Flea treatments for cats and home are essential if you want to keep healthy pets and want to avoid your home being invested by fleas!
Fleas are external parasites that live by sucking the blood of their hosts. There are several different types of flea, with the most common globally being the cat flea, Ctenocephalides Felis. Variations such as dog, rabbit and hedgehog fleas can also live on cats. Cat fleas will bite humans, particularly if the cat is removed from the house. Although they cannot breed without their feline host, fleas can live for some time on a diet of human blood. Adult cat fleas are between one to six millimeters in length, and have a hard shell that ensures they are not killed or damaged when a cat scratches them. Cat fleas are wingless but can jump around 15 millimeters in the air, making it easy for them to leap up onto a cat, or from one animal to another.
The life cycle of the flea consists of four stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. In a flea infestation, only five percent is made up of adult fleas that are living on the cat; the eggs, larvae and pupae make up 95 percent of the infestation that will be hidden around the house in carpets, bedding, sofas, skirting boards, floorboards and curtains. This makes it vitally important to combine flea treatments for cats with products that are designed to eradicate fleas in their surrounding environment.
The reproductive cycle of the flea is only three weeks, so if left unchecked, infestation will be rapid. A female adult flea will lay up to fifty eggs a day in the fur of a cat. The eggs are tiny, about 0.5mm, and hardly visible to the human eye. While some will remain in the cat’s fur, the eggs are smooth and dry and most will fall to the ground when a cat moves or scratches itself. The adult fleas leave droppings in the fur which fall from the cat at the same time as the eggs, and provide food for them when they hatch. This will happen in one to ten days, depending on temperature, humidity and light conditions. The eggs hatch into maggot-like larvae equipped with biting mouths that feed on the adult flea droppings as well as on dead skin and food debris. The larvae burrow deep into fibres and dark, secluded places and after seven to eighteen days they spin themselves a cocoon woven from their saliva mixed with debris. In another seven to ten days the pupae will transform into an adult flea, which can remain dormant for some time. The adult will emerge from its cocoon when it senses warmth or vibration, and has a lifespan of two or three months. The adult flea will begin to lay eggs 36 to 48 hours after its first meal of cat blood and the cycle will start again.
The symptoms of flea infestation in a cat are scratching, hair loss from over-grooming and unusual jumpiness. Tiny, dark specks are often seen in the fur, together with small brown-black insects and irritated, red bites. Grooming the fur with a fine-tooth comb over a white surface may cause black specks to fall, which can be confirmed as flea droppings if they turn reddish brown when drops of water are added.
Flea infestation will not only make a cat uncomfortable and itchy, but can have more serious results. Cats can suffer from flea-allergic dermatitis as a reaction to flea saliva and blood parasites can be transmitted by flea bites. Each adult flea can drink up to fifteen times its body weight in blood each day, and frail or young cats can become dangerously weak from excessive blood loss. Flea larvae can be infected with tapeworm eggs, and while grooming itself, a cat can swallow larvae and become infected with worms. Dangerous diseases from others animals, such as myxomatosis in rabbits, can be transmitted by fleas.
As can be seen from the above dangers, preventative flea treatments for cats are best, rather than waiting for symptoms to appear. Treatments traditionally include powders, sprays and collars, but all have limitations in application and effectiveness, and spot-on treatments have been developed that are applied directly to the cat’s skin by parting the fur, usually at the base of the neck where ingestion by grooming is unlikely. Oral formulations are available, that can either kill fleas or sterilise them when they bite the cat, and injections are another option in severe cases. It is important to combine treatment to eliminate adult fleas from the cat with household sprays to kill any eggs, larvae and pupae that may be concealed around the house, particularly in places where cats sleep. Professional pest control may be needed if houses and lawns have a severe infestation.
This article has been produced in association with The Pet Medicine Company, an affordable UK online pet pharmacy with an exhaustive range of treatments for all of your cat wellbeing needs.