How Can I Get Rid Of My Cat's Fleas For Good?
Your cat’s constantly scratching all of a sudden, and it’s super upsetting.
You check out her fur — and sure enough, there’s a flea running around. (And if there’s one flea, then there’s definitely more to come.)
The Dodo reached out to Dr. Liz Bales, a veterinarian and founder of Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co., to find out the best way to get rid of fleas on cats, and how to keep them off for good.
Signs your cat has fleas
“If your cat starts grooming much more than usual, scratching or has itching or loss of hair at the base of their tail, fleas may be the cause,” Dr. Bales told The Dodo.
You might also notice your cat’s more restless than usual, shakes her head often or has scabs appearing on her body.
Surprisingly, you probably won’t actually see many fleas on your cat, though — since cats are such expert groomers.
It’s more likely you’ll see flea dirt (aka flea poop) on your cat, which looks like ground coffee beans in her fur.
How to kill fleas on contact
Flea shampoo or spray
All dogs and cats should be on a reliable monthly flea and tick preventative, to keep flea infestations from ever happening.
So if your cat hasn’t been on one and gets fleas, now’s a good time to start!
But preventative medications can take hours to kill live fleas on your cat, so flea shampoos — which kill fleas pretty effectively on contact — are a great product to use to give your cat some much-needed relief in the meantime.
Most flea shampoos also include ingredients that can soothe your cat’s skin, which will be nice for her since she’s probably super itchy.
And if your cat totally hates baths, you can try a flea spray instead.
Once your cat has a flea bath, or has been treated with flea spray, you might also want to brush her with a flea comb.
Flea combs have ultra-fine bristles that can effectively remove fleas, flea eggs and flea dirt from your cat’s fur.
You can also use the flea comb as a daily grooming brush, so it’s a nice tool to keep handy.
An oral, over-the-counter medication known as Capstar can get rid of the live fleas on your cat, but it won’t prevent them from coming back.
“Capstar is a pill that starts killing fleas in 30 minutes, but does not prevent new fleas after a day or so,” Dr. Bales said.
So, if you give your cat a Capstar pill for short-term relief, make sure to pair it with a quality long-term cat flea preventative.
Flea preventatives for cats
Topical cat flea treatments
Spot-on treatments can prevent new fleas on your cat, as well as kill the existing fleas — but it will take a while for it to start working.
“Most spot-on flea preventions will kill fleas in 8 to 12 hours, and then prevent them from returning for 4to 12 weeks, depending on the product,” Dr. Bales said.
“I recommend keeping all cats on regular prevention, like Bravecto,” Dr. Bales added. Bravecto is a prescription medication, so your vet will need to approve it first — but it’s totally worth it.
Oral flea preventatives for cats
If you don’t like topical treatments for whatever reason, there are effective prescription oral flea preventatives available.
Usually, the medication comes in the form of a flavored chewable, so it’s super easy to give to your cat.
Treat your home
If your cat has a flea infestation, it’s likely fleas are in your home, too — which means a deep cleaning might be in order.
Dr. Bales recommends “vacuuming all the areas where your cat lays thoroughly, and then disposing of the vacuum bag or cleaning out the container, and washing all the bedding that you can on high heat and drying in the dryer.”
And once everything has been cleaned, you can double down on the fleas in your house with a home flea spray.
You should also make sure the other pets in your home are treated while you’re at it, since fleas can easily travel from pet to pet.
“It’s also important to clean up the environment by treating all the dogs and cats that your cat comes in contact with,” Dr. Bales said.
A flea infestation on your cat can be annoying for both you and her — but it doesn’t have to last long. With a couple flea treatments, you can kill any fleas on your cat ASAP, and keep them from coming back for good.
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