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Fleas and Your Cat

Aug 17, 2007
Fleas are the most common cause of itching and skin irritation in cats. Over 90 percent of all skin allergies in cats are due to fleas.

The allergy is actually a reaction to a protein component of the fleas' saliva. When these "allergic cats" are bitten by a flea they itch themselves until their skin is raw.

Most also end up with areas of hair loss and secondary bacterial skin infections. In addition, fleas suck blood, cause anemia, and transmit tapeworms.

FACT: Fleas can jump 3-feet high


- Itching head, neck and ears.
- Flea dirt
- Hair loss on head and neck area.


Signs of fleas include itching, especially on the head and neck, and tiny black specks that look like dirt. To confirm that this "dirt" is flea dirt, place it on a cotton ball moistened with water. Flea dirt will turn red because of the blood it contains.

Once your cat has been diagnosed with a flea problem, you need to treat all of the pets in the home and the home itself. In your house, vacuum the carpets and throw away used vacuum bags so that flea eggs do not hatch in the bag.

For your carpeting, try an insect-growth regulator like Pyriproxifen or Methoprine. These are hormone analogies and prevent the flea larvae from developing into an adult. These last up to 18 months.

As an alternative, you can sprinkle sodium polyborate powder, which is "borax", onto the carpet, then vacuum. This will protect against fleas for up to one year. Be sure to wash your cat's bedding with hot soapy water.

Finally, bathe all the animals living in your home. Use a flea shampoo with pyrethrins or d-limolene as the active ingredient.

In your yard, natural products that contain nematodes provide the best protection. Nematodes are live microscopic worms that eat the larval and pupal forms of fleas and 250 other outdoor pests. Methoprene (used in Acclaim 2000) and Pyriproxifen (used in Indorex) are also available as yard sprays. One application can last from six to twelve months.

FACT: Constant itching may be a sign that your cat is allergic to fleas.


Fleas can life up to one year in your home and yard. If your cat is allergic to fleas, one flea bite sets up a reaction that can cause itching for up to 14 days. Fleas also bite people and other pets. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is often the primary problem for cats, dogs and people.

Cats are very susceptible to toxic reactions from flea control products containing traditional insecticides such as Organophosphates and Carbamates. Be sure to read labels and only use products specifically approved for your cat.


Today, prevention is the key to flea control. Many new products are available that last up to 30 days or more and are safe enough for kittens but must be prescribed by your vet. Program is a tablet given monthly or that contains Lufenuron which causes fleas to lay sterile eggs which do not hatch therefore, environmental contamination is also prevented.

Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution are also preventative products available in a liquid form, which are applied to the skin between the shoulder blades at 30-day intervals.

Advantage kills fleas.

Frontline kills adult fleas on contact and prevents ticks on cats and dogs. It has an alcohol base, which has occasionally caused problems in cats.

Revolution is used to prevent fleas, heartworm disease and ear mites.

Regardless of the product used, prevention should start in the spring, when the outdoor temperature reaches 65-70F on a regular basis.

Fleas live primarily in the environment and not on your pet. They only stay on your pets long enough to get a blood meal, then jump back down to the ground and lay more eggs. The presence of just one flea on your cat means that thousands more are nearby, that's why prevention is so important.

FACT: In cats, fleas prefer the head and neck. Fleas bite the ankles and lower legs in people.
About the Author
Copyright 2007 Dr. Carol Osborne

Get FREE pet advice from Dr. Carol at http://CarolonPets.com/

Visit Dr. Carol's blog at http://CarolonPets.com/blog/

Buy PAAWS and VitaLife dog and cat vitamin supplements and other pet health products at http://DrCarol.com/
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