Chances are your cat will be exposed to fleas and the diseases these insects carry at some time in his life.
Not only can fleas be extremely irritating for both you and your pet, but bites can lead to the serious skin condition flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), and blood loss and anaemia in kittens. Fleas can also carry tapeworm, an intestinal parasite.
Once these irritating insects have found their way onto your pet they will take a bite and mate. Within 36 to 48 hours, the female will start to lay her eggs which will then fall off and develop into larvae, pupae and finally into adult fleas on the sofa, in the carpet and even in your bed!
Treating your pet with a product that stops fleas laying viable eggs will mean you won’t end up trying to chase possibly hundreds of larvae around the house.
Prevention is always better than cure and by preventing a flea infestation in the first place it means healthier pets and less stress for both pet and owner. Regular preventative flea treatments, coupled with good basic hygiene, will help ensure that the whole family remains healthy and happy all year long
However, if your pet has an existing heavy flea infestation it will be necessary to treat him with a product to kill them. Discovering fleas on a pet is unpleasant but adult fleas on a host may represent only five per cent of the whole infestation. The other 95 percent consists of eggs and larvae which can be spread throughout the house. It is therefore essential to also treat your house. If the home isn’t treated fleas will jump back onto the cat and re-infest it.
Does my cat have fleas?
When grooming, cats may eat fleas that they discover, making it difficult to find adult fleas in the coat. An itchy cat, or insect bites on human ankles, may be the only sign of infestation. The best way to demonstrate the presence of fleas is to comb the cat meticulously with a fine-toothed flea comb over a clean white surface such as a piece of paper. Fleas and ‘flea dirt’ (flea excrement consisting of undigested cat blood) will be deposited onto the surface. If placed on damp cotton wool, flea dirt will slowly dissolve leaving blood.
The flea life cycle
The adult flea lives permanently on its animal host – your dog or cat. They can survive off their host for up to six months, and can have a lifespan of about two years.
Within two days of finding a host, the mature female starts to lay eggs at a rate of about 50 a day. The eggs fall off the animal’s coat together with ‘flea dirt’. This flea dirt provides food for the hatching flea larvae. Eggs and larvae may be found anywhere the dog or cat has been, but are particularly concentrated in bedding or in areas where your pet has been active.
The larvae dislike light and move deep into the carpet or soft furnishings. There the larvae develop into pupae, each encased in a sticky cocoon. An adult flea develops within the cocoon and awaits a sign that there is an animal or person close by. It does this by detecting pressure, noise, heat, carbon dioxide or vibrations.
The new flea can emerge and attach to the host within seconds. Fleas can lie waiting in the cocoon for up to two years. However, in the right conditions, the whole development cycle can be completed in 15 days. Unfortunately, centrally heated homes with fitted carpets provide ideal conditions for all-year-round development of fleas. For effective control, adult fleas on the cat must be killed and re-infestation from the environment prevented.
Fascinating Flea Facts………………………
- Fleas thrive in a warm environment.
- They can jump around 30cm high, over a metre in length and will jump around 10,000 times when looking for a feline host.
- Fleas can feed for up to three hours from one site, and can drink up to 140 per cent of their own body weight in blood.
- Eggs, larvae and pupae can also be carried around the house on the soles of our shoes.
- Fleas can cause very serious health problems. They are one of the most common causes of distressing skin problems in dogs and cats, and in severe cases smaller animals — particularly kittens — can die from anaemia due to blood loss from the feeding fleas.
- When the heating is turned up or an unused room is disturbed dormant fleas can be activated.
- Human bedding and clothing does not need to be specially treated; a warm wash will kill eggs and larvae.
- Fleas jump with an acceleration roughly equal to that of the Apollo space rocket. Amazingly they can pull 160,000 times their own weight, which is like you pulling 2,679 double-decker buses!
- Fleas don’t have ears and are virtually blind.
- Fleas reverse direction with every jump.
- Fleas can jump over 150 times their own size (approximately 30cm high) — which is like a human jumping over St Paul’s Cathedral!
If your cat has fleas, then there are also flea eggs and larvae in your house too. The old-fashioned flea powders and collars killed the adult fleas but left the eggs and larvae to breed; that’s one reason why they are no longer recommended by vets. ‘Alternative’ flea repellent spot-ons are even less effective and some have not been rigorously checked for safe use on cats.
The best way to keep your cat free of fleas is to use a veterinary prescribed spot-on or tablet. These, if used regularly, will not only kill the fleas on the cat, but will also stop the eggs and larvae in the house developing into adult fleas.
To get really effective flea protection you need to use a household spray as well (for your home only — never use on your cat). You must also remember to treat all the animals in the house otherwise the other pets will be a reservoir for flea re-infection.
Never use flea products that are sold for dogs on your cat.— flea products for dogs contain permethrin, which is highly toxic to cats.
Following exposure to the concentrated permethrin spot-on products designed to control fleas and ticks on dogs, cats can start to exhibit signs of toxicity.
How would I know if my cat might have been poisoned by permethrin?
Signs of permethrin poisoning usually develop within a few hours, but sometimes can be delayed by up to 72 hours. The most obvious signs include:
- Muscle tremors
- Dilated pupils
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, visit a veterinarian immediately. It is critical that your cat is taken immediately to the veterinarian if you suspect they have been poisoned. It is imperative that your cat receives urgent treatment.
Long-term flea control
Once adult and immature fleas have been completely removed from a household environment further controls can be reappraised. Ideally cats are to be treated monthly (or according to specific treatment guidelines), for cats that don’t venture outside, this can be spread out, but it is still necessary to treat.
An on-off approach to flea control is not recommended as this provides ideal conditions for the development of flea allergy (skin disease) in animals.
A Happy Cat is a Flea Free Cat!!!!