What are fleas?
Fleas are parasites that feed off the blood of their hosts. They very small (around 1mm in length), although they can jump huge distances. This makes it very easy for them latch onto a passing host. Fleas feed off birds and mammal, including you and your cat.
Fleas have specially designed claws and teeth that grip onto the host. Once attached, fleas bite through the skin and suck up the host's blood. Despite their tiny size, fleas have got big appetites. An adult male can consume up to 15x its own body weight.
My cat has got fleas. Is this normal?
Fleas are part of a cats life, especially if they're very young. A few fleas won't do to much damage, but they still need to be treated. Fleas breed and spread very quickly; a heavy infestation can lead to lots of health issues, some of which can be very serious and even fatal.
How do I know if my cat has got fleas?
The most obvious sign is excessive scratching. Fleas bite through the skin, causing irritation and small red welts.
You might be able to spot the fleas with the naked eye, especially if there's a lot of them. You may also notice some fleas dirt. This is basically the fleas poop; it's black and grimy, with a sand-like texture. Flea poop is gross, but it’s also a health risk. Makes sure you get it all with a damp and warm cloth.
How to spot flea bites
Flea bites can be quite difficult to spot. In fact, unless you're looking for them, there's a good chance you won't spot them. That's why it's a really good idea to carry out regular flea checks. This is a good of spotting them early, which makes treating them much easier. It will also reduce the risk of any secondary infections or health complications.
The flea bites are small, red or pink bumps that might have a raised centre. You may also feel some “hotspots” on your cat's skin. These are caused by the irritation from the bite, combined with the excessive scratching and licking. The hotspots are bigger than the actual flea bites and tend to be hard with a scabby crust.
You can find fleas anywhere on your cat's body, but they do have some favoured places. Pay particular attention to your cat's neck, chest, and legs. These are the spots where you're likely to find the most flea bites.
How to treat flea bites in cats
The first symptom you need to treat is the skin irritation. Don't bother with bathing the cat. This might seem like a logical thing to do, but the irritation is actually inside the skin. So take the cat to a vet instead. They can prescribe the right medication to treat any irritation, itchiness, or inflammation.
Flea bites can lead to bacterial infections, so your cat might need a short course of antibiotics. These will clear most infections within a few weeks.
Killing off the fleas
Unless you treat your cat and their environment, the fleas will keep coming back. They're tiny, but fleas are also tough and very persistent parasites. They can hide all over the house and go over 100 days without feeding.
Speak to your vet about the most effective treatments. You can buy sprays, powders, collars, and creams. Whatever you chose, make sure it's suitable for our cat and always read the labels carefully.
Most cats will catch fleas at least once in their lives, especially during their first few months. If left untreated, fleas can cause severe irritation and may even lead to some very nasty bacterial infections. The smaller the infestation, the easier it will be to treat. That's why it's really important to carry out regular flea and flea bite checks. Make it part of your routine by giving your cat a quick once over a few times each week. This will make life much easier for you and the cat, and much harder for those pesky fleas!