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Felinexpress.com home > Cat Health > Flea Control

Flea Control: Getting rid of fleas from cats

There are 2,375 species of fleas in the world today.  They fall into two categories; bird fleas and mammal fleas. Both have complete life cycles, beginning with flea eggs (black specks resembling dirt) larvae (the worm-stage) then arrives the pupa stage. 

In this stage, they form a silky cocoon (the fragments act as a force-field). This protected area holds strong against most insecticides found on the market today. The flea stays inside this cocoon for two to four weeks.

Lastly, you have the adult stage. An adult flea is capable of laying up to 50 eggs in 24 hours.

Your pet is the flea’s living incubator. Eggs are laid within the hair of your pet. Some eggs will drop off. The eggs that drop off the animal are what you will find elsewhere. Most fleas stay glued to the animal’s hair.

If your home is heavily infested with fleas, you might find tiny brown worms crawling around. These are fleas entering the larvae stage. The larvae are able to subsist on either plant or animal matter. They eat the dried flea feces of the adult fleas to stay alive, until they find their way to a warm-blooded host. They are a parasitic predator. They need blood to survive.

However, fleas are able to go up to two months without eating. Fleas will also eat flakes of skin that you find in dust balls under your bed.

Once fleas take hold, they easily take over. When that happens, it is difficult to stop the invasion. Red bumps that itch appear on your ankles or arms. Your cat scratching almost constantly is a sign that fleas have arrived.

If you want to be certain that you do have fleas, put on a pair of long white socks. Walk slowly through your home. Then, look down on your socks. If you see black specks clinging to the fabric…guess what? You have fleas!

Don’t panic. They can be dealt with. But do your homework. Many products found on grocer shelves and in drugstores, kills fleas. But be warned,  those sprays and foggers and flea shampoos and treatments can also can inflict other damage to your health and the health of your pet if not used correctly.

All animals should be safely flea-treated. Right before winter is a popular time when fleas beat their tiny feet to get inside and stay warm. If you live in a warm climate, fleas can be found year-round, much to the misery of you and your pet. So you have to treat your home as well.

Before you start eradicating these parasites, here’s a word of caution. Be careful what you use! As mentioned previously, over- the- counter insecticides, foggers, sprays and dips are risky to use around pets and small children.  Visit your local vet’s office. Ask what they recommend. Many clinics carry flea products year-round.

Don’t run out and buy the first product you see that is a flea shampoo. Instead, talk to your vet. Have him recommend what to use. You can also make an appointment to have your pet flea-dipped at the clinic.

Flea collars can cause more problems than they solve. If you have a flea collar, cut it up in small pieces and place the pieces in your vacuum cleaner. There it kills the fleas your vacuum sucks up. But on a pet, flea collars can cause dermatitis, rashes, itching. Sometimes they can even cause toxic shock. Why? Because the flea collar stays in one place on the animal causing the toxins to build up. Absorbed through the skin the toxins can bring about some pretty serious health issues.

Virbach, Inc. the makers of the Escort flea collar now states on their label not to use this product on Persian cats. One of the ingredients diazanon is harmful to the cat’s liver. Persians lack the proper enzyme that could break down this poison properly.

  • Never use a flea product that contains permethrin, unless it states on the label that it is safe to use on cats.
    Don't set up a fogger or spray your home without removing all pets (even fish) from the home first. Also children and adults should not be in the home before and after the application.
  • Read all label instructions!
  • Talk with your vet about the best product to use in your home and on your pet.
    Be sure to wash all exposed utensils and kitchenware. Anything left out in the room will become exposed to the toxins.
  • Open your windows afterwards to let the rooms’ air out.
  • Vacuum as soon as it is safe to do so.

Treat your pet(s) for fleas with either Frontline or Advantage or other tested spot-on flea treatment. Beware! There are knock-off products on the market today. Your best bet is to purchase the product from your vet. That way, if something does happen, you will have recourse and quick assistance.
Steer clear of over the counter flea sprays and shampoos.  I cannot stress this enough! A bath in warm water and Dawn liquid detergent will stun the fleas. Combing your animal’s coat with a flea comb will dislodge the stunned fleas, dipping the comb full of fleas into a jar of hot water will kill them.
If you have found a kitten/cat, and he is covered with fleas, this animal needs immediate vet intervention.

Fleas will quickly suck the life out of a small kitten.

  • Fleas will cause severe anemia and other problems in older cats.
    Fleas carry tapeworms. Your cat has fleas, then she has tapeworms.
    Get the cat treated at your local vet.
    Do not use over-the-counter wormers.
    Let the vet deal with the worm and the flea infestation.

If your cat is an inside/outside cat and loves to hunt, she can pick up tapeworms, after eating her prey (small rodents). Although the tapeworms do not do as much damage as say roundworms or whipworms, the cat needs to be treated quickly. The host worm is inside her intestine hooked to the tissue and will continue to grow until it is destroyed. Those white or brown segments that look like kernels of rice that you see on her rump or tail, those are segments of the host worm.

If your cat eats a flea while grooming itself or other flea infested cats, she will develop tapeworms.  It is always wise to get your cat’s stool tested twice a year for parasites.

How can you tell if your cat has fleas?
Take a piece of white paper and place your cat on the paper. Comb her gently, and then shake the comb out. If you see little brown or black specks, that could be what is called flea dirt- but it is actually flea feces. Take a moist tissue and press on the dots. If you see red(blood) then you have a flea problem.

What sort of problems do fleas generate?
The most common ailment is allergic dermatitis, a reaction to the flea bites. This reaction can show up as the cat either scratching herself silly or pulling her fur out in great clumps. It can also cause the hair to become thin, or small bumps or scales to form on the skin. The type of reaction the cat displays depends on how long the cat has been exposed to the fleas. The reaction is caused by the saliva of the flea that enters into the host once the host gets bitten.

There are ways of ridding your home of fleas that does not involve harsh chemicals or poisons. You want to use the method that rids your home of not only the adult fleas but also the eggs.  You want to make your home unwelcome to these pests while not causing harm to any other living creature under your care and protection.

Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.

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