Vet Advice On Flea Prevention In Cats
Flea Treatment and Prevention in Cats
Tiny, quick, jumping creatures that scavenge through your cat’s fur, feasting on his blood and causing serious itching episodes – yes, that’s one of the ways to describe fleas. If you already spotted them on your cat, it’s hardly the end of the world. Flea treatment and prevention is not only controllable, but it’s relatively easy as well; both for indoor cats and outdoor cats.
There are many ways your cat can get fleas, and even more products in different forms that can help you get rid of them and prevent new infestations. We will describe the most important aspects of flea treatment and prevention to help you decide what works the best for you and your cat.
How to acknowledge the presence of fleas?
The most common type of fleas in dogs, cats, and even humans is Ctenocephalides felis. If you think your cat’s scratching is because of them, use a special flea comb. Spotting small black dots emerging from the comb means that there is flea excrement called ‘flea dirt’. If you smash some of the content with a wet paper towel and the excrements turn red it’s a clear warning that something has been feeding of your cat’s blood and flea control is imminent.
How bad is it if a cat has fleas?
It’s not that bad if only a minor infestation is at hand. However, infestations of larger proportions can cause conditions that can put your cat’s health at risk.
- With severe infestations, the cat loses a lot of blood and turns anemic. This can be fatal, especially in young kittens. Pale gums are a sign of anemia so it’s wise if you check them routinely. When this is the case get your cat to the vet office as soon as possible.
- Fleas transmit tapeworms so every feline victim of fleas should be dewormed at the same time. Luckily some products get rid of both types of parasites at once.
- A type of hemolytic bacteria called Haemobartonella felis is transmitted through fleas. Once in the cat’s blood flow it dissolves the erythrocytes and can be fatal if left untreated.
How can your cat get fleas?
Keeping your cat indoors may as well protect him from getting lost, all kinds of accidents and angry fights with other animals, but it can never prevent flea infestations fully. It is quite common for strictly indoor cats that aren’t treated with any kind of flea medicine to get fleas. There are few known ways of how cats get infested.
The top reason could be that there are fleas and even ticks on your family dog and he brings them to the household. Even dogs on flea and tick products can be carriers of live insects and eggs, especially if they are treated with an ineffective product or one that does not repel. Many flea products take some time to work after application so in the meantime the dog is spreading eggs, and larvae and fleas all around. One way to put this under control is to carefully check the dog’s coat each time he comes back from a walk and use quality products both for him and the cat.
Besides other animals, humans that visit your home can be bringing the pests indoors as well. Look at the fleas as hitchhikers that used a person’s shoes or clothes to arrive in your sacred home. It would be quite awkward to check the guests if they have fleas on them, even offensive probably. So what you can do instead is thoroughly clean the house after they visit you. Wash all the towels and sheets and vacuum the carpets, the floors, and the upholstery.
A highly unlikely, but still plausible way for fleas to start nesting in your house is when rodents inhabit the same environment as your cat. Generally, they drop flea eggs which afterward hatch and get on your cat. Most rodents would pack their bags and move to Florida once a cat starts living in the home. However, it’s safer to prevent them from coming by using humane baits, putting over plumbing opening, installing tight seals around the windows and the doors and keeping your kitchen surfaces free from waste and food scraps.
Grooming visits and veterinary appointments are a potential way of getting your cat infested with fleas. These types of facilities usually have high standards of cleanliness, but they cannot control the environment 100%. Bottom line is that every indoor cat will occasionally leave the premises of his home and once that happens you can always put fleas as the prime suspect when little Frido starts scratching obsessively.
Fleas have the power to be dormant for months, so in case you and your cat are moving into a new home they are impatiently waiting for the furball to come. In communal buildings, even your neighbor’s apartment could be a breeding ground for these nasty insects.
What types of flea control medications are there?
There are a few types of products that will help your cat become flea-free. Which type you choose depends on the cat’s lifestyle (indoor or outdoor cat), his sensitivity to the active ingredients, the need to treat or treat/prevent and of course the price.
The most popular way of treating and preventing fleas in cats is by using topical products or spot-on treatment. The medication is in the form of liquid drops applied directly on the cat’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. These types of products are contact killers, meaning that once the active ingredient spreads throughout the body (usually takes 24 to 48 hours) it kills the fleas within seconds. Most spot-on solutions protect against fleas, as well as lice and ticks for a prolonged period. They destroy flea larvae and eggs and prevent reinfestations for a while. New-generation spot-ons are waterproof and they come with one or more active ingredients. They are ideal for indoor cats and cats spending time indoors and outdoors. The products are odorless and easy to apply.
Oral flea treatment is the second most popular flea control alternative. There are two cases when your cat would benefit more from oral treatment rather than topical treatment:
- Your cat is sensitive to spot-on solutions.
- There are large infestations. It takes a day or two for spot-ons to reach their maximum coverage and kill all existing fleas on the cat’s coat. So cats that are severely anemic and itchy need a fast-acting medication.
Once ingested the oral flea medication transfers and travels fast through the bloodstream. It only kills fleas that are attached to capillaries and are feeding off the cat. Most of the products solve existing flea infestations and the activity lasts for 24 hours. Others prevent reinfestations for one or more months (they are more expensive of course). They come in the form of tablets or chewables. The later is easier to give because cats think it’s only a tasty treat. While oral fast-acting tablets and chewables are great for indoor cats, those that spend a lot of time in nature need something a bit more vigilant.
Flea collars are probably the best way to protect your cat from fleas and other external parasites. At the same time, they are the most expensive flea control products. Unlike the ‘older generation’ of flea collars, the new ones are odorless, effective, non-greasy and long-lasting. Some even protect the cat for up to 8 months. Once applied it takes time for the chemicals to spread so it’s not the best idea to use them for severe infestations. Protective collars work their magic by gradually releasing the repelling chemicals when they rub against the cat’s skin. All cats spending much of the time outdoors would benefit the most from the protective collars. Most of them are waterproof so they remain active all the time.
Cats that don’t mind taking a bath can be treated with flea shampoos. The shampoos instantly eliminate all fleas and some of them even provide long-term protection (usually a month). You should use them in combination with anti-flea sprays. The sprays are not intended for the cat, but rather for the things in your household that might have live fleas, larvae or eggs on them.
All of the options mentioned before are synthetic chemical compounds. There are also many eco-friendly and organic products. People have different experiences with them and different opinions on them. They can’t be as strong as their chemical counterparts, but if you are eco-enthusiast it’s okay to try some of them as well and see whether they work for you or not.
Choose a product based on your cat’s needs first and the cost of the product second. If you are quite inexperienced in the matter discuss with your veterinarian what the best option for you might be. You will most likely try a few different products until you discover the ideal one.
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