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Flea Treatment for Cats

By David Loneragan | Dated April 27, 2015

Fleas are small, dark brown insects that are parasites. They commonly infest the coat of cats and dogs in Australia causing them constant skin irritation, becoming a real pest. Getting a flea problem under control on your cat can also be a real pest to pet owners!

How did my cat get fleas?

flea treatment for cats, flea control for cats

Fleas in Cat Fur

Initially, a few adult fleas jump on to your cat in your garden, under the house or neighbouring places where your cat visits. Fleas are also introduced by your pet dog or visiting dogs who come to your home. The lifecycle of the flea begins from these few adults and they can breed at an enormous rate. If your cat mainly lives inside the house, the fleas prefer to breed in the home environment, such as carpets and bedding. Before you know it you have a large flea problem (infestation) that is hard to control!

What is the flea life cycle?

  • Adult Fleas can jump 150 times their body length, easily jumping from dog to dog. Once on the coat they feed on the dog’s blood and the females start laying eggs
  • Eggs – Female fleas can lay 2000 eggs in their lifetime. The eggs drop off into the environment where they live in carpet, furniture, bedding and gardens
  • Larvae – The eggs develop into larvae which burrow further into carpets away from light. They live on organic debris in the environment, spin a cocoon to become a pupa and mature to an adult
  • 95% of the flea population is the immature stages in the environment. Only 5% are adults living on the dog!
flea treatment for cats, flea control for cats

Life Cycle of The Cat Fleas

How do they breed so fast?

Under the right temperature conditions the flea lifecycle from egg to adult is shorter (2-3 weeks). This is during spring and summer when it is warmer. During winter, the immature egg and larval stages can lie dormant in the environment for up to 6 months. Then when the temperature warms up, they all complete their life cycle and mature into adults, causing a sudden explosion of adult fleas and a massive infestation in your home! Today, with more in home heating the flea cycle often continues all year round.

My cat doesn’t scratch. How do I spot fleas?

The most common signs of a flea problem in cats are constant scratching, biting and itching. This is mostly around the neck, ears and the base of the tail. However many cats can have fleas and not scratch at all! It is best to look for fleas by parting the hair at the tail base. If no live fleas are seen, sometimes flea droppings are visible (small black specks). You usually see flea eggs and droppings where the cat sleeps. Flea eggs are white and the droppings are black specks. Some cats are sensitive to the saliva in the flea bite and may develop a skin infection called Flea Allergy Dermatitis.

How do I get rid of my cat’s fleas?

The flea treatment for cats requires the cat AND the environment to be treated. This is because 95% of the flea population is in the environment where the cat lives. This must be properly treated to eradicate the problem. It is important to treat for and prevent fleas all year round. Just because you can’t see the fleas doesn’t mean they are not there.

What treatments should I use?

  • Spot Ons – These kill adult fleas, so stop the lifecycle completely. Spot Ons are a liquid vial applied to the back of the cat’s neck every month. Examples are Advantage or Frontline Plus
  • Tablet (Chewable) – These kill adult fleas, stopping the lifecycle completely. They are given once a month and an example is Comfortis
  • Treat the environment – Many cats live mostly indoors, so this area is very important to treat. Indoor treatment includes regular vacuuming of the carpet to remove flea eggs and stimulate the dormant fleas. Steam cleaning the carpet kills flea larvae also. All bedding that the pet sleeps on should be washed in hot, soapy water and left to dry in the sun. Foggers are a highly effective chemical to treat inside the house. The best ones contain an ingredient to kill both adult fleas and the other life cycle stages (insect growth regulators). For the outdoor environment, professional treatment with an adult flea killer is recommended for gardens and under the house

What should I remember?

  • Flea control for cats must be all year round to be effective
  • Treat all household pets and the environment at the same time
  • NEVER use a dog flea treatment on cats, as they can be toxic to cats
  • Your vet can offer advice on how to effectively treat fleas on your cat
David Loneragan
Written by David Loneragan

David grew up and still lives locally and has worked at Gordon Vet since 1985. His love of animals and interest in all things veterinary started when he was a young boy spending time with his own pets and working on a country farm.David’s post-graduate studies have been in the fields of medical problems of dogs and cats and diagnostic ultrasound and radiology. In addition, he is interested in dermatology, cardiology and ophthalmology.

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