How to check your cat for fleas and flea dirt
March 14, 2021
Spring not only brings warmer temperatures and blooming flowers, it can also bring a swathe of unwanted guests… Checking for fleas is all part of owning a cat, advises head nurse, Charlotte Stuart.
Fleas are tiny, blood-sucking parasites that jump onto cats and other pets. They feast on their blood, excrete, mate, and then the females lay eggs at an alarming rate. The eggs aren’t sticky so they often fall off and spread throughout the home.
The best protection against fleas is regular vet-recommended flea treatments, which you can get from our Marlow Drive practice. You should also keep an eye out for any signs of fleas and nip them in the bud.
What do fleas look like?
- Tiny (2-3mm) dark brown, almost black, oval-shaped critters with legs – they turn lighter brown the more blood they ingest.
- If they’re big enough, you might see fleas jumping on/off your cat, or you.
- Fleas excrete the blood they ingest, leaving ‘flea dirt’ behind.
- They can carry diseases and will irritate your cat, other pets, and humans.
How to check your cat for fleas & flea dirt
1.Look out for signs that your cat might have fleas:
a. Excessive scratching, licking and biting at themselves.
b. Bald patches of fur, due to scratching.
c. Bumpy skin/scabs around the groin/tummy due to scratching.
d. Back spots on your cat’s skin or in their fur.
e. Your cat may be jumpy and irritable.
2.Take a flea comb (specially made comb with narrow-set teeth) and run it slowly back and forth through your cat’s fur close to the skin, which is where the fleas will probably be hiding out. Top tips:
a. Put a piece of white paper next to your cat so any potential flea dirt falls onto the paper – when wet, flea dirt turns a reddish brown colour.
b. Have a bowl of hot soapy water handy so you can put any fleas that come off in the comb straight into the water.
If you find fleas on your cat, check when they last had their flea treatment and if they’re overdue, give it to them right away. You can also get additional topical flea treatments for your cat and products to treat your home. If you would like any further advice, Charlotte and the rest of our nurses are here to help.