It’s a nightmare faced by every cat or dog owner at some point – and can in all honesty be one of the most unpleasant and frustrating things to combat.
What are fleas?
Fleas are flightless insects and are about 2mm in length, reddish brown in colour and have flattened strong back legs that help them jump from host to host.
They invade your cat’s fur, followed by your home in the hundreds to thousands, lay eggs under your floorboards and in bedding.
Your cat is the perfect host, with thick warm fur for the flea to cling on to and a nutritious blood supply underneath to feed on.
The females can live up to 2 years, and in that time, will lay up to 1000 eggs. They lay their eggs on the host animal. The eggs then drop into the animal’s surroundings where they hatch after about a month when they feel the vibrations of a host nearby.
Checking your cat for fleas
If you suspect that your cat has been infested with fleas, you can check this relatively easily.
Firstly, if you notice your cat is constantly scratching and biting at their skin and fur, this is an obvious sign of fleas.
You’ll need to:
- Look for movement in the fur – if it’s a bad infestation, you’ll be able to physically see the parasites jumping around your cat’s coat.
- Use a fine comb and comb through your cat’s fur starting around their lower back, at the base of the tail- if there is an infestation, this area will give you a good indication of it. Look for tiny dark specs – these are flea dirt and a good sign of an infestation
- Watch your cat – is the scratching occasional or continuous?
- Do you have itchy bites most likely on your ankles and legs?
A light-coloured cat will show up fleas a lot easier, so you will need a comb to check if your cat is dark.
Now you’ve established that your cat has fleas, you can be pretty sure you’ll find them in your home too unfortunately!
Fleas and flea eggs will most likely be found where their host is most often; so check their bedding, the sofas, the carpet and anywhere else in the home that your cat spends lots of time.
A female flea will lay up to 50 eggs a day and as mentioned above, the eggs will drop off your cat’s coat and into your home – so once each batch of eggs starts hatching, you could have hundreds of fleas jumping around your home in no time.
Getting rid of the pesky fleas
First off you need to de-flea your cat. There’s no point in starting with your home if your cat is still infested so sort your cat out first, and make them more comfortable. All the itching, scratching and biting is very unpleasant for them and can cause wounds and lesions if the scratching is particularly ferocious.
There are various types of flea treatments and barriers available. They are:
- Vet prescribed combined flea and worm spot on treatment – your vet will administer this on the back of your cat’s neck, which the cat will then absorb into their skin and the ingredients then come through the cat’s pores to kill off all the fleas. It will kill the internal and external living parasites as well as prevent any eggs from hatching. This will need to be repeated once a month
- An injection at the vet’s – which contains insect development inhibitor lufenuron, thus preventing the larvae from becoming adult fleas
- A tablet containing an ingredient that kills off all living fleas on your cat within a day.
De-flea your home
Next up you need to get rid of the flea infestation in your home. This can take some time and you must be thorough and persistent.
It is often better to call in the experts and get a pest controller to come and flea bomb your home, using heavy duty products that aren’t available to the public. It may cost a bit but you can be sure the fleas will be gone after that.
If you would prefer to do it yourself, then:
- First, vacuum everywhere Remove the vacuum bag and throw it away once you’ve finished – do this each time you hoover. Throw it in the outside bins too, not in your kitchen bin. The fleas and eggs will still be in the bag.
- Strip all your bedding, cat bedding, sofa cushions etc and put it on a high temperature wash.
- Hoover your mattress.
- Use a flea spray and spray everywhere in your home (making sure your cat and family are out of the house first).
- You will need to keep hoovering every day and washing bedding at least once a week to ensure that the infestation is eradicated.
Flea invasions are very annoying for all involved but one of the hazards of pet ownership, so be prepared and know what to do.