If your cat gets an infestation of fleas or ticks, you should not blame yourself. These are very common. What you can do, is take preventative action to lessen the risk.
No one in the household is immune from cat fleas. The Ctenocephalides Felis is the scientific name of these beasties. Whilst they may prefer a cat’s blood, they will happily jump on the dog for a bite, or even you too. Although they wont live on humans or dogs, they will bite. This can cause irritable itching. Best to get rid of them as soon you suspect your cat has brought them home.
Signs to look out for:
- Scratching, particularly at the ears.
- Hair loss, from biting at a certain patches that have been bitten.
- Small itchy spots on the humans of the household.
How to check for fleas:
- Put your cat on a white pillowcase, sheet or towel. If you don’t have anything white, then something that is light in color will do.
- Groom your cat, preferably with a specialist flea comb
- Try to part the fur in small patches, then look close to the skin and see if there are any tiny black gritty bits. These are the fleas feces. Can be hard to spot if your cat’s coat is dark. So check the cover too.
- Any tiny white speckles are the flea’s eggs.
- Look in places such as behind the ears, the joint where the legs meet the body.
- Fleas can be hard to spot if your cat has thick fur.
Unfortunately, should your cat get fleas, there are also associated health issues:
- Your cat can become anaemic.
- They can suffer skin irritation from the saliva of the flea bite.
- Secondary infection can set into any open wound, from where the cat bites itself. It will bite due to the irritation caused from having its blood sucked out, literally.
- The cat’s coat can become very dull.
- Eventually, the cat will become ill and start to lose weight.
- Fleas carry tapeworm, so if a cat ingests a flea while grooming, they could become infested. This is why it is important to also worm your animals, if they have fleas. The same can happen if a child inadvertently ingests a flea.
If your cat has fleas, what can you do?
Ideally you should pick off any adult fleas or ticks, by using a flea comb. This may be difficult if your cat is one of the long haired variety. Alternatively, you can bath your cat in specialist shampoo, fleas also drown if water. Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not usually jump from a host, once they have found a source of food. Infections usually occur from the flea larvae, that is left all around your home.
The problem is, that their eggs and pupae can lay dormant in your soft furnishings, such as carpets and cushions. They can live up to 100 days without feeding. You will need to treat anywhere that the cat goes, as the eggs will drop off its body as it moves around.
If your cat has fleas, once you have removed them and treated the cat, start by washing its bedding on a high temperature. Completely vacuum the whole house and throw away the bag if your vac has one, when you are finished. Mop any tiled or wooden floors. Treat you home with an insecticide. There are many products on the market, such as sprays and powders, to assist with this process. If the infestation is bad, you could try a flea bomb. You will need to leave the house while it is in use, as it releases chemicals. Whichever method you use will not be enough on its own, but a combination of these will make your home flea free.
Direct sunlight (not through a window), is a great place to dry out the washed bedding, as it kills the larvae.
Once you have treated your pet and all the bedding and house, you will need to repeat this in approx. 2 wks time, to kill any eggs that might have managed to live, and are now hatched.
Preventative is best:
There are ways to prevent the fleas in the first place, from staying on your cat. He may get the odd one jump onto him, but it will not stay. By using topical insecticides, you will be doing your cat, and your family, a great favor. Pyrethrins contain active ingredients that will kill the adults, and work to repel the fleas off.
Speak to your vet about an oral or injection treatment, for prevention in the first place.
Fleas are more likely to thrive in warm climate. This is why most infections happen in the summer months. Though with central heating now common in most homes, fleas can survive all year round.
Ticks are different to fleas. They are external parasites, and don’t live indoors. They can live for months outside, just waiting for the next victim. They are particularly prevalent in areas where sheep or deer live.
Ticks will also attach themselves to people, and feed off their blood. Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by ticks.
They are larger than fleas, making them easier to spot, especially if they have just fed, as they become bloated with the blood.
You can prevent ticks on your cat, by using a treatment that will kill them if they bite. If your cat has ticks already though, you will need to physically remove them.
To do this:
- Run your hand over your pet’s fur, if you feel any lumps check closer, it could be ticks stuck to the skin.
- You will need a pair of fine tipped tweezers, to grab and remove the parasite.
- When you find one, using the tweezers you should grip it as closely as you can to the cat’s skin.
- Without applying too much pressure, slowly pull the tick out.
- Destroy the tick, and throughly clean the area with an antiseptic lotion.
- Repeat until all the ticks are gone.
Nasty business! Don’t forget to give your cat a big hug, as it will not a pleasant experience for him either.