Cats and fleas may seem an unlikely pair, since cats are very meticulous cleaners and have a hygiene regimen second to no other species on the planet. However, a cat with fleas can hide their ailment better than a dog, so it is important for owners to be aware of signs of a flea infestation.
What Fleas Bring to the Party
Fleas are vectors of many bacteria, viruses and parasites, but the main and most common concern is tapeworm. More often than not, when cats and fleas are present, so are tapeworms. Tapeworms are parasites that live within the intestinal tract of their hosts, most commonly domesticated cats and dogs. Catching fleas usually means catching tapeworms, and catching tapeworms is very important. While tapeworms are not a serious concern for adults, a family pet who licks and plays with a child can infect that child with these parasites. Unknowing parents will be surprised when their children become sluggish and suddenly have a voracious appetite - an odd combination of symptoms for other typical childhood illnesses.
Keep Cats Flea-Free
To keep cats and fleas at a safe distance, it is important to consider the use of a monthly or quarterly topical treatment such as Revolution™ or Frontline™. These are very simple to administer and will keep your cat or dog from acquiring fleas, tics, heartworm and, in some cases, skin and ear mites. Simply place the needle-nosed tube of liquid between the shoulder blades, part the feline's hair and squeeze the tube, making sure that the predominance of the liquid makes contact with the skin. Depending on the brand, this elixir will keep your cat flea and tick free for one to three months.
If you do have an outdoor cat, be sure it does not have contact with feral cats as this increases their chances of contracting fleas and disease.
"But I Have an Indoor Cat"
Some pet owners say, "Well, I have an indoor cat, I won't need anything like that." As long as there is an outdoors, there is a need to ensure that your cat stays safe from intruders. This is especially true for indoor cats who share their homes with dogs and children. Just as it is hard to understand why houseflies may be found in a perfectly kept home, it is hard to understand how or why fleas would be able to come into a home and infest your cat. Rather than take the risk, use preventative methods such as Revolution™, Frontline™ or at the very least a flea collar.
Where Cats and Fleas Collide
Certain geographical regions make indoor and outdoor cats more susceptible to flea infestations. Such regions are usually heavily wooded areas, humid areas and areas near bodies of water, especially stagnant water such as lakes. In some cases during the spring months, outdoor cats will experience infestations even when they have been treated against fleas with Revolution™ or Frontline™, and a flea collar is a waste of money when it comes to serious infestations during these times. To best protect your outdoor cat, make sure he or she comes home at night, and keep your pet indoors until the light of day. Bantering through the woods on a moist spring night is a sure recipe for cats and fleas to meet, not to mention a great way for a housecat to become the prey of a wild animal, or even a street smart stray cat that almost surely has fleas.
Signs and Treatment
Signs to look out for with cats and fleas are excessive scratching, a cat rolling around on its back, whining meows, hot spots and chewing of the skin. If you are unsure whether your cat has fleas, take it to your regular veterinarian. It is also a good idea to bring a fecal sample and request a tapeworm test, just to err on the side of safety.