Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
With the summer months coming to a close and the central heating now very close to being switched on again, do be very aware of Fleas, particularly for cat and multi-pet households.
Fleas are the most common external parasite of cats. 2mm long and reddish-brown in colour they can live for 100 days, they begin to lay eggs 36-48hours after their first blood meal. The females then jump off to lay up to 50 eggs a day in your carpets and soft furnishings. Flea larvae then hatch and burrow into the furnishings. When the larvae pupate, they can remain dormant for up to a year. They are awoken by vibrations and with warmth. Adult fleas will then emerge and jump onto your cat to continue their lifecycle, or they may jump onto you! Centrally heated homes with fitted carpets provide perfect conditions for fleas to develop all year round.
The most obvious symptom of a flea infestation is your cat scratching a lot. You may also notice itchy, red, raised bites on your own skin. Dampen some white paper towel or cotton wool and comb out your cat's coat out over this. If you see little black specks on the paper that leak into reddish blotches, then you have found flea dirt. Treat for fleas immediately. If you let this infestation continue, then your cat will be itchy and miserable, she may start over-grooming herself resulting in bald, bare areas. If she is allergic to the flea saliva, she may also develop painful, raised skin scabs, usually around the tail and neck area. This is called feline allergic dermatitis. This can be severe and needs Veterinary treatment to clear up.
All cats can get fleas. If your cat goes outside, she will be meeting other cats and wildlife. With indoor cats, fleas could come into your home on human clothing. Also if you have bought any second hand soft furnishings, they could come already with flea pupae already inside. If you've just moved into a new house, flea eggs could be in the carpets from previous pets waiting to emerge with the new activity and resumed warmth within the new home. If you work with or around animals you could be bringing unwanted fleas home with you from work.
So, it is best to be aware and know that unfortunately fleas are always around, and then act accordingly. Remember that Flea prevention is far better than cure. If you find fleas and flea dirt on your cat, you have to a) treat the cat, and b) also deal with potential fleas within the house. About 95% of fleas and flea eggs in your home are not on your cat. To help prevent fleas becoming established within your home it is essential to also treat the home with a good advised Household Flea product and to vacuum all carpets and soft furnishings. Remember also to treat all cat baskets and the car boot and seat covers. It is much better to prevent a flea infestation in the first place by having a regular flea treatment in place for all your pets all year round. Consult your Vet about the best and most effective preventative treatments available.
Never use a dog flea product on your cat as these can be extremely toxic to cats.
Have a happy, flea -free autumn!