Flea Treatment?
It’s a common misconception that indoor cats are immune or protected from flea infestation. As mentioned earlier, other animals or human visitors can carry fleas inside your house and latch into your feline companion. Nonetheless, compared with outdoor cats, they are less vulnerable to being infested.
Remember, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian before treating your cat, especially if she is expecting or nursing young kittens. Some over-the-counter medications are less effective than those that need to be prescribed, and cats may even develop immunity to them. Your vet can recommend the ideal cat flea treatment for your feline buddy.
Can Cats Die From Severe Flea Infestation?
One of the bad news about fleas is that they are too small that at times, we simply undermine their danger to our cat’s health. However, in reality, these tiny, pesky parasites can be fatal to our feline buddies if not treated in a timely manner.
Anemia is the most serious side effect of a severe cat flea infestation. Cats of all ages can get flea anemia, although kittens are more likely to experience the worst adverse effects. Below are some signs of anemia in kittens that you need to watch out for:
- Pale gums
- Loss of or decreased appetite
A proper and timely diagnosis of a flea infestation is crucial. This can lead to prompt treatment and implementation of measures to stop the spread of the infestation to other pets inside your household.
Cats are clean creatures, so, it’s logical for us, pet parents to assume that fleas can’t touch them. And this belief is even strengthened if our cats are exclusively indoors. However, as mentioned earlier, no felines are safe from fleas. Hence, regular flea treatment is essential to kill fleas and future eggs that may hatch soon.
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