“Bonnie” and “Clyde” were two beautiful, Tabby cats. As brother and sister, they did have an ongoing, love-hate relationship, but they were often found curled up sleeping together in their favourite spot on the sofa. They were both brought into see me as they had been scratching incessantly, and they had been notably grumpier than usual with each other. On their examination I quickly noted that they both had flea dirt in their coats and I also caught a couple of jumping fleas on a comb when I groomed them out in the consult room. Bonnie was very irritable and had a nasty, raised, skin rash down her back. Poor Clyde was having a hard time from Bonnie and was looking deeply sorry for himself; he had a couple of nasty self-inflicted scratch sores around his neck. Bonnie and Clyde had fleas and flea allergy dermatitis. I applied a Spot-On treatment which would need to be repeated regularly now, and they would also need some treatment for their secondary dermatitis lesions, and their home treated for fleas.
With the crisp autumn days now encroaching into the colder winter months, the central heating in our homes is now switched on again. It is at this time of year that we need to be aware of Fleas and preventative flea treatments, particularly so for cats and in multiple pet households.
Fleas are the most common external parasite in our pets. They measure about 2mm long, are reddish-brown in colour, and have extremely long legs for jumping!! They live for 7-14 days, living and feeding on your cat, with the females then jumping off to lay up to 50 eggs a day in your carpets and household soft furnishings. The egg larvae then hatch out and then burrow into the carpets and furnishings. When the larvae pupate, they can remain dormant and quiet for up to a year. They are then awoken by vibrations and activity and any warmth. They will then emerge and jump onto your pet to then continue their lifecycle. Centrally heated homes with fitted carpets provide the perfect conditions for fleas to develop an infestation in your home, all year round.
The most obvious symptom of any flea infestation is your cat scratching a lot. Also, if you see little black specks on wetted paper that leach into reddish blotches, then you have found flea dirt. Treat your pet for fleas immediately. If you let this infestation continue your pets will soon be miserable and itchy, start over-grooming, producing bald, bare areas, and if they are allergic to the flea saliva, they may also develop raised skin scabs and inflamed skin areas, usually over the tail, back and neck area, this is an allergic dermatitis. This dermatitis can be severe and debilitating and often needs Veterinary treatment to clear up.
All cats can get fleas! If your cats go outside, they will be meeting other cats, who may already have fleas. Also, if they hunt or roams further afield, Rabbit and hedgehog fleas can also live on cats. Also, if you have bought any second-hand home soft furnishings, they could come already with flea eggs harboured inside. If you have just moved into a new house, flea eggs could be in the carpets from previous pet owners, waiting to emerge with any new activity and resumed warmth within the new home. If you work anywhere with or around animals, you could be bringing unwanted flea visitors’ home with you from work. Also with indoor cats, although your cat may not leave the house, fleas could come into your home on the clothes and bags of other cat lovers, or on your own clothes if you visit a pet owning friend and there happens to be any fleas around in their home. So, it is best to be aware and know that unfortunately, fleas are always around, and then act accordingly. Flea prevention is far better than cure!
If you find fleas and flea dirt on your cat, a) treat the cat, and b) deal with potential fleas and flea eggs in your household, as 95% of fleas and flea eggs in your home will not be on your cat, they will be established in carpets and household furnishings. Consult your Vet Practice about the best treatments for your cats, any other pets in the household, and your home furnishings. There are several effective treatments to choose from. Spot On and oral treatments are available tailored to your pets’ species, age, and weight. If fleas have been found on your pets, to prevent fleas becoming well established within your home, it is always essential to also treat your home, cat baskets and any pet sleeping areas, indoors and out, with a good, advised Household Flea treatment product and to vacuum all carpets and soft furnishings to get rid of any fleas and eggs.
It is much better however to avoid and prevent a household flea infestation in the first place, by having a regular year-round flea treatment in place for all your household pets.
PLEASE REMEMBER NEVER USE A DOG FLEA PRODUCT ON YOUR CAT AS THESE CAN BE EXTREMELY TOXIC TO CATS.
For good professional advice on flea prevention for your pets, do contact your Veterinary Practice.