Spring is in the air and the fresh air of spring brings growth and new beginnings. Animals awaken from their winter sleep and fresh buds form on the trees. Unfortunately, the warmer weather of spring time also means the arrival of unwanted pests that enjoy hitching a ride aboard our feline friends. These unwanted hitchhikers are fleas and ticks and our cats provide them with the perfect environment. Fleas and ticks are able to thrive as a result of a cat’s fur providing warmth and protection and the cat’s blood providing nourishment for growth and reproduction. Although this sounds like the perfect life for the hitchhikers, their presence causes nothing but problems for our cats.
Fleas, also known as Ctenocephalides felis, are the most common parasite to infect cats. The flea is a tiny, wingless insect that has powerful legs for jumping long distances. In fact, a common flea can jump as far as seven feet. A flea’s lifecycle lasts about a month and involves a complete metamorphosis from egg to larvae to pupa to the adult flea. An adult female flea can typically lay thousands of eggs over a course of several weeks or months once she takes a blood meal from an animal. Bites from a flea causes horrible itching in cats and many cats are in fact allergic to the flea saliva and this causes flea allergy dermatitis. This allergic reaction from the flea bites causes more intense itching in the cat and this may lead to open sores introducing infections to the skin. Fleas also carry a number of infectious agents that can be passed to our feline friends such as tapeworms, Mycoplasmosis and the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever.
Ticks are small arachnids and are another common parasite to infect cats. There are over 800 species of ticks that have been identified throughout the world. A tick will bite their host to feed on the host’s blood in order to complete development from the larval stage to the adult stage. Many types of ticks also carry infectious agents that can be transmitted to the host. One of the most common infectious agents a tick may carry is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to extensive joint damage, cardiac problems, kidney failure and neurological problems. Fortunately for our feline friends, they are very resistant to the bacteria causing Lyme disease and rarely show and signs or symptoms of the disease. Ticks are also known to transmit other diseases such as Hemabartonellosis, Cytauxzoonosis and Tularemia.
The Treatment and Prevention of Fleas and Ticks
Guelph veterinary clinics recommend both treating and preventing fleas on our cats through the use of a topical medication called Revolution. Revolution is applied directly to the cat’s skin once a month in the summer. Revolution is safe to use in pregnant and nursing cats as well as kittens as young as 6 weeks of age. Revolution, not only will treat our cats and prevent fleas, but will also treat and prevent heartworm, roundworms, hookworms and ear mites. Since many topical tick medications and tick collars contain potent chemicals which can harm our cats, Guelph Veterinarians do not recommend their use in cats. Instead, the Guelph veterinary cat clinic recommends that you routinely brush your cat’s coat during the warmer months and inspect their coat for any tick hitchhikers. If a tick is found on your cat, do not panic. The tick can be easily removed with a pair of forceps or tweezers if care is taken to ensure the whole body of the tick, including the head, is removed from the cat’s skin. It is best to seek veterinary care for tick removal.