Firstly, let’s make sure your cat actually has fleas and isn’t just scratching due to stress or allergies. Take a look at your cat focusing on the back of the neck, groin, and ears as these tend to be flea hotspots. If you can see little black specs crawling around on your cat then they have fleas. Some long haired or dark coloured cats make it more difficult to spot fleas especially if it’s a fresh outbreak but if you rub your hand on their fur over a light-coloured surface and little black pepper-like specks fall from them this might be what is called flea dirt. These are the excretions of an adult flea and can be identified by putting a drop of water on the black spots and if the water turns blood-red then it is most likely flea dirt and your cat has fleas.
Preventative flea medication is available in two forms, spot-on or oral tablet. Both are the most effective means of preventing fleas from living on your cat and for getting rid of the fleas that are on them. Some examples of spot on treatments include Revolution, Advantage or Advocate, and Frontline. These are applied at the base of the neck directly onto the skin, once a month for maximum effectiveness. Once applied they will soon begin to kill off adult fleas once they bite and will help get the situation under control. If the infestation is particularly bad you can also give your cat Capstar which is a tablet that can kill the adult fleas faster for almost immediate relief. Capstar only stays in the system for around 24 hours and should only be used in conjunction with a preventative treatment. If you’d prefer to give your cat a tablet, then you should consider Comfortis as it is an effective alternative to spot-on medication.
The environment also needs to be considered when trying to eradicate fleas as the number of adult fleas is typically miniscule when compared to the number of eggs that have been deposited in the cats’ surroundings as each female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs. The most commonly used insecticides for dealing with fleas contain the chemical pyrethrin which is a natural extract from chrysanthemum flowers. Although natural in origin, care still must be taken when using such sprays or washing additives as while they are successful in eradicating fleas, they can be toxic to household pets, particularly cats, if incorrectly used.
Step By Step
The best way to deal with a flea situation safely is as follows;
- Remove your cat from the infected area. Place them in an easily cleanable but separate part of your house such as a laundry or bathroom.
- Apply a spot on treatment to your cat at the base of the neck directly onto the skin or administer an oral flea tablet. Always read the instructions and use only as directed.
- Vacuum as much of the area that the cat has been in as possible, also surrounding areas.
- Wash any fabrics that may have been infected in a hot wash. There are many pyrethrin sprays available to use topically on furniture and carpets, but always check in an inconspicuous area first.
- If you have tiles, floorboards or other hard surfaces that you need to clean you can use a diluted pyrethrin solution to mop or wipe down the surfaces. Make sure to give adequate time for all surfaces to dry before you allow your cat back into cleaned rooms.
- Comb the dead fleas out of your cats fur with a flea comb. This will help your cat feel more comfortable and limit the ingestion of dead fleas through grooming.
If you follow these steps you should be able to get ahead of the flea situation but if fleas are still found on your cat or in the environment then you may need to go through the cleaning steps again. If your cat shows any signs of irritation from the flea treatment or cleaning agents please seek veterinary advice.
The cat pictured in this post is one of my cats, Hutch. He came from the shelter with fleas, ringworm, and feline herpesvirus but now he is a happy, healthy, and very spoilt little cat. These are the steps I used to overcome a major flea infestation but if you have any questions or tips please share below!