How to Tell if Your Cat has Fleas
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It is not too uncommon for owners of indoor cats to be quite surprised when their veterinarian finds ''proof'' of fleas on their cats. They will say ''But, my cat stays only indoors, how could she possibly have fleas?'' The answer to this question is that fleas are pretty persistent creatures, and that it is not uncommon for fleas to hitch hike a ride of the cat owner's shoes and clothes and get to their final destination: the cat.
Fleas are brown, pretty tiny insects with long rear legs allowing them to hop around horizontally for up to 13 inches and vertically for about 7 inches. This makes them find their prey easily. Fleas are very hardy insects, they have a hard body that resists well to pressure, a survival feature that protects them to withstand the long nails of a cat scratching!
A couple of fleas on a cat may easily translate in hundreds within a small period of time. All it takes to grab the idea is realize that each female flea has the potential of laying around 500 or more eggs during their lifetime.
There are several ways to detect if your cat has fleas. Following are some of the most common signs:
Scratching may be an obvious sign of fleas in cats, but alone it cannot be absolute proof of fleas because there are many other skin conditions that may cause a cat to itch and scratch. Therefore, to diagnose the presence of fleas in cats, owners should rely on other signs.
The constant scratching will often produce several crusty bumps which owners may detect by petting their cat carefully. Often such bumps are produced as a skin reaction to the fleas' saliva known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Such bumps are more easily detected in short haired cats.
Severely infested kittens may have so many fleas that they can get anemic from too much blood loss. When this occurs, kittens are covered in fleas, will appear lethargic and exhibit pale gums. Very young kittens may need the fleas removed with a good flea comb, because most topicals can be applied only to kittens over 8 weeks old (read lable carefully).
4) Presence of Flea Dirt
Fleas deposit feces on the cat, something often seen resembling dirt on the cat. Such dirt is easily visible on light colored cats and presents as little black specks. The est way to confirm that such debris is actually flea dirt is by performing an easy test.
The Flea Dirt Test
Wet a white piece of paper towel and deposit some flea dirt on the wet surface. Allow the dirt to soak into the paper towel a bit. If the debris leaves a red tint, this confirms it is flea dirt. Flea dirt actually consists of the fleas' feces therefore when it turns red it does so because a fleas' feces consists mainly of digested blood.
5) Presence of Tapeworms
Tapeworm segments which resemble rice can be found in the cat's rectal area or in areas the cat likes to sleep. Fleas act as vectors for tapewore, in other words, a cat gets tapeworms when it ingests an infected flea, therefore tapeworms are proof of a flea infestation.
Treatment/Prevention of Fleas
Once there is no more doubt that your cat is infested by fleas, it is time to take action and win the battle. You will need effective veterinarian approved products such as topical Frontline or Advantage. Over the counter flea products can be dangerous, some have a history of causing severe irritations, seizures and even death.
While these monthly applications work great on your cat, you must also keep in mind eradicating fleas from the environment. This is accomplished by using insect growth regulators that will kill fleas in all their life stages, eggs, larvae, etc. Always read labels carefully before using such products.
Tapeworms are treated by giving tapeworm dewormers and getting rid of fleas which cause tapeworm in the first place.
The season in which fleas are more active range from early spring to late fall. In the winter fleas are not very common, unless they find shelter and thrive in homes. Do not let fleas take over your cat and your home, keep you cat free of them and happy!
Frontline products are highly recommended by veterinarians for flea and tick control for dogs and cats. For cat owners who want long-lasting, fast-acting flea, tick, and chewing lice control, Frontline Plus guarantees control on cats aged 8 weeks and older. You only have to apply Frontline Plus once a month, so a 6-Dose supply will provide you with up to 6 months of convenient, highly effective flea, flea egg, chewing lice, and tick control.