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How to Tell if Your Cat has Fleas

Updated on July 1, 2009

A poisonless solution!

Springstar S102 Flea Trap
Springstar S102 Flea Trap

Control even the worst flea infestations in homes. Our Flea Trap is a safe and simple permanent appliance that uses heat and light to draw fleas from up to 25 feet away. Fleas attracted to the trap fall through the grid and meet a sticky demise on the replaceable capture pad. Trap catches 4 to 6 times more fleas than older style traps. Adult fleas are killed by the thousands on the replaceable capture pad. Works year round without poisons, expensive pills or visits to the vet.


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:

1) Scratching

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.

2) Bumps

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.

3) Anemia

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 Plus Flea and Tick Control for Cats and Kittens, 6 MO. SUPPLY
Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control for Cats and Kittens, 6 MO. SUPPLY

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.

Virbac Knockout Room Fogger, 6 oz
Virbac Knockout Room Fogger, 6 oz

Room and Area Fogger kills adult and Pre-Adult Fleas, including flea eggs for up to 7 months. Also kills cockroaches, spiders, ants, and ticks, including deer ticks. Contains Pyrethrins, Permethrin, and an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) which is an insect juvenile hormone that prevents the pre-adult flea from turning into an adult biting flea. For best results, treat all infested areas at the same time.

Koolatron Electronic Pet Flea Zapping Comb
Koolatron Electronic Pet Flea Zapping Comb

Flea Zapper Comb! It "Zaps" fleas on contact by emitting a safe electric charge that is harmless to you and your pet. Rid your pet of Fleas without the need for sprays, dips, or powders. Eliminates Fleas on contact Works on many different hair types Cleaning brush included Works on Cats, Dogs, Rabbits and more



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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      One way of finding out if there are fleas in your home or on your pets. Take a paper plate put corn syrup in it and place it under a light (40 watt)on the floor when you go to bed. If there are fleas in your house they will come to the light and jump in the syrup and you will know. I know it sounds silly but it does work.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      It could very likely be she has fleas. Look for flea dirt on her fur, -if she is black this may be a bit difficult- it looks like small specks that if put on a wet paper towel turn reddish. Scratching however may also be due to allergies and other skin conditions.

    • profile image

      dixies owner 6 years ago

      i just recently adopted my 6 month old kitten when i adobted her she seemed happy and comfortable at the place where i had adopted her,but then 2 days had passed and i noticed her scatching multiple times through out the day.she is an indoor kitten and has never set foot outdoors.does this mean my kitten has fleas?

    • profile image

      Fleas 6 years ago

      Call around to vets near you. You need to purchase a can of flea/flea egg fog. Make sure it has both. Sometime you have to have two different cans. One for adult fleas and one for eggs. If you do not kill both you will be retreating in a few weeks when the eggs tin your carpet hatch out. The cans will tell you have many to purchase based on the sq footage of your home and if it has more levels. Remove all food on counters and anything that you have in your bath that you use orally IE; toothbrush, water cup. Make sure all windows are closed and your air is turned off. Follow the instructions and do not enter you home earlier than the instructions say. You should be able to return in approx 4 to 5 hours. Wipe off all the counters when you return and I washed all my bedspreads pillows. Hope one time will work for you.

    • profile image

      Jane 6 years ago

      My cat, who's about 9 months old, is scratching a lot and this morning I found a black spot on her. It started to move a little since probably because we had put on flea medicine a couple days before to kill any she had. I don't know what to do and we don't have enough money to get medication from the vet.

    • profile image

      SamKelley 7 years ago

      Fleas are definitely a real problem for cats. Even worse for young kittens because you can't treat them with flea treatments suitable for adult cats.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 7 years ago from USA

      One thing cat owners often forget is that the cat is not the only one that should be treated for fleas but so does the environment. While the topical product may kill the fleas on the cat, there may still be an abundant amount of flea eggs in the home that will hatch and create more fleas. You may need to purchase a flea spray that will kill the eggs and larvae and bring the flea infestation to a halt. Your vet may carry some,ask for something with ''insect growth regulator''. Read label carefully before using. good luck!

    • profile image

      Lynn 7 years ago

      Hi, i gave my cat flea medicen about 3 weeks ago and i got a rash around my neck and it looks like flea bites but i don't know. Also i was siting on my couch and a lil bug jumped on to my eyelash and it looked like a flea but idk........