Fleas are a very irritating problem for both the cat and its owner!
Despite their minute size, fleas are more than capable of wreaking havoc into your furry friend’s daily life.
The fight against cat fleas is a battle in numbers. The number of fleas infesting on your cat will grow exponentially in each passing day.
It is therefore critical to have an eye on cat flea symptoms in order to effectively eradicate the infestation in its earliest possible stage.
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
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What Exactly Are Cat Fleas?
As you may have guessed from the nickname, the cat flea is a parasitic insect that infests our feline friend.
It’s one of the most common flea species in the world and its scientific name is ctenocephalides felis. These insects survive by latching onto an animal as a host and drinking the blood of their victim. Cat fleas are quite hard to get rid of from their chosen host, because extracting them will ultimately lead to their death.
The life cycle of cat fleas is composed of four different stages: the eggs, larva, pupa, and adult. The kick off a new life cycle, cat fleas need to consume a high enough amount of blood in order to produce new eggs.
Curious as to why there are so many cat fleas bouncing around? Typically, one female cat flea can produce around 1,000 to 2,000 eggs throughout her lifetime.
What Do Fleas Look Like On a Cat?
Cat fleas are quite small—in fact, they can grow only up to 1/8 of an inch. They’re reddish-brown in color and appear to be laterally compressed, which significantly camouflages them as they move through the hairs of their host. This insect doesn’t have wings and directly rely on its strong hind legs for movement.
However, unless you’ve got superhuman eyes, you’re probably not going to be able to see any of this stuff without a microscope…or at least a magnifying glass. Nevertheless, you can still work on your cat flea radar by understanding their appearance on your pet as seen from your naked eye. If your cat has light-colored fur, the task can be much easier.
You can simply brush off the hair to the sides in order to reveal a certain area of your pet’s skin. Fleas will first appear like specks of dirt trapped between the hairs of your pet, but don’t be fooled.
This could either be flea droppings or the actual parasites themselves feasting on your cat, especially if red spots (bite marks) are to be seen around these black, stubborn granules.
Equipped with their strong hind legs, fleas are dubbed as the most skilled jumpers in the world.
Fleas can jump as high as 150 times their own height—all the better to find their way towards a juicier host in one, effortless leap.
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Does Your Cat Have Fleas? (4 Key Signs)
Did you know that adult fleas require only one full drink of blood in order to reproduce?
The host is, naturally, more than sufficient as this necessary source of food. Upon reaching maturity, female fleas can lay around 30-50 eggs per day. This alarming rate of reproduction serves more than enough reason for cat owners to have a keen eye on the symptoms of infestation.
In general, there are a few telltale signs of fleas on a cat, as detailed in the video below.
Sign 1: Behavior
Here’s the thing: cat flea bites are irritating. They’ll cause your feline to scratch excessively and nibble on itself in various areas of its body in order to seek relief from the near-constant itch and agitation.
You’ll also probably witness the cat shaking its head from side to side in distress, so you can only guess where the unwanted guests have gone. Because of the physical discomfort caused by the parasites, you’ll be able to clearly observe your cat acting restless most of the time.
Sign 2: Immoderate Grooming
Cats groom themselves not just to keep themselves clean and tidy, but to calm themselves at the same time.
Their entire grooming regimen involves biting, scratching, and licking. However, this known, ritualistic behavior of your pet may take place immoderately at the presence of flea infestation.
Your cat’s routine is disturbed by the presence of the fleas in its fur and on its skin, and the cat then becomes reluctant to continue its normal practices. In fact, some fleas accidentally become cat food during such hygienic habit!
Sign 3: Infestation and Anemia
Fleas, basically, are tiny vampires—they suck the blood of their hosts (even in their larval stage) to survive. Although a single 1/8-of-an-inch-sized flea poses basically no threat, an infestation with thousands or even tens of thousands of these unwelcome guests is an entirely different scenario. Cats are prone to anemia, especially if your pet is already sick before the infestation.
Signs of an anemic feline include weakness, pale gums, and loss of appetite. However, this loss of red blood cells, doesn’t necessarily mean an infestation. In fact, there are a number of other causes of anemia, so you’ll need to look for other signs in order to confirm flea infestation.
Sign 4: Flea Droppings
Fleas feed…and what goes in must always come out. These droppings, however, don’t have to be found on your cat. With cat flea infestation, you can easily find these droppings as minute black grains on the floor, on your pet’s bedding, or even inside your bedroom.
Spray a small amount of water on top of these granules to see if they are indeed flea droppings. Due to the nature of their diet, flea feces turns red when wet. This is a solid indicator of whether you’ve got flea droppings…or something else.
Sign 5: Excessive Hair Loss and Bite Marks
Flea bite marks on your cat look like small red bumps that often appear in clusters. In most cases however, cats are allergic to flea bites which worsen the condition of their feeding grounds. This will result in rashes or sores with excessive hair loss on the infected areas.
How To Check Your Cat For Fleas?
Checking your cat for fleas is your first step towards securing a flea-free home for your family and your feline friend.
First things first: place the cat on top of a white paper or towel. This will help you easily spot the fleas while conducting a “search and destroy” mission.
It’s best to have someone else distract the cat while you’re searching for fleas. With the help of a flea comb, carefully examine the fur of your pet from top to bottom. Don’t forget to give extra attention to key body parts of your cat that fleas love to hide such as the head, the neck, the tail, and between the legs. If your pet is infested with fleas, you’ll easily scrape off black granule shaped droppings that turn reddish-brown when wet and eggs that look like small bits of salt.
For a visual of this process, check out the video below!
Despite their thin body structure, fleas will not be able to escape the teeth of the flea comb and will therefore become exposed. Another way to confirm cat flea infestation is by checking your pet for patches of hair loss, as this is a sign of an allergic reaction to flea bites.
The Bottom Line About Cat Fleas
As mentioned earlier, fleas don’t easily leave their hosts—especially if they’re enjoying the bloody amenities. But this doesn’t mean that they won’t move around for another sample from the buffet table and quite possibly migrate from one host to another (including us)!
Equipped with their strong hind legs, fleas are dubbed as the most skilled jumpers in the world. Fleas can jump as high as 150 times their own height—all the better to find their way towards a juicier host in one, effortless leap.
And if you neglect the aforementioned signs of cat flea infestation (even just for a short period of time), the problem can easily spiral out of control throughout your home. Flea infestations may pose a serious threat to the overall health of your pet cat and can potentially disrupt the normal day to day life of your home.