Preventing Flea Infestation in Cats
All cat Pet Parents will need to combat fleas at one time or another. Even very clean, pampered, indoor-only cats sometimes get fleas. But there are ways to combat them, and prevent infestations from recurring.
The Life Cycle of a Flea
Suppose an adult flea travels into your home via your pant leg. The flea then makes its way to your cat. Since the flea is a parasite, it lives off of your cat's blood. Eventually, it mates with another flea and the infestation begins. The female flea will lay eggs both on and off of your cat. These eggs hatch into larva, which often live in your carpets or furniture. In time, these larvae spin cocoons and then hatch into adult fleas. Infestation can happen very quickly - a female flea can lay as many as 30 eggs per day during flea season!
It's easier to prevent fleas than it is to get rid of them. Unfortunately, most people don't even think about fleas until their cats are infested. Once your cat has fleas, it takes a great deal of time and persistence to get rid of them. Although many commercial products are available, no one product will rid your house and your cat of fleas.
To prevent flea infestation, a simple monthly preventative topical treatment like Advantage will repel and kill fleas on your cat and is excellent for keeping pets pest-free when used year-round.
Next, vacuum your carpets often. Put some flea powder or a flea collar into your vacuum bag to kill any fleas inside. Fleas don't like water, so wash the area outside of your home often. You can also treat your grass with pesticides. Just be sure to read all of the instructions and keep children and pets off of your lawn for a while after you treat it.
Comb your cat with a flea comb - a special metal comb with very narrow bristles that trap fleas. When you do find a flea, place it in a glass of water and dish soap, which will kill the flea. Also look for flea dirt when you comb your cat. Flea dirt is actually flea excrement and looks like small, curly, black specs. If your cat is a dark color, you might also be able to see flea eggs, which look like dandruff.
If your cat has a significant number of fleas, treat both your cat and your home. Giving your cat a bath with flea shampoo is usually the first step. Most flea shampoos work well and kill adult fleas. Make sure the shampoo is for cats only; dog shampoos may be too strong for cats. Read the directions on the cat shampoo carefully. Flea shampoos usually don't offer residual protection, which means your cat has no protection against fleas once the bath is over.
Flea dips offer some residual protection. They repel fleas for a certain amount of time after you dip your cat. However, since a flea dip remains on a cat's fur, the cat will ingest it when it grooms itself. Therefore, some veterinarians don't recommend flea-dipping for cats.
Flea collars kill fleas on the cat's face and neck, but they don't kill all of the fleas on a cat's body. Some cats are allergic to flea collars and develop a rash or lose the fur on their necks. In addition, most flea collars aren't breakaway, which means they aren't elastic and they won't slip off if your cat gets tangled.
Most veterinarians discourage flea medallions because they can dangle into a cat's water and contaminate it.
Flea sprays and powders are available, too, some of which are very good. Just make sure the product is designed for your cat and not for your house.
Topical flea treatments have long-lasting residual effect and there are several over-the-counter options available.
Never treat your cat with more than one product at a time, and it's a good idea to ask your veterinarian to recommend flea products for your cat.
In addition to treating your cat for fleas, you need to treat your home. Sprays containing methoprene and fenoxycarb are effective. These sprays prevent the larva and cocoons in your carpets and furniture from developing into adult fleas. Some flea foggers will kill both fleas and their eggs. However, you need to remove your cat from your house to do this.
Whatever treatment you choose, make sure you read all directions carefully. Consult your veterinarian if you're unsure whether a flea product is safe.