Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team
Fleas are tiny, wingless, blood-sucking insects that live off the blood of their hosts. The fleas biting the skin can cause cats to scratch, bite, lick, and chew at themselves. Fleas can also cause an allergic reaction in some cats. They can become extremely itchy and start losing their fur and getting secondary bacterial infections on the skin (scabs and sores). Heavy flea infestation in cats can lead to death from anemia (blood loss). If your cat's gums are very pale, or if he/she is lethargic/weak, he/she may need emergency veterinary care.
Fleas can transmit infectious diseases and internal parasites. It is very common for cats to get tapeworms secondary to being infested with fleas.
What You Can Do
- All pets in the household must be treated for fleas; otherwise they will keep getting re-infested from each other.
- Keep a record of which flea preventative each pet in the household was treated with, and the date of treatment.
- Monitor all pets for tapeworms. Tapeworms are long, flat, and segmented. Whole tapeworms can be found in poop or sticking out of the rectum. Most commonly, the tapeworm segments break apart and look like pieces of rice stuck on your pet's rear end. If your pet(s) have tapeworms, they will need to be given a de-wormer that gets rid of tapeworms.
- Environmental flea control is also very important. Homes and yards should be treated with long-acting fogger or spray insecticides that kill flea eggs and flea larvae, as well as adult fleas. The insecticide selected should contain an insect growth regulator, such as pyriproxyfen or methoprene. The household and furniture should be vacuumed, with the vacuum bag thrown away or the canister emptied afterwards. Bedding that the pets sleep on should be laundered in hot water.
Cause of Fleas
- Fleas are picked up from the environment or from other pets that have them.
Treatment of Fleas
- The most effective treatment for fleas is topical or oral flea prevention, or a combination of both. Most of these products need to be repeated once a month or once every three months. Flea shampoos, flea dips, and grocery store brands of topical flea prevention usually do not work very well.
- Some flea preventatives (e.g., grocery store brands and/or those intended for application on dogs only) are toxic to cats. Topical flea products that contain pyrethrins or permethrins should NOT be applied to cats. Caution should also be taken if flea prevention containing pyrethrins or permethrins is applied to dogs in the household, as some of it may rub off on your cat and/or your cat may ingest it while trying to groom your dog.