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Fleas are commonly associated with dogs, and many pet parents are surprised that fleas can affect their cats. Cat flea bites can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable. Cats can be allergic to a flea’s saliva, causing feline dermatitis that can be itchy and eventually lead to infection.1
Luckily, there are many ways to alleviate discomfort due to flea bites. Plus, pet parents can prevent flea bites on cats and their symptoms altogether by investing in flea prevention. This article will discuss how to treat flea bites, the importance of treating them, and how to prevent them in the future.
- What Are Cat Fleas?
- Treating Flea Bites On Cats
- Reasons To Treat Cat Flea Bites
- Preventing Cat Flea Bites With Flea Medicine
- Cat Flea Bites: FAQs
- Final Notes
What Are Cat Fleas?
Cat fleas are tiny wingless insects that move around the environment by jumping. Two common types of fleas can affect cats, including Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea) and Ctenocephalides canis (dog flea).1 Despite their name, cat fleas can also affect dogs since it’s the most common type of domestic flea in the United States.2 Adult cat fleas remain on the host and require fresh blood to reproduce.2
If you’re wondering, “what do cat fleas look like?” They’re typically about ⅛ inch in size and have flattened bodies, ranging from brown to black.3 Cat fleas may also appear red due to the blood they consume.3
Adult fleas can live for years, and females lay eggs within just a few days of finding a host. The larvae then hatch in a few days and can be found where cats spend their time, typically on carpet or bedding. Because flea larvae prefer darkness, they will find their way into nooks and crannies you may not be able to see.
Eventually, the cat flea larvae develop into pupae and go into a cocoon with an adult flea emerging. Fleas can attach to your cat within a few seconds, but many wait for the perfect moment to find a host. Fleas lay eggs in large numbers, so infestations can grow rapidly. It’s best to start treating your cat for fleas immediately.
Treating Flea Bites On Cats
The first step to treating flea bites on cats is to diagnose them. Common signs of flea bites on cats include raised pink or red spots. Other symptoms include:
- Scratching: Many cats are allergic to the saliva of a flea, which can cause them to scratch their skin uncontrollably.
- Skin irritation: Flea bites can cause skin irritation and lesions, but so can excessive scratching that may result in open wounds.
- Excessive grooming: Itchy cats may excessively groom themselves as a way to relieve their itchy skin. If your cat is grooming more than usual, it can be a sign of irritation.
- Lethargy caused by anemia: Fleas feed on your cat’s blood. If there’s a significant infestation, your cat may lose too much blood, leading to anemia and lethargy.
- Visible fleas on fur or bedding: While fleas are small, they can still be seen on your pets, carpet, bedding, or anywhere else in your home.
Many of these signs are also symptoms of common skin conditions, so it’s important to speak to your vet before beginning treatment to ensure your cat isn’t suffering from another skin problem, such as skin allergies or feline acne.
Once your cat has been diagnosed with fleas, you can start treating them. There are many products available that can alleviate itchy skin and flare-ups caused by cat flea allergies, including:
- Insecticides: Insecticides can be used to kill fleas, preventing more flare-ups from occurring.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are hormones that reduce inflammation by triggering an immune response to flea bites.4
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can be used to destroy and prevent fleas and other invasive microorganisms.4
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines can alleviate excessive itching and discomfort in cats.4
- Topical ointments: Topical ointments can help soothe your cat’s itchy skin.
- Medicated shampoo: Medicated shampoo kills fleas on contact.
Depending on the severity of your cat’s scratching and grooming, your vet may also recommend an Elizabethan collar, also known as a pet cone.
As always, it’s best to talk to your vet about how to treat your cat for fleas. Some products can treat fleas and prevent reinfestation, while others prevent eggs and larvae from developing.
Treatment also includes eliminating fleas from the home. Doing so can prevent your cat from getting bitten again, which can delay their healing. Moreover, keeping your home clean by vacuuming and removing infested bedding can help reduce fleas in the home to protect other pets and humans.
Reasons To Treat Cat Flea Bites
While flea bites aren’t fatal, they can cause severe skin irritation and discomfort. Additionally, if your cat is scratching themselves, they can break the skin and become susceptible to infection. Fleas may also transfer dangerous diseases to other animals and humans, including tapeworms.5 Moreover, fleas can cause anemia if the infestation is severe enough, resulting in significant blood loss. Anemia can make cats weak and eventually lead to organ failure and death.5
A single cat flea bite can indicate a flea infestation, which can impact people and pets in the home. Cat fleas on humans are relatively common and can cause itchiness and irritation. Dogs and cats may also bring fleas into your home, allowing them to lay eggs and develop more fleas that bite pets and humans.1
Preventing Cat Flea Bites With Flea Medicine
The only way to prevent flea bites is with flea management. While you can clean your home, removing every flea is nearly impossible, especially since they’re small and like hiding in dark spaces. Instead, it’s best to use preventative products for your pets to deter fleas from biting them and cut off their food supply.
Here are a few preventatives to ask your vet about.
Oral medications are taken by mouth monthly and can kill lingering fleas within a few hours while preventing new ones from attacking your cat. Oral medications may also be combined with heartworm prevention medication.
Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs and Cats 2-25 lbs
This oral flea treatment contains an active ingredient, Nitenpyram which effectively eliminates fleas. The fast-acting formula is over 90% effective in eliminating adult fleas within hours of treatment. That means almost immediate relief from itchiness and discomfort, without the odor or mess of topicals. Capstar kills fleas quickly but only lasts for 48 hours.
Topical treatments offer a convenient option for flea prevention. Simply apply this anti-parasiticide monthly to prevent fleas, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, and intestinal hookworms
Monthly topical medication used to treat and prevent fleas, heartworm, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, and intestinal hookworms. Revolution Plus is for cats 8 weeks and older.
Topical parasiticide treats and prevents flea eggs from hatching for one month. It also helps prevent heartworm disease and ear mites.
Safe and simple monthly topical medication used to protect your cat from fleas, hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites.
Topical treatment specially formulated just for felines. Cheristin works to get rid of fleas and prevent them for one month following treatment.
Bravecto for Cats - 12-week dose (Rx)
Topical treatment that kills adult fleas and provides up to 12 weeks of protection after treatment.
Flea sprays eliminate adult fleas when they’re sprayed directly, working to repel fleas by releasing a potent chemical.
Flea collars release chemicals that spread through a cat’s fur and skin to prevent fleas and kill any that land on your cat.
Flea prevention is a must for any pet parent since some animals are incredibly sensitive to bites. Both indoor and outdoor cats are susceptible to flea bites. Flea control is recommended year-round, even in the winter.
Some flea prevention methods are more effective than others. For example, a flea spray will wear off eventually, while oral medications prevent fleas for thirty days or more. The best flea prevention method for your cat will depend on their lifestyle and health.
Additionally, never use flea products meant for dogs on cats. Flea products for dogs and cats use different chemicals, which can be harmful when used on the wrong species. In addition, many flea prevention products for dogs are toxic to cats.
Other ways you can prevent fleas on your pets include:
- Limiting the amount of time your cat is outdoors
- Preventing contact with stray animals
- Providing regular baths
- Checking for fleas
- Washing bedding and fabrics in hot water weekly
Cat Flea Bites: FAQs
How do I know if my cat has flea bites?
Flea bites look like small raised pink or red spots. However, bites can be difficult to notice on pets, especially if your cat has thick fur. Other signs of flea bites include excessive grooming and scratching. Many flea bites can lead to irritation, so it’s best to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible for treatment because excessive scratching and grooming can cause lesions and scabs, making your pet more susceptible to infection.
What should I do if my cat is bitten by a flea?
If you identify flea bites on your cat, it’s best to treat them immediately. Talking to a vet is the best way to treat your cat for fleas. Your vet can help you determine which products are suitable based on your cat’s lifestyle and health.
Once your cat is treated for fleas, it’s essential to vacuum the carpet and wash the bedding your cat has used to prevent further infestation. You should also invest in flea prevention for your pet to protect them and your home year-round.
Can cat fleas bite humans?
Cat fleas can bite humans and transmit diseases, including tapeworms, typhus, and cat-scratch disease (CSD). Even if a flea isn’t a carrier of these diseases, a bite can irritate your skin.
Many cats experience allergic dermatitis due to flea bites because they’re allergic to flea saliva. Unfortunately, fleas are small and may be hard to see. Cat flea bites can also be challenging to find on your cat through their fur. However, many signs may indicate a cat flea bite, including scratching and excessive grooming. If you notice your cat scratching a particular area more than usual, or they just can’t seem to find relief, it can indicate a flea bite or infestation.
The best way to keep your pet safe from fleas is to prevent flea bites. Don’t wait until your cat has flea bites to treat them for fleas. Ask a Dutch-affiliated veterinarian about the different types of flea preventatives to help your cat avoid itchy lesions. Dutch is simplifying the vet experience by offering pet telemedicine to provide pet parents peace of mind and keep pets happy and healthy. Get flea and tick treatment for your cat today without the stress of an in-person vet.
Dryden, Michael W. “Fleas of Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 1 June 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/skin-disorders-of-cats/fleas-of-cats?query=fleas%2Bcats.
Cat Flea - Ctenocephalides Felis (Bouché), https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/occas/catflea.htm.
“What Are Cat Fleas? Cat Flea Bites, Information, Control.” PestWorld.org Your Partner in Pest Prevention, https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/fleas/cat-flea/.
“Flea Allergy.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 21 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/flea-allergy.
“Fleaborne Diseases of the United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/fleas/diseases.html.