Fleas can be tricky to detect, and it’s easier to have your pet on a good regime to stop them getting fleas, rather than trying to treat a huge infestation on your pet and in your house. If you aren’t up to date with your parasite control, or you’re not using this regularly you need to be on the lookout for these itchy insects!
If you aren’t sure how to spot signs of fleas, or want advice on what you can do to get rid of the problem, read on.
How can I know if my cat has fleas?
The most common type of flea found on cats is the flea, ctenocephalides felis - or the cat flea. Not all cats scratch with fleas. Cats who are allergic to the saliva injected during a flea bite may scratch or overgroom. But if your cat isn’t allergic to the flea saliva, they might not show any signs. It’s easy to check for evidence of fleas in your cat’s coat, even if they aren’t scratching.
There are lots of tools available to help you find these creepy crawlies, but your eyes are the first step in detecting them. Have a look through your cats fur, focus your attention around the tail base and neck. Look for any bugs crawling through the fur, or any specks of black or dark stuck at the base of the hairs or throughout the coat. These specks are known as flea dirt, and are the poop that fleas leave behind after feeding on your pet!
Flea combs can be really helpful in finding this dirt, or any live fleas on your pet. Comb through your pet’s fur gently. Have a look at what comes off. Can you see any flea dirt? If you’re not sure, pull out the material from the comb and lay it on some damp kitchen roll. If these specks turn from brown to red - you’ve got flea poop!
Common symptoms of flea eggs on cats
Fleas can be itchy, or they can be silent parasites. Not all cats are itchy and irritated by these pests. Signs your pet may be infested include:
- Small bumps and scratches around the neck and base of tail
- Scratching, biting or chewing at the skin
- Overgrooming, areas of baldness or redness
- Hair loss
- Behavioural changes like hiding or becoming more withdrawn
It’s best to have your pet on regular flea treatment, to prevent these bugs becoming a problem - but if you’re worried your pet has fleas it’s easily fixed by a trip to the vet.
Learning about the life cycle of a flea
The life cycle of a flea is made up of four different stages:
- Eggs: fleas lay eggs on the host animal, these eggs fall from the coat of the animal and hatch over the next couple of days in the environment. Eggs can survive in your carpets, soft furnishings and anywhere warm and dry!
- Larvae: once the eggs hatch, larvae emerge and feed on the flea dirt left behind from the adults. These larvae can survive on your pet, or in the environment.
- Pupae: after a week old, the larvae will spin a cocoon for itself, where it becomes an adult flea. Gross!
- Adult: adults emerge from their cocoons, and find a tasty pet to snack on!
It’s important to remember to treat your pets environment and house if you think there are fleas about. Remember - most of these bugs aren’t living on your pet, they’re hiding in your house!
How to get rid of flea eggs on cats?
The quickest and easiest way to get rid of a flea infestation is to contact your vet. Spot-on treatments, and even tablets, are readily available and are highly effective. Most of these treatments will kill adult fleas within 24 hours. Once your pet has been treated and the fleas bite, they’re dead! It might look like there are still fleas around, even for a few weeks - but these new fleas are ones who are hatching in the environment, not ones that have escaped the wrath of the spot-on!
Flea shampoos, most flea collars and combs aren’t effective in treating an infestation. Baths and shop-bought spot-ons can be dangerous, depending on the active ingredient. Never mind challenging - cats don’t like baths! Speak to your vet about the best option for you.
It can take up to 3 months to completely clear an infection from your house and pet, the life cycle of the flea makes killing them all in a single go difficult. It’s important to keep up to date with your parasite control, treat your pets and don’t forget to treat the house with a safe insecticidal spray.
Prevention is easy. Spot-on treatments are easy to apply, and tolerated well by most cats. These spot-ons may need to be applied monthly, or in some cases - every 3 months. Tablets are available, but most owners find a quick blob of liquid on the skin much easier. These medications are available from your vet, and your vet will be happy to recommend a product to suit you and your pet.
These spot-on treatments contain different ingredients, but all are effective in getting rid of fleas. Make sure your cat’s weight is checked regularly, particularly if your cat is young and growing as most products are dispensed off weight.
Secure your home
After you have treated your cat, it is time to make sure that your house is a flea-free environment:
- Wash all of your cat’s bedding thoroughly on a high heat
- Use a pet-safe insecticide recommended by your veterinarian to treat any areas your pet has access to
- Vacuum carpeting daily and dispose of hoover material in an outdoor bin
- Steam-cleaning can be helpful in ridding your carpets and soft furnishings of any fleas and eggs that might be hiding there
Prevention is always better than cure. Parasite control is easy and effective, no-one wants an itchy pet! Speak to your vet about any concerns, and keep those fleas away for good.