Grey cat scratching

You might spot cat fleas if you part your pet's fur.

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My cat has fleas

By Dr. Laura Waring BVetMed MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Your cat, other pets and your home will all need to be treated if your pet has fleas.

Fleas are tiny, parasitic insects that can live on your pet and in your home. Cat fleas are incredibly common, but can be difficult to eliminate. Fleas feed on blood and cause itchy skin. They can even cause illness for very young or elderly cats due to blood loss (anaemia). If you think your cat has fleas, you will need to treat them along with any other animals in the house, and also ensure the house is treated to break the flea life cycle.

What symptoms will my cat have from fleas?

Symptoms your cat might have with fleas would include scratching, bald patches or sore areas of the skin such as spots or scabs, redness or irritation. There might be flea dirt (flea poo) in the coat of your cat that looks like dark brown spots. If you place this 'dirt' on a wet tissue, it will turn red if it is flea dirt (it is digested blood). You may also find that you yourself have insect bites too.

How can you spot fleas on your cat?

You might spot cat fleas if your part your pet's fur. They are tiny, brown specs and they scurry and jump about. Yet unless your pet has a very heavy flea burden, it might not be possible to find the fleas themselves.

What treatment is there for a cat with fleas?

There are many licensed products available to treat your pet. It is best to get a prescription product after discussing your individual pet and household needs with a vet. The vet will take into account the age of your pet and any sensitivities in order to find the correct treatment.

Some cats are very susceptible to flea bites and experience an allergic reaction, these cats may require further treatment other than just the flea product. It is also important to treat your cat for worms, as fleas can transmit tapeworms.

How do you get rid of cat fleas in your home?

Once your pet has fleas, it is likely a large amount of fleas and eggs are also living in your home. Speak to a vet because they will be able to discuss a suitable product to use to treat the house to help break the flea life cycle. This is likely to be a spray. It would be advisable to vacuum regularly the areas of the house that your cat has access to and regularly wash pet bedding to help eliminate the fleas. Doing this alongside using the treatments as prescribed by a veterinary surgeon should enable you to eliminate any fleas from your home. It is also essential that all cats and dogs living in the household are treated.

Can cat fleas live on humans?

Cat fleas do not live on human skin – humans are not their host. But if there is a large number of fleas on your pet or in your home, you may notice small insect bites on your skin. Yet after biting you, the fleas will not remain on you.

What is the best flea treatment for cats available in the UK?

It is best to seek advice from a veterinary surgeon regarding the best treatment for your cat. It is better to use treatments preventatively to stop your cat from becoming infested with fleas in the first place. This will have then added benefit of ensuring that your home is also flea free.

How can I get rid of fleas on cats naturally?

There are not any proven 100 per cent effective natural remedies for eliminating fleas on your pet. Trying to implement a more natural remedy, such as spraying your cat with oils etc, may cause more stress or harm to your pet and not deal with the problem. Therefore it is important to ensure your pet is treated with a safe, licensed product and that your house is also treated. Fleas are mostly a large annoyance to you and your pet, but for some animals they do cause allergic reactions or more serious illness. Always seek advice from a vet.

How do you bathe a cat using flea shampoo?

Flea shampoos will not effectively treat fleas on your cat. Many cats find being bathed very stressful, therefore it is best to treat them with a safe, licensed product. Many such products are called ‘spot ons’, which are applied to the back of the neck or oral treatments. The use of such effective treatments will not only ensure the flea infestation is dealt with, but it will also be less stressful for your pet.

What do fleas do to cats?

Adult fleas jump onto your cat looking for a blood meal. Fleas are parasites that feed on your cat's blood. Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which will fall off your pet into the environment. The flea bites can be very irritating to your pet.

How do indoor cats get fleas?

Indoor cats will be less at risk of fleas than cats who go outside. Having said that, indoor cats can still get fleas. Fleas can be brought into your home and therefore transmitted to your cat from clothing or shoes.

What should I do if my cat has fleas?

If your cat has fleas, it is important to treat your pet with a licensed flea product, and ensure that other animals within the household are also treated. The house will also benefit from a suitable treatment to ensure the flea life cycle is broken. A veterinary surgeon can advise which products to use.

Are cat fleas dangerous? 

For the most part cat fleas are a severe annoyance to your pet and you. Yet if there is a heavy infestation in an older or young cat, it can cause life-threatening anaemia. It is possible for fleas to transmit serious infections to your cat, such as Bartonellosis. Some cats are allergic to flea saliva and therefore flea bites can cause an allergic reaction in these individuals. This is called flea allergic dermatitis, a very uncomfortable condition. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms.

When should I see a vet? 

It's advisable to seek advice from a vet regarding appropriate flea treatment for your cat. But if your cat is experiencing symptoms beyond simply scratching (such as hair loss, severe skin irritation, sore spots or signs of being unwell), then it is particularly important to consult a vet to ensure your cat receives the appropriate care.

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