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CAT / health & care

How Do I Protect My Cat From Fleas?

Treat or prevent a flea infestation


Flea facts

Fleas (Siphonaptera) are parasites that, as their name implies, siphon blood from unsuspecting animals. Fleas don’t have wings, but their back legs pack enough power that they can easily jump onto your cat.

After they’ve settled on their host animal, fleas feed by sucking their host’s blood, leaving behind itchy bites as souvenirs. Fleas also multiply rapidly, laying up to 30 eggs a day, which eventually turn into more fleas.

Once your cat — or any pet — is infested, the fleas set up housekeeping in your carpet, furniture, on other pets, and even on you.

How do I prevent fleas?

There are a few things you can do to keep fleas away:

1. A monthly anti-flea treatment for your pet, such as Advantage, will kill any fleas that may have found their way onto your cat. The treatment also helps repel new fleas from setting up shop. Never treat your cat with anti-flea product made for dogs; the ingredients are different and can be fatal to cats.

Flea collars are an alternative treatment, but keep in mind that while these collars kill fleas around your kitty’s head and neck, they may not be as effective on areas that are further away. If your cat has a breakaway collar designed to come off if snagged, remember that the flea collars won’t do that. Keep an eye on the flea collar and take it off if it seems to be causing a rash or hair loss.

PetSmart does not recommend flea medallions (treated disks that hang off a pet’s regular collar). They can dip into the water dish when your pet drinks, adding chemicals to the water.

Flea spray or powder can be effective for all-over protection. Be sure the product you choose is made specifically for cats. Flea treatment for dogs can be dangerous to cats, and flea spray for the home should be used on furniture or carpet; it’s much too strong to use on animals.

2. During warmer months, regularly hose down areas in your yard frequented by your cat or by other pets.

3. Vacuum frequently and pay extra attention to places where your cat likes to hang out. Add a flea collar to the vacuum-cleaner bag to kill any live fleas or hatching eggs.

4. Watch for signs of fleas, “flea dirt” (a polite term for fleas’ small, curly black droppings), or flea eggs (which can look a bit like dandruff).

My pet has fleas! Now what?

To get rid of fleas, you’ll have to fight them on several fronts:

1. To kill live fleas on your pet, bathe your cat with a flea shampoo made especially for cats. Keep in mind that the shampoo begins to work after your cat is out of the bath.

Another option, flea dip, is a topical solution that you don’t rinse off. Because cats can then ingest the chemical by licking themselves, some experts don’t recommend flea dip. Talk to your veterinarian before using it.

Important: Use only one anti-flea treatment on your cat. The chemicals in different products don’t always mix and may be harmful to your kitty. Do not use flea shampoo or other chemical treatments on kittens because the strong ingredients may harm them.

If you have any questions about whether a treatment is safe for your cat, ask your veterinarian.

2. Clean your house. Vacuum your home thoroughly and launder your cat’s bedding, blankets and soft toys.

3. Use a fogger if necessary. If the infestation persists, you may need to spray your home with flea-killing chemicals such as Methoprene or Fenoxycarb. These products must be used with care. Always follow all instructions on the product package and never leave any animals or people inside while the fogger is in use.

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