Fleas on cats are a pain in the butt but armed with the right knowledge and arsenal of flea-battling tools, you can defeat these blood-sucking buggers.
The first step, of course, is knowing how they operate. Here’s a quick guide to the most commonly asked questions about fleas on cats!
Do fleas fly?
Nope, fleas don’t fly but they are the Olympic jumpers of the insect world, capable of jumping up to 7 inches (18 cm) vertically and up to 13 inches (33 cm) horizontally – that’s around 100 times their own height and length, which is like a human being able to jump over 300 meters!
That’s why everyone in your household seems to get flea bites everywhere, creating the illusion that fleas can fly. And it’s also why when you treat for fleas, you must do it absolutely everywhere. Otherwise, they’ll just jump back on you or your pet when you walk past the couch.
Can fleas kill a cat?
Fleas aren’t just annoying to live with, they can pose a real threat to your cat’s well-being and even your cat’s life. Cases of fleas outright killing a cat are rare, but if left unchecked, a flea infestation has the potential to become fatal to your kitty by weakening her immune system and transmitting disease.
Here are a few of the dangers posed by fleas:
- Anemia. Fleas reproduce and multiply like crazy, which means a few fleas can quickly escalate to a severe flea infestation, with a whole extended family of blood-suckers stealing your cat’s blood and causing significant blood loss that results in anemia which can be fatal, especially for very young, old or weak cats.
- Diseases. While taking a blood meal from your cat, fleas can also transmit diseases such as the plague, which is sadly not ancient history – fleas, particularly in the southwestern United States, still carry the bacteria that causes it.
- Parasites. Disease isn’t the only thing fleas can “gift” your cat, they can also transmit tapeworm, which typically isn’t fatal, as well as hemobartonella, a blood parasite that causes severe anemia and can be fatal to cats.
And that only covers what fleas can do to cats – the truth is, cat fleas can adversely affect the whole household. For example, murine typhus and bartonellosis (cat scratch disease) can be transmitted to humans from cat flea bites or the bacteria from feces of infected cat fleas (gross, right?). Other pets in the house, like dogs, are also prone to infections from cat fleas.
All in all, instances of fleas killing cats are rare but the dangers caused by cat fleas are very, very real. Fleas are much more than a simple nuisance and should be dealt with quickly and severely.
Can humans get fleas from cats?
The short answer is: no. Cat fleas prefer to live on cats – after all, you don’t have the sort of body hair fleas like to live in. Fleas thrive in dark, warm and moist environments and human body hair just doesn’t cut it.
That being said, fleas may not live on humans and we may not be their preferred diet…but they’ll take what they can get. Fleas are blood sucking insects, after all, and they need a constant food supply to live and lay eggs.
If there are no yummier options – say, a dog or cat – fleas will feast on humans since we’re warm-blooded mammals, just like our pets. Fleas are opportunists when it comes to mealtime so if you’re living with fleas, you’ll still fall victim to their biting ways!
How do you know if your cat has fleas?
Good question. After all, cats are constantly grooming themselves and engaging in mysterious behavior. So how do you know if their strange antics are because of fleas or just a function of cats being cats?
There are two ways to know if your cat has fleas:
- Observe your cat’s behavior for signs of fleas and flea bites such as excessive scratching, nonstop grooming, avoidance of certain areas of the house (i.e. carpeted areas, where fleas are more likely to lurk), and personality changes.
- Physically check your cat for signs of fleas and flea bites such as flea dirt (aka, flea poop) as well as hair loss and skin irritation.
How do indoor cats get fleas?
It’s mystifying, isn’t it? You keep your cat tucked safely at home, far away from the dangers of the outside world and yet, she’s gotten fleas! How the h*ll did that happen?!
The unfortunate truth is that fleas are hardy little buggers and do a great job spreading their population. So it’s not surprising that a 100% indoor cat can get fleas – heck, you can even get fleas without pets!
So how did your indoor cat get fleas? It could’ve happened in numerous ways:
- Got dogs living with you? If you have other indoor-outdoor pets in the household, they could have transmitted the fleas to your indoor cat.
- Do you leave your windows open? Cats love to watch squirrels and other wildlife from the windowsill and this could have been the opportunity for fleas to sneak from outdoor wildlife onto your cat.
- Is there a bigger pest problem? Rodents like mice and rats that snuck into your house could have been carrying fleas.
- Do you come in contact with other animals when you’re out? You might have unwittingly carried in fleas on your clothing and shoes.
Fleas may suck, but they are wily, survival-oriented blood suckers that can get on your indoor cat in a number of ways. But however your indoor cat got fleas, what matters the most is that you get rid of them. Pronto.
Why are there so many fleas?
If it seems like your household suddenly went from a comfortable, pleasant place to live to an insanely intolerable flea habitat…that’s because it kind of did.
You see, fleas breed like crazy.
Just one female flea can lay over 2,000 eggs within the course of her lifetime, which is insane when you consider that the average flea life-time is only around 3 months. This is why even a small flea problem should be dealt with severely and immediately.
What’s the best cat flea treatment?
The first thing you need to know about choosing the best cat flea treatment is that, well, there are a lot of them and you have a whole lot of options, from collars to powders.
And when it comes to choosing the best cat flea treatment, it really depends on your needs as well as your cat’s sensitivities. For example, would you prefer an easy-to-use but pesticide-containing treatment or are you willing to put in the extra time and effort for all natural treatments?
The best cat flea treatment also varies per cat. For example, a treatment that works super well for one cat may cause adverse reactions for another. To help you evaluate your best options, here’s a list of the best cat flea treatments – read through them to find out exactly how each one works and the pros and cons!
If you’d prefer natural solutions, here’s a list of natural flea killers for cats!
Why can’t I get rid of fleas?
If you’ve been battling a flea infestation for a seriously long time, it’s most likely because you aren’t targeting the problem at its root: the flea eggs.
Remember how a single female flea can lay thousands of eggs? These eggs are laid on the host itself – usually your cat or dog, but they often fall off, which can lead to the infestation spreading throughout the environment – read: your home.
Even worse? The fleas that you actually see (and feel) jumping and biting represent only a small part of a flea infestation – it’s though that flea eggs make up around 50 percent of an infestation in a home while flea larvae and pupae make up 45 percent of a flea infestation.
That means the adult fleas you actually see are only 5 percent of the flea infestation. So by trying to eliminate only the live, jumping fleas – you’re pretty much pouring water out of a leaking boat.
If you want to get rid of fleas once and for all – you must seek out and kill flea eggs, larvae and pupae everywhere in your home. You can find the full guide here.