Fleas can be a misery for felines.
Cat fleas also infest dogs, and will feed on humans and other warm-blooded mammals. Any cat can get fleas. Here are the signs and symptoms of a cat flea infestation.
Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) infest both cats and dogs, but will also feed on people. Fleas can trigger severe allergic reactions such as flea allergy dermatitis, caused by a compound in the fleas saliva. Fleas carry parasites such as tapeworm larvae. Rat fleas carry infections such as murine typhus, which to a lesser extent may be spread by cat fleas.
An adult flea is dark copper-colored to black, and about 2.5 mm in size.
Fleas are common outdoor pests, and most cats who like to go outside will get fleas at least once. Indoor cats may get fleas from another cat or a dog, and fleas will often piggyback on humans until a suitable feline is found. Unless the cat has an allergy, it may be difficult to detect signs of a cat flea infestation at first.
Signs of Cat Flea Infestation
If you see fleas, the cat and home are already infested. Fleas lay thousands of eggs, which slide from the cats hair shaft and sprinkle to the floor wherever the cat goes. The eggs disappear in floor cracks, dust or bedding, and hatch.
The flea larvae feed on flea droppings and other organic matter, then form cocoons and emerge as adults. The adult fleas jump on a handy warm-blooded mammal, start to feed and lay eggs, and the cycle begins again.
A primary signs of cat flea infestation are flea droppings. Flea droppings are the digested, dried blood of the cat. They look like small black specks of dirt, or coffee grounds. Flea droppings may be obvious around the cats bedding or resting areas, or in the cats hair.
Cat Flea Test
Test a cat for fleas by holding the cat gently above a white sheet of paper. Ruffle her/his fur for several seconds. Specks will fall to the paper.
Using a spray bottle and water, mist the paper lightly and wait a few seconds. Flea droppings run red when dampened.
Other signs of fleas in cats and dogs include:
- excessive or sudden scratching by the pet, usually in the areas between the shoulder blades or around the belly and hind quarters
- dry skin (white, dandruff-like flakes)
- hair loss or bald patches
- dull, dry fur
- raw, irritated skin
- inflamed red patches or spots
- rough, hardened skin
- general malaise and discomfort
Some cats tolerate fleas very well, and show almost no symptoms of flea infestation. Others are allergic to a compound in the saliva of fleas, and can develop flea allergy dermatitis, causing extreme reactions or severe illness. If the cat is in obvious distress, or shows signs of allergy, take him/her to the vet immediately.
For suggestions and tips on how to get rid of fleas on cats, please see: