Cat World > Feline Parasites

Flea Treatment For Cats - Types Of Flea Control

Today we are swamped with a vast array of different types of flea products to use on our cats. It can be somewhat confusing for the cat owner to choose which product should be used on their cat. We will attempt to look at the different products available, what they do and their efficiency. It should be noted that no flea control method will work if you don't treat your house and garden at the same time. Only 5% of fleas actually live on your cat, the rest of the flea population is in the environment. Both your cat and home (including cat bedding etc) should be treated on the same day.

Flea collars:

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR's to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat's head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Some cats can develop a rash from the chemicals in the flea collar. This is known as "flea collar dermatitis or flea collar rash".
 

One handy use for flea collars is to put a flea collar into your vacuum cleaner bag so that any fleas that are vacuumed up from the environment will be killed. a

Is it safe to use cat flea collar with a spot on flea treatment?

You should not use more than one flea product on your cat as both products combined may result in a toxic level of exposure to your cat, which is life threatening. ALWAYS consult with your veterinarian before using more than one flea control method on your cat.

Flea powders, shampoos, and dips:

Flea shampoos are an effective way to kill fleas on your cat. The downside is that many cats can be difficult to bathe. Also, flea shampoos  and dips will only kill the fleas on your cat at the time, and won't help prevent re-infestation. Therefore re-infestation will occur if your cat is exposed to fleas remaining in the environment or on other pets.

Shampoos and dips also need to be repeated often.


Flea combs:

Flea combFlea combs aren't overly effective, only removing 10 - 50% of fleas on your cat. If you wish to use this method place a small bowl of water with some detergent in it close by and drop the fleas into the bowl. This will drown the fleas. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the teeth of the comb will help the fleas stick to it. These can be useful when removing fleas on newborn kittens as flea products are not safe to use on very young kittens.






Oral suspensions:

Program oral suspensionProgram® and Sentinel® is given to cats via an oral suspension once a month. The product is added to the cat's food and is absorbed into the bloodstream. When a flea bites a cat treated with Program it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron), which is passed to her eggs and prevents them from hatching. As this product only prevents eggs from hatching, an appropriate adulticide will also be needed to kill adult fleas. Seek advice from your veterinarian before using more than one product on your cat. It is also extremely important to speak to your veterinarian if you are considering treating a pregnant or nursing cat. They will be able to recommend the safest treatment for your cat.




Spot on treatments:

Topical flea controlTopical adulticide. There are several effective products on the market which are administered via liquid form to the cat's shoulders. These are available through your veterinarian or online pet product store.  These products are very effective for killing adult fleas on your cat. The active ingredient varies from product to product. Application is generally once a month.

When applying a flea product to a cat it is important to follow the instructions on the packet to the letter.   Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals and if you are using one than one product your cat may be exposed to too many toxins, resulting in sickness or death.

Some of the most effective and popular topical flea control products used on cats (and dogs) include Advantage, Revolution and Frontline.

Revolution also kills worms (except tapeworm), so makes life a bit easier for pet owners,  Advantage cat flea control also kills flea larvae in the pet's environment too.

Warning:

  • Never use a dog flea product on your cat.

  • Always follow the manufacturers instructions.

  • For more information on flea control products, see your veterinarian.

Related articles:

Flea control tips   Flea allergy dermatitis

How To Get Rid Of Cat Fleas

Cats and fleas are something all pet owners would rather do without. This article explains what fleas are, which species of flea affects cats, how to tell if your cat has fleas, how to treat your cat for fleas and how to prevent future flea infestations in cats and  your home.

Where are fleas found?

cat fleaFleas are found throughout the world, although they are far more prevalent in warmer and humid climates.

Life cycle of the flea:

Before you begin your flea eradication programme, it is important to learn about the life cycle of fleas. With this understanding, you will be equipped with the knowledge on how to combat them.

There are 4 stages of the flea life cycle, known as metamorphosis.

1) Egg: At .5mm in length, flea eggs are barely visible to the human eye, the female flea lays approximately one egg per hour. The flea egg is whitish, smooth and dry and easily falls off the coat into the environment. Flea eggs hatch in around 1 - 10 days, depending on conditions. Flea eggs and flea droppings are often found together. When the cat scratches the eggs along with the droppings fall off the cat. The droppings provide food to the larvae when they hatch. The eggs and droppings together have the appearance of salt and pepper.

Environmental conditions such as humidity, light, and temperature determine how quickly and how many flea larvae hatch from flea eggs. The lower the temperature, the fewer larvae will hatch. Optimal conditions for flea larvae to hatch are 70% and higher and temperatures of 21 - 32 degrees C (70 - 89 degrees F).

Flea eggs fall off the cat when it jumps, scratches, moves, and sleeps. Eggs are found all over the home, but in their highest concentrations in your cat's preferred spots such as bedding.

2) Larvae: The larvae are vermiform (maggot like) like in appearance and up to 6mm long, flea larvae avoid light by residing deep in carpet fibres, under furniture and rugs and in crevices. At this stage, they have no legs or eyes but have chewing mouth parts.  Flea larvae feed on adult flea excrement, food debris, and dead skin.

3) Pupae: This is the transition stage between larvae and adult flea. After approximately 7-18 days the flea larvae pupate.  It takes approximately 7 - 10 days for the larvae to develop into a flea, although it may be some time before the flea emerges from its protective cocoon.  They are at their most resilient as pupae, and resistant to  insecticides.

The flea larvae spins a sticky, protective silken (produced by the saliva of the larvae) outer cocoon, covered with particles of debris such as dust, hair, lint etc.   The pupae are found in carpet fibres, crevices etc., and are virtually undetectable.

4) Adult flea: The adult flea emerges when it is stimulated by environmental factors such as vibrations, warmth or breath of the host. The flea can come out of it's cocoon within seconds of stimulation. The lifespan of an adult flea is around 2 - 3 months. The adult flea is around 1.5 - 4mm long, and dark brown or black in appearance. Adults suck blood from their host. Adult fleas begin laying eggs within 36 - 48 hours of their first blood meal. A female flea consumes up to 15 times her body weight in blood per day.

How do cats become infected with fleas?

Cats become infected with fleas via the environment or other pets who have a flea infestation.

How do you know if your pet has fleas?

Scratching and biting at the fur is a good indicator your cat has fleas, although cats scratch and bite for reasons other than fleas. Upon close inspection of the fur and skin, you can usually see fleas on your cat, they are small dark brown insects. It is easier to see fleas if you have a light coloured cat. You may also notice flea droppings on your cat's bedding. If you are unsure, stand your cat on a white piece of paper, rough up its fur a little and then lightly spray the paper with a demister. If you have very small brown specks which leave red stains on the paper then that is a sure sign your cat has fleas.

Are fleas dangerous to cats?

If the infestation is heavy and or prolonged they can in some cases cause death due to flea bite anaemia. Kittens are more vulnerable than healthy, adult cats.  Fleas can also infect your cat with tapeworm. Flea bite hypersensitivity (flea allergy dermatitis) can also be a problem in some cats. This will be covered in another article soon.

Successfully Tackling a Flea Outbreak

Below is a percentage of the flea population in the environment:

5% of adult fleas live on your cat.

10% are pupae

35% are larvae

50% are eggs

Killing fleas on your cat will not solve the problem as most of the flea life cycle is spent off the animal. You need to focus your attention in three areas:

1) Kill adult fleas on the cat.

2) Kill adult fleas, eggs, and larvae in the home.

3) Killing adult fleas, eggs and larvae in outdoor areas.

If you live in a multi-cat household or have dogs, it is important to treat all animals simultaneously.

Treat Your Cat:

There are several methods of flea control for cats: These products vary in price and effectiveness.

Flea collar, shampoo, flea combs, spray, tablets, powders, insect growth regulators and topical treatments.

Flea collars: There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR's to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat's head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Shampoo/Dips: Flea shampoos contain insecticides which kill adult fleas.

Flea Combs: Flea combs aren't overly effective, only removing 10 - 50% of fleas on your cat. If you wish to use this method place a small bowl of water with some detergent in it close by and drop the fleas into the bowl. This will drown the fleas. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the teeth of the comb will help the fleas stick to it.

Flea Powders: Flea powders will kill adult fleas on the cat. Powders may cause the cat's coat to dry out and also may be irritating to the cat's oral and respiratory mucosa.

Oral suspensions: Program® is given to cats via an oral suspension once a month. The product is added to the cat's food and is absorbed into the bloodstream. When a flea bites a cat treated with Program it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron), which is passed to her eggs and prevents them from hatching. As this product only prevents eggs from hatching, an appropriate adulticide will also be needed to kill adult fleas. Seek advice from your veterinarian before using more than one product on your cat. It is also extremely important to speak to your veterinarian if you are considering treating a pregnant or nursing cat. They will be able to recommend the safest treatment for your cat.

Spot on treatments:  Topical adulticide. There are several effective products on the market which are administered via liquid form to the cat's shoulders. These are available through your veterinarian or online pet product store.  These products are very effective for killing adult fleas on your cat. The active ingredient varies from product to product. Application is generally once a month.

When applying a flea product to a cat it is important to follow the instructions on the packet to the letter.   Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals and if you are using one than one product your cat may be exposed to too many toxins, resulting in sickness or death.

Some of the most effective and popular topical flea control products used on cats (and dogs) include Advantage, Revolution, and Frontline.

Revolution also kills worms (except tapeworm), so makes life a bit easier for pet owners, according to the Bayer site,

Advantage also kills flea larvae in the pet's environment too.

Cat Flea Sprays: There are some effective cat flea sprays on the market. Frontline make such a spray. Wear rubber gloves while applying the spray to your cat while ruffling the coat. Avoid contact with the eyes and mouth

Warning: Don't ever use flea products designed for other pets on your cat and ALWAYS follow the dosage chart on the back of the packet.

Treat The Environment:

Indoors:

To treat the house and environment you can either hire the services of a professional pest controller or buy a product from your local supermarket. Most DIY products come in the form of an aerosol "bomb". Prior to letting the bomb off you and your pets should temporarily vacate the premises. Be aware that flea bombs are toxic to other animals, so all pets (including fish) need to be removed prior to bombing.

IGR's: (insect growth regulators) disrupt the cycle of the flea. They prevent eggs from hatching, kill larvae and prevent adult fleas from reproducing. These most often come in as a  bomb or spray.

A pest controller should be able to spray your house and garden for fleas. It is important to specify that you have cat(s) living in the house, so they can use a suitable spray which is safe for pets.

Washing your cat's bedding is important. Wash it in the hottest possible cycle.

Frequent vacuuming will also remove fleas and their eggs. One useful tip is to put a flea collar in your vacuum cleaner bag. When vacuuming, pay extra attention to corners, skirting boards, under furniture and any other nooks and crannies. Also vacuum furniture, curtains etc. This is where the larvae love to hang out, eating dust and debris, so it is vital that you thoroughly vacuum. Once you have vacuumed, clean out the bag and dispose of carefully. Ensure that every time you vacuum, you empty it out to prevent any fleas escaping.

Outdoors:

Fleas can infest your garden and outdoor buildings too, so while you are treating your cat and house, also pay attention to your garden.

Spray areas your pet tends to hang out, and if it has bedding in the garden, bring it in and wash it.

You may wish to flea bomb any outdoor buildings you have, especially if your cat hangs out there.


 

Long term flea control

Regular application of a good quality flea control on your cat is the best method of flea control. Ensure your cat's bedding is regularly washed.

Can fleas infect humans?

As stated previously, there are different species of fleas, including human fleas. Generally, cat fleas tend to prefer to live on cats, but they will bite humans.

Can fleas infect other pets

Yes, they can. This is why it is important to treat all pets for fleas at the same time.

Related articles:

How To Treat Flea Bites On Humans   Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Cat Worming Schedule-When To Worm Your Cat

Parasitic worms are an extremely common parasite in cats.

There are several types of worm that commonly affect cats. The most common of which include:

Kittens become infected with hookworms and roundworms via their mother when they are young kittens. Tapeworms are spread via fleas.

Worms are more than a nuisance, they can have severe health problems in cats and especially young kittens. Not only that, but they may also infect humans.  Symptoms of worms in cats may include:

Kittens and cats should be wormed as follows:

  • Every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age.
  • Every month from 12 weeks of age until 6 months.
  • Every three months from 6 months.

What worming medication is best for my cat: There are many excellent worming products on the market for kittens and cats. These include;

  • Worming paste
  • Spot on worming treatments
  • Worming tablets

Your veterinarian is the best person to speak to in regards to what's the best worming treatment for your cat.

Related articles:

Read here for more information on cat worms.

Cat Fleas - How to Get Rid of Fleas

Cat scratchingHow do I know if my cat has fleas?

Most pet owners are unaware their cat has fleas until they notice their cat scratching. Some cats can have very heavy infestations without being bothered, other cats are extremely sensitive to the saliva in a flea bite and just one flea can be enough to cause him to itch and scratch.
 
The most common signs of a flea infestation include:
  • Itching, biting and scratching, especially around the neck, ears and around the base of the tail.

  • Some cats are sensitive to the saliva in the flea bite and may develop crusting, this is particularly common along the back.

  • You may notice flea eggs and droppings in his bedding. Flea eggs are white, droppings are dark red, giving the appearance of salt and pepper.

To check for fleas, carefully go through your cat's fur, paying close attention to the base of the tail and around the neck. Cat fleas are brown in colour with a flat body, and approximately 2mm in length.

Effects of fleas on your cat:

Fleas are more than a nuisance, they can have a serious impact on your cat's health and comfort. Heavy infestations can lead to anemia, especially in young kittens.

A lot of cats develop an allergy to flea saliva, which is known as flea allergy dermatitis, an extremely uncomfortable condition characterised by itching, biting and scratching along with multiple papules. Left untreated, repeated biting and scratching can damage the skin and lead to a bacterial infection.

Fleas have the potential to transmit a number of diseases on to cats including tapeworm, plague, bartonellosis, tularemia, feline infectious anemia and rickettsia. For more information on flea- borne diseases, read here.
 

Life Cycle of the flea:

cat fleaTo combat fleas, it is important to understand their life cycle. There are 4 stages of the flea life cycle, known as metamorphosis.

Only 5% are actually adult fleas which would live on your cat, the remainder are found in the environment in the form of eggs (50%), larvae (35%)  and pupae (10%). It is absolutely vital to treat both your pet and the environment (home and garden) if you are to combat fleas.

1) Adult flea: The adult flea emerges when it is stimulated by environmental factors such as vibrations, warmth or breath of the host. The flea can come out of its cocoon within seconds of stimulation. The lifespan of an adult flea is around 2 - 3 months. The adult flea is around 1.5 - 4mm long, and dark brown or black in appearance. Adults suck blood from their host. Adult fleas begin laying eggs within 36 - 48 hours of their first blood meal. A female flea consumes up to 15 times her body weight in blood per day.

2) Egg: At .5mm in length, flea eggs are barely visible to the human eye, the female flea lays approximately one egg per hour. The flea egg is whitish, smooth and dry and easily falls off the coat into the environment. Flea eggs hatch in around 1 - 10 days, depending on conditions. Flea eggs and flea droppings are often found together. When the cat scratches the eggs along with the droppings fall off the cat. The droppings provide food to the larvae when they hatch. The eggs and droppings together have the appearance of salt and pepper.

Environmental conditions such as humidity, light, and temperature determine how quickly and how many flea larvae hatch from flea eggs. The lower the temperature, the fewer larvae will hatch. Optimal conditions for flea larvae to hatch are 70% and higher and temperatures of 21 - 32 degrees C (70 - 89 degrees F).

Flea eggs fall off the cat when it jumps, scratches, moves, and sleeps. Eggs are found all over the home, but in their highest concentrations in your cat's preferred spots such as bedding.

3) Larvae: The larvae are vermiform (maggot like) like in appearance and up to 6mm long, flea larvae avoid light by residing deep in carpet fibres, under furniture and rugs and in crevices. At this stage they have no legs or eyes but have chewing mouth parts.  Flea larvae feed on adult flea excrement, food debris, and dead skin.

4) Pupae: This is the transition stage between larvae and adult flea. After approximately 7-18 days the flea larvae pupate.  It takes approximately 7 - 10 days for the larvae to develop into a flea, although it may be some time before the flea emerges from its protective cocoon.  They are at their most resilient as pupae, and resistant to  insecticides.

The flea larvae spins a sticky, protective silken (produced by the saliva of the larvae) outer cocoon, covered with particles of debris such as dust, hair, lint etc.   The pupae are found in carpet fibres, crevices etc., and are virtually undetectable.

Can I catch fleas from my cat?

A heavy infestation may lead to fleas taking the occasional blood meal from humans, but they generally prefer to live on cats. Signs you may have been bitten by a flea include itching and scratching and a small, red, papule. Humans are most often bitten around the ankles and feet.

Getting rid of cat fleas:

This is a two-pronged approach. Treating the cat and the environment (your home/outdoors), both of which have to be done at the same time.

There are many products available to treat fleas on cats. Flea collar, shampoo, flea combs, spray, tablets, powders, insect growth regulators and topical treatments. The most effective products are the spot-on or oral suspension treatments which are available from your veterinarian. It is possible for fleas to develop a resistance to some products, speak to your vet for his advice on the most effective flea control treatment.

Treat your cat:

Flea collars

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR's to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat's head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Shampoo/Dips

Flea shampoos contain insecticides which kill adult fleas.

Flea Combs

Flea combs aren't overly effective, only removing 10 - 50% of fleas on your cat. If you wish to use this method place a small bowl of water with some detergent in it close by and drop the fleas into the bowl. This will drown the fleas. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the teeth of the comb will help the fleas stick to it.

Flea Powders

Flea powders will kill adult fleas on the cat. Powders may cause the cat's coat to dry out and also may be irritating to the cat's oral and respiratory mucosa.

Oral suspensions

Program® is given to cats via an oral suspension once a month. The product is added to the cat's food and is absorbed into the bloodstream. When a flea bites a cat treated with Program it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron), which is passed to her eggs and prevents them from hatching. As this product only prevents eggs from hatching, an appropriate adulticide will also be needed to kill adult fleas. Seek advice from your veterinarian before using more than one product on your cat. It is also extremely important to speak to your veterinarian if you are considering treating a pregnant or nursing cat. They will be able to recommend the safest treatment for your cat.

Spot on treatments

Topical adulticide. There are several effective products on the market which are administered via a liquid form to the cat's shoulders. These are available through your veterinarian or online pet product store.  These products are very effective for killing adult fleas on your cat. The active ingredient varies from product to product. The application is generally once a month.

Cat Flea Sprays

There are some effective cat flea sprays on the market. Frontline make such a spray. Wear rubber gloves while applying the spray to your cat while ruffling the coat. Avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.

When applying a flea product to a cat it is important to follow the instructions on the packet to the letter.   Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals and if you are using one than one product your cat may be exposed to too many toxins, resulting in sickness or death.

Revolution also kills worms (except tapeworm), so makes life a bit easier for pet owners, according to the Bayer site, Advantage cat flea control, also kills flea larvae in the pet's environment too.

Warning: Don't ever use flea products designed for other pets on your cat and ALWAYS follow the dosage chart on the back of the packet.

Treat The Environment:

Indoors:

Vacuumflea control

the floor prior to spraying your home, paying close attention to skirting boards, under furniture and other nooks and crannies flea larvae love to hang out.

Frequent vacuuming will also remove fleas and their eggs. One useful tip is to put a flea collar in your vacuum cleaner bag. When vacuuming, pay extra attention to corners, skirting boards, under furniture and any other nooks and crannies. Also vacuum furniture, curtains etc. This is where the larvae love to hang out, eating dust and debris, so it is vital that you thoroughly vacuum. Once you have vacuumed, clean out the bag and dispose of carefully. Ensure that every time you vacuum, you empty it out to prevent any fleas escaping.

Bombflea fogger

To treat the house and environment you can either hire the services of a professional pest controller or buy a product from your local supermarket. Most DIY products come in the form of an aerosol "bomb". Prior to letting the bomb off you and your pets should temporarily vacate the premises. Be aware that flea bombs are toxic to other animals, so all pets (including fish) need to be removed prior to bombing.

IGR's: (insect growth regulators) disrupt the cycle of the flea. They prevent eggs from hatching, kill larvae and prevent adult fleas from reproducing. These most often come in as a  bomb/spray.

A pest controller should be able to spray your house and garden for fleas. It is important to specify that you have cat(s) living in the house, so they can use a suitable spray which is safe for pets.

Wash

Wash rugs, cat bedding etc., in the hottest possible cycle.

Treat Outdoors:

flea control in the garden
Fleas can infest your garden and outdoor buildings too, so while you are treating your cat and house, also pay attention to your garden.

Spray areas your pet tends to hang out, and if it has bedding in the garden, bring it in and wash it.

You will need flea bomb any outdoor buildings such as garages and sheds, especially if your cat hangs out there.

 

Long term flea control for cats:

Regular application of a good quality flea control on your cat is the best method of flea control. Ensure your cat's bedding is regularly washed in hot water and hung outside in the warm sun to air dry.

Also see:

Flea allergy dermatitis   Tapeworm