Fleas: Not Just a Concern for Outdoor Cats

By May 9, 2017 October 1st, 2019 blog

It is that time of year again. The snow and ice have thawed from winter and spring is in the air. Outdoor temperatures are beginning to rise and flowers and plants are beginning to grow. This is also the time of year when animals and insects emerge from their winter hibernation. Our feline friends that like to venture outside will also be interested in going outdoors again. This is the time of year that we consider applying flea prevention to our cats that go outdoors, but what about our indoor cats? Are fleas a concern in our cats that stay indoors? The answer is yes. Even though indoor cats are kept safe from the elements of the outdoors, fleas are known to be very good travelers. Fleas can a hitch a ride on anyone or anything such as your pant leg to easily travel right inside your home. Fleas are also very good at jumping. In fact, a flea can jump 100 times its own height. Once the flea travels inside your home, the flea will jump onto your cat and this begins the flea life cycle and problems for your indoor cat!

The Flea Life Cycle Affecting Your Indoor Cat

After the flea has jumped onto your indoor cat, the flea will immediately take a blood meal from your cat. The flea will then lay hundreds of eggs that will fall off into the environment of your home. A female flea usually starts laying eggs within two days of finding a host. These flea eggs hatch fairly quickly into flea larvae. The larvae grow and develop into pupae that will encase themselves within a cocoon for further development into an adult flea. Once the adult flea has developed, the flea will emerge from the cocoon and will immediately seek out your indoor cat once again as a host. As a result, the flea life cycle will continue until your cat is treated for the fleas.

Fleas Can Cause Medical Problems for your Indoor Cat

Not only are fleas a nuisance to our indoor cats, they can also cause many other health related problems in our cats. The cat flea can carry the tapeworm larvae, Dipylidium caninum and therefore your indoor cat can become infected with tapeworms if a flea is swallowed through normal grooming. Some cats are allergic to even a single bite from a flea and may develop a very itchy rash called flea allergy dermatitis. Adult fleas feed on the blood of your cat, and this can cause weakness, anemia and even in death in young kittens.  Fleas also have the potential to spread the bacterium Bartonella hensellae which cause cat scratch disease between cats and humans.

Identifying Fleas in your Indoor Cat

It may be difficult to identify fleas in your indoor cat. Cats are known to be very good groomers and they often will ingest the fleas or flea dirt (flea waste) during a normal grooming session. Some cats may become very itchy as a result of the fleas and may scratch at themselves excessively, while others may not. The best way to identify fleas among your indoor cats is to comb your cat’s fur using a fine tooth “flea comb” looking for any live fleas or the flea dirt, which will appear as black specks. The presence of flea dirt can confirm the presence of fleas, even if adult fleas are not found. 

Treating your Indoor Cat for Fleas

The best treatment for fleas is flea prevention. It is recommended to treat indoor cats with a safe flea preventative, such as revolution each month starting in the early spring and continuing until the late fall. If your cat has already been diagnosed as having fleas, you can use the same flea prevention product as a flea treatment. Guelph Veterinarians recommend that you treat your cat with an appropriate flea treatment for 4 consecutive months in order to break the flea life cycle.  There are many different flea treatment preventative options available within Canada. Always ensure to consult with your Guelph Veterinarian before choosing a flea prevention. Some pet flea treatment products are only safe for dogs and are actually very toxic to cats!

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