Let me introduce you to the most common skin parasite of the cat - the cat flea!
Treating our cats and kittens regularly for fleas and worms greatly improves their comfort and wellbeing and is an important part of our duty of care to our pets.
Did you know that -
the adult female flea produces eggs at a rate of 50 a day? The eggs fall off the cat, who is the host and hatch into adult fleas within 2-16 days. The flea cycle is now established and continues remorselessly.
What are the signs of fleas?
An itchy cat or insect bites on human ankles may be the only signs of infestation.
Why control fleas?
The cat flea carries the larval stage of a tapeworm and cats ingest these while grooming
Adult fleas feed on cats’ blood - this can cause life-threatening anaemia in young kittens
Some cats develop an allergy to flea bites
Many cats are allergic to flea saliva so bites make them very itchy. They may develop:
Hair loss (due to over grooming)
Thickened, oozing or crusty skin
Lots of small scabs especially at the base of the tail or around the neck
This condition must be treated by a vet but will only be effective if the cat’s environment is totally cleared of both fleas and their eggs - just one flea can cause a problem in allergic individuals.
How can fleas be treated?
For effective control adult fleas on the cat must be killed and, just as importantly, re-infestation from the environment prevented.
Killing adult fleas
There are a wide range of products available to kill adult fleas on the cat including sprays, foams, powders, tablets and spot-on products (applied directly to the skin in between the shoulder blades). The most effective flea-control products are only available from veterinary surgeries where advice on their use is provided.
Removing fleas from the environment
If fleas are present in your home you should use a product (usually a spray) designed specifically for environmental use. Anything that is heavily infested, such as pet bedding, should be disposed of. Frequent vacuuming can help to reduce, but not eliminate, environmental infestation.
Unfortunately, fleas are now a year-round problem with centrally heated homes and warm weather. However, by treating your cat on a monthly basis for fleas and on a quarterly basis for worms it will help to keep these nasty little parasites at bay.