The Ultimate Guide To Cats And Fleas

Signs your cat has fleas, plus how to get rid of them.

fleas on cat

Fleas can be a total pain for your cat, and can cause him to itch himself like crazy.

So if your cat has fleas, you’ll probably want to get him relief before he goes bald from all the scratching — which is actually a common sign that a cat has fleas.

All cats should be on a reliable flea preventative because if not, your cat is susceptible to an infestation (even if he lives indoors only), which can cause your cat to itch pretty badly — especially if he’s allergic.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Michael Henricks, a veterinarian and owner of Faithful Friends Veterinary Clinic in Ohio, to find out everything a pet parent should know about cats and fleas.

How do cats get fleas?

Cats can get fleas from pretty much anywhere there is a flea infestation, which could be either outdoors or indoors. Cats can also get fleas by getting close to other animals who are infested.

Outside, fleas tend to congregate in moist, shady areas, which might mean some shrubs in your yard or in a nook behind your shed. Indoors, you’re most likely to find fleas living where your pet sleeps or in other dark, cozy spots — like in between your couch cushions.

Even if your cat never goes outside, fleas can easily be brought indoors, so it’s super important that all of your pets are on flea prevention.

“All pets should be on flea and tick prevention because an indoor-outdoor cat or household dog that is not on prevention could bring fleas and ticks into the house, and a non-treated indoor-only cat could be harboring fleas and ticks that will lead to infestation of the house,” Dr. Henricks told The Dodo.

And humans can totally get flea bites, especially if there’s an infestation in your home, which is yet another reason to make sure your pets are on a preventative.

How to tell if your cat has fleas

The most common sign of fleas on your cat is excessive itching and grooming — and you might also see some fleas here and there.

It’s not super likely you’ll see a ton of fleas on your cat, even if he’s dealing with an infestation, since cats are constantly grooming themselves.

If your cat is allergic to fleas, he might be even more itchy, to the point where he’s causing bald spots and scabs on his skin.

“Flea bites can also cause an allergic dermatitis that shows up as itching, alopecia and pinpoint scabs on the patient's skin,” Dr. Henricks said.

To confirm that your cat has fleas, you should check your cat’s fur often using a flea comb, and bring your pet to the vet if you notice any symptoms.

“Frequently checking your cat for fleas and ticks can help identify any issues, and a flea comb should be used over the cat's entire coat on a regular basis, but especially when a cat comes in from outdoors, to try to physically identify and remove any fleas and ticks before they can bite,” Dr. Henricks said.

Try Hartz Groomer’s flea comb for pets from Amazon for $4.62

How to get rid of fleas on cats

If your cat has fleas, you can get rid of fleas on your cat with flea prevention that can kill existing fleas as well as prevent new infestations.

“Cats with fleas should be treated with a safe and effective flea control product containing active ingredients that kill adult fleas and that sterilize flea eggs and prevent immature fleas from maturing into adults,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary advisor for Pet News Daily, told The Dodo.

(Some vet-recommended flea medications that kill fleas and prevent infestations are recommended below.)

But if your cat’s infestation is severe enough, you might want to try products to kill fleas on your cat almost instantly to give your cat immediate relief before the preventative kicks in. In these cases, flea shampoo or Capstar might help.

“Capstar is an amazing oral parasite control product that starts working in 30 minutes and kills all fleas on the cat within 24 hours,” Dr. Henricks said. “It is used most often in cases of severe flea infestation to get the situation under control quickly.”

If you do choose to use a product that kills fleas on your cat, you should also treat your cat with a flea preventative medication to keep future flea infestations from happening.

Flea treatments for cats

All of your pets should be on flea prevention, which includes any and all cats and dogs that live in your home, even if they’re indoor-only.

Flea prevention medication for cats can come in a few different forms, including a topical application, an oral medicine (which is usually a flavored chewable tablet) or a medicated flea collar.

“My choice of product typically comes down to which ones are the safest, most effective and is most likely to be used on a regular basis, because the best prevention on the market will not be effective if it is forgotten or the patient will not allow for administration,” Dr. Henricks said. “My favorite recommendations for parasite prevention for my feline patients are Bravecto feline and Revolution Plus.”

Try Bravecto for cats from Chewy for $57.49

Try Revolution Plus for cats from Chewy for $129.99

When choosing a flea treatment, it’s super important that the product is appropriate for your cat’s weight and species, or else it could be fatal.

“The best thing to recommend is to make sure a product — whether it is a shampoo, oral, collar or topical — is labeled for cats, and if there is any question whether a product is safe or not, ask your veterinarian,” Dr. Henricks said.

Flea treatment for home

If your pet is dealing with an infestation, you should definitely double down by using a flea treatment for your home in addition to treating your pets, since there’s a chance even more fleas are living there.
Flea treatments can come in several forms, including sprays, powders, traps or foggers.

Try the PETARMOR home and carpet spray for fleas on Amazon for $19.99

Try the TropiClean natural flea and tick yard spray from Amazon for $23.74

You should also clean the inside of your home thoroughly if you suspect an infestation, paying special attention to your pet’s bedding (since that’s where most fleas tend to hang out) and your own bedding if your pet sleeps with you.

“Washing bedding and blankets regularly and routinely vacuuming all carpeting can keep flea and tick populations in the house low,” Dr. Henricks said.

Getting your cat on a reliable flea prevention is the best way to prevent fleas from biting him, and with these tips you’ll be prepared if it ever does happen — so you can get your cat happy, healthy and flea-free again as quickly as possible!

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