Cat itching from fleas

Key takeaway

Fleas are a big concern for cat parents, so checking for fleas and using preventative treatments is essential. Your cat may have fleas if you notice symptoms such as scratching, hair loss, and skin irritation. Fleas can be treated with prescription flea medication, but it’s best to give your cat preventative flea treatments to keep fleas away in the first place.

Fleas are small wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals, including cats and dogs. When fleas bite to feed, it can be very uncomfortable for animals, leading to skin irritation, itching, and even hair loss in some cases. What’s even more problematic is the fact that fleas can carry transmittable diseases, which can be spread to cats and dogs through flea bites.1

If your cat has itchy skin, you may be dealing with cat fleas. Fleas are a common issue for cat parents, which is why there are several flea treatments for cats. Typically, cats are also given preventative flea medication to keep fleas away.

If you think your cat has fleas, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to get a prescription for flea medication. You can also talk to your vet about treating cat flea bites and preventing future flea infestations. Keep reading to learn more about cat fleas and how to get rid of them.

Symptoms Of Cat Fleas

Because cat fleas are one of the most common medical problems cats are likely to experience, you need to recognize the signs of fleas on cats. Here are some of the symptoms you may notice if your cat has fleas2:

  • Itchy skin/frequent scratching
  • Skin irritation
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive grooming
  • Black specks in your cat’s fur or bedding

If you notice symptoms of cat fleas, you should call your vet to schedule an appointment. Fleas can transmit several diseases, so it’s important to treat them early to minimize flea bites. In the meantime, there are things you can do at home to soothe your cat’s itchy skin and provide a little relief.

How Do You Check For Fleas?

As a cat parent, you should be checking for fleas regularly. There are a lot of potential signs and symptoms of a flea infestation, but the easiest way to diagnose cat fleas is to find them on your cat. So, how do you check for fleas on cats?

Start by rolling your cat over onto their back, then check any spots where fleas are likely to hide out. Fleas like to hide in warm, inconspicuous spots, so make sure you check the armpits and groin. You should also look at your cat’s ears to make sure they aren’t irritated, dirty, or bloody, as these can be signs of scratching caused by fleas.2

What Causes Fleas In Cats?

Fleas are a common problem for both cats and dogs, but what exactly causes fleas in cats? To understand why cats get fleas, you have to understand the life of a flea.

Fleas attach to animals so they can feed on their blood, which is why cats with fleas have bites all over their skin. Eventually, fleas that are feeding on your cat’s blood will lay eggs, and those eggs will hatch into larvae. Once those larvae become adults, they’ll have several “blood meals” each day, and the females will eventually lay eggs to begin the cycle again.

Because cats are always looking for a host, your cat can get fleas from lots of places. Cats can get fleas from interacting with local wildlife or simply spending a lot of time outdoors. If you have a dog, your dog could bring fleas in and give them to your cat. As a pet parent, it’s your job to be vigilant and take steps to prevent cat fleas.

How Do Indoor Cats Get Fleas?

You may be wondering how your cat has fleas when they spend all their time inside. While fleas typically come from sources outside your home, that doesn’t mean your cat has to spend time outside to get fleas.

If you have a family dog, your dog may have a flea infestation that’s carrying over to your cat. It could also be that you brought a few fleas home from a friend’s house accidentally, or maybe you recently moved into a new apartment that has a flea infestation. Because fleas are so small, it can be hard to spot them before you bring them into your home.

If your home is infested with fleas, you’ll need to get rid of the infestation in addition to treating your cat’s fleas.

Flea Treatment For Cats

The good news is that you have options when it comes to flea treatment for cats. Because cat fleas are a common problem, there are several prescription medications that can help your cat get rid of fleas. Oral flea medication is the most common treatment method for cats with fleas3.

Keep in mind that these medications are only available with a prescription, so you’ll need to talk with your vet. With telemedicine for pets, you can get your cat’s flea medicine prescription delivered directly to your doorstep.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas In Your Home

If there are flea eggs and larvae all around your home, your cat's flea problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You need to get rid of the fleas in your home when you give your cat flea medication, that way the fleas don’t come back.

Find a low-toxicity home flea treatment that you can use to treat your pet’s bedding, rugs, carpeting, and furniture throughout the house. Boron-based products are typically effective against fleas as well. The more thorough you are about getting rid of the fleas in your home, the less likely they are to come back4.

Cat Fleas: Frequently Asked Questions

Can cat fleas live on humans?

While it’s not common for cat fleas to live on humans, cat fleas will happily bite humans for a blood meal when they get the chance. If you’re cuddling with your cat and you notice small red bumps on your skin, you could be looking at a flea bite. Cat flea bites can be especially problematic for people who are allergic to fleas, with most individuals experiencing an allergic reaction within the 12 to 24 hours of the bite. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to fleas include hives, rashes, and generalized itching.

How do I get rid of cat fleas?

Getting rid of cat fleas is a two-part process that involves treating your cat for fleas and getting rid of the fleas in your home. You can get a prescription flea medication to get rid of your cat’s fleas, with several effective medications available. As far as home flea treatment goes, you should look for a non-toxic solution that kills fleas. Spray this flea killer in any areas where cats or dogs spend a lot of time, including their beds, favorite rugs or spots on the carpet, and any furniture they lie on. By getting rid of your cat’s fleas and the eggs and larvae around your house, you can stop flea infestations.

How can you tell if your cat has fleas?

The easiest way to tell if your cat has fleas is to watch for increased itching. Cats with fleas typically scratch a lot because their skin is itchy and irritated, and you may even notice visible skin irritation and hair loss. You can also check your cat for fleas and flea bites, especially in inconspicuous areas such as the groin and armpits. If you notice symptoms of cat fleas but you can’t actually find a flea, you can always take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis.

Cat owner checking for fleas

Final Notes

Cat fleas are a problem that just about every cat owner has to deal with at some point. Fortunately, there are prescription medications for treating cat fleas, as well as home flea treatments to get rid of fleas around your house. If you think your cat has fleas, you should take them to the vet for a prescription as soon as you can.

Getting a prescription from the vet can be a pain, but Dutch makes it easy. With Dutch, you can connect with an online vet who writes prescriptions, that way you can get your cat’s prescription medication delivered directly to your door. You can even video chat with vets to get expert advice at home. Try Dutch today and see how simple pet care can be.

References

  1. Dryden, Michael W. “Fleas of Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, 

    https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/skin-disorders-of-cats/fleas-of-cats?query=fleas. Jennifer Kvamme, DVM. “How to Tell If Your Cat Has Fleas.” PetMD, PetMD, 20 Dec. 2016,

  2. Jennifer Kvamme, DVM. “How to Tell If Your Cat Has Fleas.” PetMD, PetMD, 20 Dec. 2016, https://www.petmd.com/cat/parasites/evr_ct_does_my_cat_have_fleas#:~:text=Turn%20your%20cat%20on%20his,all%20be%20signs%20of%20fleas.

  3. “Fleas: A Source of Torment for Your Cat.” 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/fleas-source-torment-your-cat.

  4. “Controlling Fleas - How Do You Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home?” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, 4 Mar. 2019, https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/insects/controlling-fleas/