All You Need To Know About Cat Fleas:  Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Cat fleas are by far, the most prevalent domestic flea species around. These fleas are parasites that use your cat’s body as a host and feed on them.

Aside from being a great nuisance, they can make your cat’s life miserable when they leave itchy bites and cause discomfort and pain. A severe infestation can also damage your fur kid’s skin!

If you find fleas on your cat, read on to find out how to treat him in a few simple steps and discover ways you can prevent a flea infestation.

Symptoms of Fleas on Cats: How to Tell if Your Cat has Fleas

Cat scratching its body

Fleas are hard to spot with the naked eye. However, flea-infested cats often display physical and behavioural changes, indicating that something is wrong. Some common symptoms are excessive grooming or hair loss.

Behavioural Changes

Scratching or Biting
Flea bites tend to cause itching of the skin. As a result, your cat may begin to scratch themselves or gnaw on themselves to help relieve the itch. Constant scratching or manic chewing may indicate that your cat is infested with fleas.

Excessive Grooming
Similar to the scratching and gnawing behaviours, your cat may take to grooming excessively to soothe the itchy sensation from flea bites.

Avoidance
Cats are clever creatures that will avoid flea-prone areas. If your cat starts to steer clear of certain areas in your home, it could be an indication of a flea infestation.

Physical Changes

Hair Loss
Bald spots can develop as a result of excessive grooming. Finding bald patches on your cat could mean that your cat is infested with fleas.

Skin Lesions or Scabs
Flea bites can induce an allergic reaction in your cat. These bites can cause skin inflammation and the formation of lesions or bumpy scabs.

Tapeworms

Cats contract tapeworms when cleaning themselves. Tapeworm larvae are consumed by adult fleas before they get ingested by the cat during grooming. 

The disease can be detected by looking out for white segments in your cat’s faeces or locating them near their anus. Unexplained weight loss can also be an indicator of a tapeworm infestation.

Anaemia

Anaemia is a condition caused by a deficiency in red blood cells leading to the body being starved of oxygen. This can be due to a large number of fleas feeding on your cat’s blood. 

Your cat could be anaemic if they appear to be lethargic, sleeping more than usual or shows signs of muscle loss and has pale gums.

Plague

A plague is an infection transmitted by fleas and targets a cat’s lymph nodes. Infected cats experience fevers or have ulcers forming in their mouth. A common symptom is swollen and enlarged areas under your cat’s jaw.

Bartonellosis

Cats can contract bartonellosis when bitten by an infected flea or when they come into contact with flea faeces. Symptoms of an infected cat may include a fever or swelling around the bitten area.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Close up look on a cat's fur with fleas

To the naked eye, fleas look like tiny dark oval-shaped specks that move quickly, sometimes even jumping upward and outward from your cat’s fur. 

How to Check your Cat For Fleas

Checking for fleas on your pet is easiest when they have light-coloured hair. Using a flea comb, gently comb in the direction of the fur or part the fur with your fingers. If fleas are present, you may see them weaving quickly away from the parted fur. 

Aside from checking for the fleas themselves, do also look out for flea dirt and flea eggs on your cat and their bedding. Flea dirt appears as dark brown granules of faeces, typically left on a cat’s neck and rump areas. This flea dirt, while harmless, is a clear sign of a flea infestation. 

Flea eggs are white and oval-shaped, similar in size to a grain of salt. Depending on your cat’s fur colour, some of these may be easier to spot than others.

Flea Control: How to Get Rid of Fleas on Your Cat

Depending on the severity of your cat’s flea infestation, you may or may not need to take them to the vet for treatment. Here are some effective home solutions and flea control products that can save you a hefty bill.

Home Remedies for Flea Control

Lemon Spray
Citric acid is one of the most effective flea killers, making a lemon spray the perfect home remedy for fleas.


Easy Lemon Spray Recipe

You will need:
  • 2 – 3 lemons, sliced
  • 3 cups of water
  • A pot
  • A spray bottle
    Directions:
  • Put the sliced lemons and water into a pot
  • Bring the water to a boil
  • Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes
  • Let the lemons steep in the water for 3 hours
  • Strain and transfer the liquid to a spray bottle

  • When using, spray the lemon mixture onto your cat’s fur coat, making sure to avoid sensitive areas such as their eyes.

    If your cat dislikes water, try dipping a flea comb in the solution and brush the fleas out.

    Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
    Apple cider vinegar (ACV) won’t kill fleas, but it’ll make them jump from your cat’s body. Fleas are a resilient bunch, so you might need to spray the mixture onto your cat’s fur coat several times for them to be flea-free.


    Easy ACV Recipe

    You will need:
  • ACV
  • Water
  • A spray bottle

  • Directions:
    Simply mix ACV with water in a 2:1 ratio and transfer the concoction to a spray bottle before use.

    Flea Control Products

    Cat Flea Collars

    Flea collars work by slowly releasing active ingredients throughout your cat’s fur to kill the fleas. This process continues until a replacement collar is required.

    When adjusting the collar, ensure that there’s enough space to fit at least 2 fingers under it. If the collar is too long, remove any excess to prevent your cat from chewing on it. You should also watch out for any signs of discomfort or allergic reactions.

    Biospotix by Biogance product image

    Spot-on Treatments

    Spot-on flea treatments can be applied regularly, providing your cat continued protection against blood-hungry fleas. To use, apply the recommended dosage of liquid directly onto the skin between your cat’s shoulders.

    Rolf3D product image
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    Note!
    Spot-on treatments are not created equally. These treatments are tailored specifically for cats of different sizes; a dosage for a larger cat will not work for a smaller cat. Thus, getting the right treatment for your cat is essential.

    Flea Shampoos

    Giving your cat a medicated bath with a cat flea shampoo can help to kill the fleas on its body. These shampoos are specially formulated with flea-busting properties that will leave your furry friend feeling fur-tastic.

    Before giving your cat a bath, remember to give their fur coat a good brush. This helps to ensure that there are no tangles in which the fleas can hide.

    Bio Groom Cat Flea Tick Shampoo

    Cat Flea Sprays

    Cat flea sprays are an easy and convenient way to safeguard your feline friend from a flea invasion. Some formulas are designed to dehydrate fleas and larvae, effectively killing them. Most also contain repellent properties to protect your cat from infestation. 

    To use, simply spritz the product onto your hand and gently rub it around your cat’s body. Refrain from spraying the product directly onto your cat’s fur; these products can get into sensitive areas such as their eyes and cause discomfort.

    Biospotix Cat Spray for cat fleas

    Flea Bombs

    Flea bombs are insecticide foggers designed to eliminate massive flea infestations. To activate, simply pull the valve on the flea bomb to release the pesticides inside.

    Before usage, it is important that you read the instructions carefully and prepare your home for treatment. Preparation can include the removal of eating utensils or the covering of furniture with plastic tarps.

    Ensure that you seal and turn off your HVAC to prevent spreading the product to unwanted areas. Due to its potency, such products should be used with extreme caution and never directly on your pet!

    Strikeback Pest Control Fogger for cat fleas

    Prevention Measures against Fleas

    Cat Lying Down on Mattress

    As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Since fleas are hard to kill and getting rid of them requires a ton of work, prevention is the best medicine. 

    Regardless of whether your cat has never had fleas or you are trying to prevent a re-infestation, here are some good practices to keep your cat flea-free. 

    Wash beddings at least once a week

    A clean house plays a big role in preventing the breeding of cat fleas. Any beddings or fabric that your cat touches should be stripped and chucked into the washing machine for a thorough wash at least once a week.

    Vacuum your house daily

    Vacuuming daily may seem excessive but it’s necessary to keep the fleas away. Use a vacuum to clean your floor, furniture, and any crevices within your house. This helps to remove live fleas and prevent them from breeding.

    ​​

    Note!
    Remember to toss your vacuum bags away and wash the vacuum when you’re finished! The fleas can work their way back into your home with the remaining dirt in the vacuum bags.

    Keep your cat indoors

    The outdoors is the perfect place for fleas to breed; these critters thrive in grassy areas with high humidity. As such, keeping your feline friend indoors is your best bet to prevent fleas on your cat.

    Invest in a cat flea collar 

    Cat flea collars are an effective and natural solution for cat fleas. According to Hill’s Pet, fleas tend to bite cats on the back of their neck. 

    Thus, this nifty collar functions as a repellent against fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks and lasts for up to 4 months. It also serves as a cute accessory for your cat!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    The good news is that cat fleas do not spread to humans. However, while they prefer a furry host, they might not necessarily leave you alone. They can still bite you!

    The physical difference between dog and cat fleas is minuscule and symptoms of infestations are largely similar. The main difference is that cat fleas feed on both dogs and cats while dog fleas can only feed on the former.

    No, please DO NOT use dog flea products on your cat! 

    While it may be tempting to get a universal flea treatment product for your pets, flea treatment is not the same for cats and dogs. Canine formulations can lead to fatal consequences if incorrectly used on your cat.

    What are some of your best cat flea prevention tips and solutions? Share them with us in the comments section below!

    Sonia Soh
    Article by:
    Sonia Soh
    Contributors:
    Madeleine Seah
    Sonia spends more time with her iconic purple headphones on than off. Her free time is usually occupied by games on her Nintendo Switch or at a table with a bunch of friends playing Dungeons and Dragons.
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