Uh-ohh, I think I have fleas in the house. What should I do now?
Here is our handly little guide to help you out!
Fleas are tiny, blood-sucking parasites, they enter the host from the environment or from host to host. There are many species of fleas. Every species prefers to infect a specific type of animal. Ctenocephalides Felis is the most common flea present in cats. This flea will also infect dogs and humans. These fleas can live for months without eating and can survive in harsh environmental conditions.
The flea has four stages of life. They are egg, larva, pupae, and adult stage. The speed of development depends mostly on the temperature and humidity of the environment. Therefore to develop an adult flea can take just a few weeks to months. The ideal temperature for fleas to develop is between 21°C and 29°. Adult fleas will usually stay on the same animal for life because they cannot survive without a blood meal.
How do I know if my cat has fleas?
Fleas can be easily seen on a cat’s hair coat, but sometimes only “flea dirt” is present. Flea dirt looks similar to pepper. Combing this dark material from the hair coat onto a wet paper towel will re-suspend the digested blood in the feces and leave a red stain on the paper towel. This simple test confirms the diagnosis. Not only indoor cats can have fleas, as you can easily bring one home on your clothing.
Dangers of flea infestation
Fleas will make the cat itchy and feel uncomfortable. They can cause infections such as tapeworms and flea allergic dermatitis. Flea saliva consists of an anticoagulant to prevent the host’s blood clotting. Fleas will transfer saliva into their bite wound during the feeding process. Some cats have an allergy to saliva, which causes severe itching. Cats can get ill from flea saliva due to skin inflammation, scabbing, and hair loss.
Heavily infected cats, especially kittens, can develop anemia due to blood loss. Since fleas are blood-sucking parasites, they insert their mouth into the skin and suck blood from capillaries. If a cat or kitten has a high number of fleas on its body, there will be significant blood loss. Blood loss causes anemia. Anemia causes weakness and hypoxia conditions. Severe cases of anaemia can result in organ failure and death.
So what are the treatments?
Hoovering, washing up, hoovering, washing up, over and over again:) To remove fleas of all life stages from your pets and home, you must repeat your cleaning procedure frequently for a couple of weeks or even months. Make sure you treat all pets, the cat’s bedding, your furnitures, clothing, carpets.
The most common flea control products are imidacloprid, fipronil, dinotefuran, spinetoram, and selamectin. These products are made to be put on the skin on the back of the neck between the shoulder blades, where they sink in and transmit throughout the layer of fat beneath the skin, killing all the adult fleas present. It continues to destroy all the fleas for up to 30 days. After 30 days, a new dose is given.
Flea control by oral products for cats
Oral flea control products are also available on the market. Nitenpyram is excellent for massive flea infestation. A single oral dose of Nitenpyram will kill all of the adult fleas on a cat in a very short time. Spinosad is an oral formulation that kills all adult fleas on a cat within one day after administration, it destroys adult fleas for up to 30 days.
Flea collars for cats
A flea collar that consists of compounds such as imidacloprid with flumethrin will kill fleas and ticks within eight months. This collar has a particular property of getting break-away if it gets caught on something where it gets released without causing injury to the cat. These collars are not suitable for all cats, some of them will simply not tolerate to wear a collar at all, or develop sensitivity (in this case you must remove it and use another method)
What about home remedies ?
Be careful with home remedies, as most of them are simply not effective, and some of them are not suitable to give to your furry friend at all as they are poisonous (such as garlic, brewer’s yeast, and pyrethrins).
Let’s see four safe household remedies that might help you with slight flea infestation.
1. Lemon spray
Citrus has many beneficial properties, including killing of fleas. To make your own homemade citrus flea spray, add a few lemons, boil them in water. Then apply to the fur using a spray bottle or a comb. Keep an eye on your cat for any signs of skin irritation (if that happens, you have to wash it off).
The two types of vinegar, white or apple cider vinegar is a common household ingredient and have acetic acid, killing flea eggs, while the smell repels adult fleas.
It is better to apply vinegar directly to the feline's coat, but if you have some problem with the strong smell, mix it with lemon juice or simply add water to get a 50:50 ratio. Apple cider vinegar can often be the best option to use due to its softer aroma. Vinegar can be an effective cleaning method to destroy any flea eggs around your home.
Rosemary is totally sweet-smelling for human nose, but it can also act as a natural flea killer. Homemade rosemary flea spray can be made by taking the dried herb, mixing it with lemon, lavender, or chamomile, and boiling it in water. The product can then be applied directly to the feline’s coat or bedding.
4. Coconut oil, olive oil
Naturally, coconut oil can help cure allergies, dry skin, itchiness. Similar to coconut oil, olive oil also consists of a high-fat content that can kill fleas. It can be used on its own or mix with essential oils such as lavender and oregano to soak in a flea collar.
To treat the cats, apply coconut oil or olive oil to the skin and fur using a comb, leave it in for a few hours and then wash it off with water and cat shampoo.
Coconut oil and olive oil is non-toxic to cats, so there won't be any problem even if they lick it off a little.
When nothing seems to help - Flea’s resistance for products
If your fluffy cat has persistent flea issues, resistance is the main reason for it. Frontline products and the K9 Advantix line are two of the most known brands of topical flea preventatives that are reported to be losing effectiveness. If these products have been used for a long time, fleas have adapted and become resistant. Your only option is to consult with the vet to see what options you have. There are special veterinary only medications which are available for prescription only. They might also give you more great tips how to handle the situation. Always make sure to assist vets when giving a new flea product to your kitty.