Fleas are the most common external parasite of cats. They are nasty creatures that can cause your cat significant inconvenience. A flea infestation starts quickly with the female flea laying up to 50 eggs in 1 day and more than 5000 over its lifetime. With the lifecycle of a flea generally taking around 6-8 weeks to complete, you could have 1000’s of eggs already laid before you realise your cat has fleas.
Cats can pick them up from infested environments such as your garden, the local park, a friend’s house – any place where an animal that has fleas, such as a rabbit, hedgehog, fox or another cat or dog, may be found.
To find out more about fleas and their lifecycle, read our flea facts information here.
The Symptoms of fleas
- Persistent scratching
Flea bites are extremely itchy causing a lot of discomfort to your cat. Therefore they are likely to be scratching more than usual if they have fleas trying to get some relief from the itchiness. They could also be licking, chewing, rubbing against objects or biting their fur more often too. This can result in bald patches on their coat.
Your cat will likely groom themselves a lot more if they have fleas. This is because the licking helps soothe some of the itchiness caused by flea bites. Therefore if you notice that your cat can’t seem to stop grooming themselves – it’s likely they’re dealing with fleas. This can also result in bald patches on their coat.
Regular grooming by you will not necessarily prevent a flea infestation. However it is good, as it gives you the chance to check their fur for fleas. If you notice any fleas or eggs in their fur then please seek treatment immediately.
- Scabs or red sore areas
The flea bites can cause sores on your cat’s skin plus their consistent scratching and biting will not help. Skin abrasions (sores) are often red, raised, raw, weeping and/or bloody and can be very noticeable if your cat has started to get bald patches. The sores can also result in a secondary bacterial infection if left untreated name pyoderma which includes pus oozing out of skin sores.
- Visible fleas/eggs on their coat
Fleas may not initially be easy to spot as they are so small plus they will not hatch for a further 6-8 weeks once being laid. The flea eggs will look like white salt-like flecks on the skin or in the coat. Adult fleas will move around and if you inspect your cat’s fur you may see them. If you notice black pepper-like flecks on the skin or in the coat, this indicates the presence of flea faeces (“flea dirt”).
Cats are notorious for sudden bouts of moodiness but when it’s fleas – it can get excessive. After all, fleas are very uncomfortable to live with! So expect a cat that has a flea infestation to be agitated, on edge, restless and more erratic than usual. If you’re not sure, it’s always worth a trip to The Vet for a check-up.
- Low Energy
If your cat has had the flea infestation for a prolonged period of time or a large flea infestation then they can become lethargic and constantly exhausted. This sign is a huge red flag!
If you notice your cat has this symptom, check for muscle loss and pale gums – these are signs of anaemia, which can happen when a huge number of fleas are constantly sucking up your cat’s blood.
Weight loss, a poor looking coat and body conditions changing are also symptoms that should alert you to a major flea infestation.
However sometimes a flea infestation has no symptoms so regular check-ups with the vet can help to discover any issues before they cause problems for your cat.
For more information on how to solve a flea problem in your home click here.
Prevention is always better than a cure which is why at The Vet we actively encourage pet owners to flea their pets. You can purchase flea treatment from The Vet and we also offer free flea checks by a nurse. So if you would like your cat checked over, just pop in during our opening hours and a nurse can take a look.
Remember, it’s very important you speak to your vet before treating your cat, particularly if they’re pregnant or feeding new kittens. Some off-the-shelf products are less effective than prescribed products, and cats can even build up an immunity to these treatments. Here at The Vet we will be able to advise on the best flea treatment for your cat and if necessary your home too.