While fleas tend to be more associated with dogs, your feline furbaby is actually just as likely to be affected by these microscopic and irritating parasites. In fact, studies show that one in five cats in the United States have fleas, and your furry friend will almost certainly experience at least one episode of fleas during her lifetime.
Fleas... more than just an itch
Contrary to popular belief, fleas are much more than a persistent itch. These tiny, wingless parasites feed on the blood of their host, consuming meal after meal during their lifetime. While the blood lost through a few fleas may not be considerable, a severe infestation that is left untreated could see your pet experiencing symptoms of anemia, which include weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss and rapid heart rate. Since a single adult flea can produce as many as 40 eggs a day, a few fleas can quickly turn into an army of blood-sucking parasites.
Anemia isn't the only health problem you need to be concerned about either. Fleas that bite disease-ridden hosts can transmit those illnesses to new animals through their saliva, feces, or by regurgitating infected blood onto them. In the case of tapeworm, the disease can be transmitted if your cat inadvertently ingests an infected flea. Common diseases passed from fleas to cats include:
- Cat-scratch disease
- Feline Infectious Anemia
While fleas are the most common external parasite to infect felines in the United States, it doesn't mean that your cat has to suffer from regular infestations.
How to protect your cat from fleas
Fortunately, there are a number of different steps that you can take to protect both your cat and your home from fleas.
One of the most effective ways to keep your feline safe from fleas is to give her preventative treatment. There are now more different styles of preventative medication than ever before, including:
- Spot-on treatments
- Oral medications
- Shampoos and sprays
- Cat collars
Nevertheless, no two preventatives are exactly the same, and this can make choosing the right one for your pet quite tricky. Our veterinarian can help you by making a recommendation based on the size of your feline and which treatment she might best tolerate.
It is crucial to administer your chosen preventative exactly as directed, and to make a note of how long your furbaby will be protected for. Further doses must be given just before her protection runs out to ensure she remains safe from fleas 12 months of the year.
Check her regularly
Getting on top of a flea problem as quickly as possible is essential if you are to prevent a huge population from occurring. We highly recommend that you check your cat daily for any sign of fleas. If you cannot spot the parasites themselves, you may be able to see flea dirt instead. This is the feces of any fleas that may be living on your pet. It looks like specks of black or dark brown dirt buried within your pet's fur but is usually a good indicator that there are at least a few of the parasites present on your cat.
Dealing with a flea infestation quickly can prevent your furbaby from developing some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with the condition and minimize the likelihood of large numbers developing.
Clean her bedding and areas where she spends a lot of time very regularly
Fleas can live without a host for several months, so if they chose to move in with you, you may find that they are happy to hang out in the areas where your cat visits regularly - where she sleeps, eats and chills out. Vacuum these areas daily, paying close attention to cracks between floorboards, skirting and furniture. You should also wash her bedding at least once a week. Choose the highest temperature possible as this will kill any fleas or flea eggs/larvae that may be lurking.
There are plenty of home products that are specifically designed to repel fleas from your house and yard, so use these in conjunction with a regular, thorough cleaning routine.
Keeping your cat safe from fleas should be a priority for any feline parent. If you would like further advice, our dedicated veterinary team at Charlotte Animal Hospital in Port Charlotte would be delighted to help. Please call our offices or walk in for more information.