Fleas and the Indoor Cat
Your Cat Has Fleas But Never Goes Out. How Can This Be?
If your indoor cat has fleas then the chances are you have flea eggs and larvae in the carpet and soft furnishings. This being so, you need a global approach to get rid of these unwanted visitors and it’s easy to overlook a crucial step. To make sure this doesn’t happen here’s a rundown on everything flea-related and the indoor cat.
How Do Indoor Cats Get Fleas?
The cat keeps scratching and now you’ve noticed itchy red bumps on your arms. The cat never goes out so you assume she’s just itchy and you have mosquito bites. But the scratching gets worse and the sound of her back leg thumping keeps you awake at night. Plus your legs now look like you’ve got chicken pox. And then you see it! Plain as day. A live flea crawling over Kitty’s shoulder.
Strange as it may seem it’s perfectly possible for a cat to get fleas even if they don’t go outside. All it takes is a single adult flea to hitch a ride indoors or dormant eggs to hatch out in the carpet. When you consider a single female flea lays 50 eggs a day, and each egg becomes an adult in just three to four weeks, the opportunity for a population explosion becomes startlingly clear.
Fleas are active little critters which means they could jump on you, your kids, or another pet and be brought into the house. Also, with more people having homes heated all year round, this means every month is flea season and there’s no longer have a winter break for flea eradication.
Checking your Cat for Fleas
Flea bites are itchy. If your cat starts scratching, especially if she hasn’t been treated for a while, then be suspicious of fleas.
To check this out look through her coat. Fleas move fast and when they sense you parting the fur, they’re liable to hop away. Indeed, it’s reckoned that for every flea you see, there are another 20 you miss!
Much easier to spot are the flea dirts, which are actually flea excrement and consist of dried blood. Flea dirt is described as looking like coal dust or dust-sized pieces of black grit. To double check, place a few specks on a piece on damp cotton wool. If an orange halo expands around the speck, you have a positive result for flea dirt and the cat does indeed have fleas.
Some cats are allergic to flea bites and suffer from a condition known as ‘miliary dermatitis’. Classic signs of this are lots of small, gritty scabs on the skin as a result of an allergy to flea saliva. You may feel this grittiness beneath the fingertips when you stroke the cat.
Getting Rid of Fleas
Fleas are resourceful parasites with a life cycle designed to evade eradication. In a heavy infestation, if you only treat the cat and not the house, the flea problem will linger on for weeks. Key to getting on top of the problem quickly are three things.
- Treat the environment
- Treat the cat
- Treat all the household pets
#1: Treating the Home
Fleas only feed on the pet, and then hop off to lay their eggs in the carpet and soft furnishings. To truly get on top of things you must treat the home.
Vacuuming every day helps to suck up eggs and larvae, but be sure to dispose of the hoover bag contents after each session or you’ll set up a flea colony in the vacuum. However, flea eggs are very sticky and difficult to dislodge so vacuuming alone is unlikely to be sufficient.
Ask your vet about an effective environmental spray that kills flea larvae and/ or eggs. This will kill the next generation before they mature and give you a head start. However the downside is these are strong chemicals. Be careful to follow the instructions, and never use them in the same air space as fish, birds, or reptiles. Indeed, leave the windows open and evacuate the room of all pets and people for a couple of hours afterwards.
#2: Treat the Cat
Gone are the days of chasing a cat to spray them with an aerosol product that works for just seven days. Nowadays there are sophisticated products which act from one month to six months at a time. You can chose from collars, tablets, powders spot-on products, sprays, and even an injection.
When making your choice look for something which is easy to apply such as spot-on product. They tick all the right boxes because they’re easy to apply, kill adult fleas, and the effect lasts a month or so.
However, some words of warning. The term “Spot on” refers to how the product is applied, rather than the active ingredient. Be aware that not all spot-on products are created equal, and those bought off the shelf from a pet store may not work that well. The majority of options that work are prescription products.
Be sure to use the product regularly, at the interval stated on the label. A single application is rarely enough to sort anything but the mildest infestation, and repeated regular use is necessary.
#3: All your other Pets
Fleas are the hitchhikers of the parasite world and love to jump from pet to pet. In a multi-pet household, even if only one cat is itchy this is no guarantee the others are flea free.
The only way to be sure of bringing a problem under control is to treat all the pets (cats and dogs) in the house. This way you cut off the option for fleas to hide up in another pet’s coat and escape eradication.
Happy flea hunting!
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