Fleas on very young kittens can be fatal as they can cause anemia (low red blood cell count). Most flea products are toxic to very young kittens and cannot be used. This article will give advice on how to treat kittens for fleas as well as a summary of common flea products and the age they can be safely used on kittens.
How do you know if your pet has fleas?
Scratching and biting the skin 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 his fur a little and then lightly spray the paper with a demister. If you have small brown specks which leave red stains on the paper, that is a sure sign your cat has fleas.
It is safe to assume that if the mother has fleas, the kittens will have them also.
How to tackle 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:
- Kill adult fleas on the cat.
- Kill adult fleas, eggs, and larvae in the home.
- Killing adult fleas, eggs and larvae in outdoor areas.
If you live in a multi-cat household or have dogs, it is essential to treat all animals simultaneously.
Treat the kitten
- The best and safest method to manually remove fleas from your cat with a flea comb. Have a bowl of water with a couple of drops of liquid detergent nearby. As you comb the fleas off the kitten, place the flea in the water and swish it around so that it drowns.
- Dilute 5 parts water to 1 part Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil and gently sponge or spray onto the kitten’s coat. Once dampened, manually remove fleas with a flea comb. Once again, ensure the kitten is in a warm room so he doesn’t become chilled, which can be life-threatening in young kittens.
- Another method is to remove the fleas with a flea comb and then stick them to some tape.
Do not use flea medications (including topical/spot-on products, flea collars, dips or shampoos) on young kittens unless you have been told to do so by your veterinarian.
Tea tree oil is a popular natural flea repellent, but it is toxic to cats unless diluted to 0.1-1%. Therefore we do not recommend its use.
Keep a very close eye for fleas on kittens, as a heavy infestation can kill. If in any doubt whatsoever, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Treat the mother
If you treat the kitten but not the mother, then the kitten will quickly become infected again. Check with your veterinarian for products which are safe to use on nursing queens.
Treat the environment
No flea treatment is complete until you have treated the environment.
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”. Before 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 rugs, cat bedding etc., 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 to prevent any fleas escaping.
Fleas and tapeworm
Cats become infected with tapeworm via fleas, and an appropriate tapeworm treatment will also be necessary.
Below is a guideline on common flea products and what age they can be used on kittens, it is always important to check with your veterinarian before treating kittens for fleas.