Fleas on kittens are very common. Luckily, those pesky fleas can be treated with the right methods and medications. Here’s what you need to do if your kitten has fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are small, flightless insects; the adults grow to about 3mm. They are external parasites found on mammals and birds. Fleas have strong claws to cling onto their hosts and they feed off blood and organic matter. Fleas have incredibly strong hind legs that allow them to jump distances of up 150X their body size. The only insect with better jumping power is the tiny froghopper.
Fleas use this super jumping ability to leap onto passing hosts. They're also incredibly patient and durable. Fleas can go over a 100 days without feeding and can lay dormant in all kinds of conditions until they hitch a ride of a tasty looking host.
After they've locked on, fleas begin to multiply. A female flea will lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. They're also very greedy, consuming up to 15x their body weight in blood every day!
Why does my kitten have fleas?
According to one old wives tale, kittens are born with fleas! This isn't actually true, but it's easy to see where the story came from. Kittens can catch fleas very early on, and sometimes within the first few days of being born. Kittens are particularly vulnerable; they spend most of their time in close proximity to their mum and their little kitty brothers and sister. This makes it really easy for the fleas to jump from host to host.
Are fleas dangerous for kittens?
If left untreated, a flea infestation can lead to other health issues and complications. Dermatitis and other skin infections are the most common problems. Each time a flea feeds, they're biting through your cat's skin. This creates scratches and small scabs that can be very uncomfortable. Some cats are also allergic to the flea's saliva; they're likely to experience bad reactions like itchiness, swelling, and flaky skin.
Fleas can also cause tapeworms. These are internal parasites that live in your cat's digestive system. Some fleas carry the tapeworm larvae. Once ingested, the larvae continue to grow and then attaches to the intestinal wall. Although tapeworms are symptomless, they're best avoided and will certainly need treatment. The most obvious sign of tapeworm infection are the small, white egg-shaped creatures wriggling around in your cat's faeces.
Fleas feed off blood. If they feed off too much of your cats' blood, then it could lead to flea-bite anaemia. Because of their tiny little bodies, this is a real problem for kittens. Multiple fleas feeding at the same time will dramatically reduce the amount of oxygen inside the kitty's blood. This can cause very serious health issues like haemobartonella. Treatments include blood transfusions and antibiotics, although a third of kittens diagnosed with this serious condition never recover.
Best flea treatment for kittens
Speak to a specialist before buying and using any flea treatments; many of them are not suitable for kittens younger than 8 weeks old. Most anti-flea treatments contain chemicals that are dangerous for little kittens; you'll need to remove the fleas yourself.
How to get rid of fleas on kittens
Removing the fleas and treating the environment can be tricky and time-consuming, especially if your kittens are less than a few months old. But it needs to be done. If not, those pesky fleas will keep coming back.
Don't rely on a single method to keep a cat and kitten flea free. Instead, use a combination of approaches. This is far more likely to get rid of fleas. It also means there's less chance of re-infestation.
There are many well-known brands of anti-flea treatment. You can buy sprays, collars, tablets, powders, and even shampoos. Again, make sure the product is suitable for your kittens and always read the labels carefully.
How to remove fleas with a flea comb
You'll also need to invest in a flea comb. These have long, narrow teeth that trap fleas as you pull the comb through your cat's fur. Do this after you've applied any flea treatments and then repeat up to three times a day for best results. Drop any fleas into a bowl of hot water. This kills them off. Dump them anywhere else, and there's a good chance they'll find a way back onto your kitten.
Fleas might be tiny, but they can still cause some big problems. A heavy infestation can lead to some very nasty illnesses and disease, some of which can be fatal. Treating the fleas isn't particularly hard, but it will take up some time. You might need to go through a few treatments before you eradicate them all. But it must be done! And your kitty will love you for it!