When a cat begins to furiously scratch, their owner should investigate the source of their discomfort at once. If your cat is not suffering a skin infection, the root of the problem is most likely the cat flea, which becomes increasingly possible when your cat likes to roam about the great outdoors. It is this destructive pest that is known as one of the most widespread of flea species in the world. This often makes the cat owner in distress readily welcome any home remedy before spending a large amount of money on commercial products and professional assistance.
Table of Contents
- What are Cat Fleas?
- Symptoms and Diagnosis
- Risk Factors and Negative Effects of Cat Fleas
- Home Remedies for Cat Fleas
What are Cat Fleas?
The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) primarily attacks the domesticated cat, but also causes trouble for dogs, humans, rabbits, rodents, and other animals . Once a female flea comes in contact with a cat, she lays her eggs, which become dry and later fall to a more protected shelter on the host. As the eggs hatch into larvae, the immature fleas feed on the organic substances they find on the cat, including adult flea waste and dried blood.
Next, a process of metamorphosis takes place, where the larvae then spin a cocoon and enter what is called the “pupal stage.” This process varies, as a young adult flea only emerges when signs of a viable host are present, such as warmth, movement, and carbon dioxide production . After a newly emerged flea breaths its first swallow of fresh air, it is motivated to jump about its host, where it takes minutes for the new flea to feed on blood.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
When a cat suffers a flea infestation, you will notice scratching and a noticeable discomfort on their part. A sure sign of cat fleas is seen when your cat walks away from the places they sleep or rest and small grains resembling “salt and pepper” are left behind. This is an indication that fleas are reproducing on your pet, as these remnants are actually flea eggs and droppings. While most cats live life as usual with a few fleas, untreated infestations may cause a variety of problems.
While cat fleas do not typically find a home on humans, they still bite cat owners who have a habit of picking up and stroking their cats. Human cat flea bites produce small, red, itchy bumps that often plague the ankles and lower legs. If a person suffers an allergy to flea bites, they experiences extreme rashes, hives, or generalized itching . Usually, an allergic reaction to flea bites appears 12 to 24 hours after a bite and may last more than a week.
Risk Factors and Negative Effects of Cat Fleas
Cats face the higher risk of fleas when felines are placed in environments that promote the growth and spread of these common household pests. When left untreated, cat fleas have the ability to pose medical concerns and affect the humans living within the same space. Below you will find a wide-range of risk factors and negative effects associated with cat fleas:
a) Heavy Infestations:
The repeated bloodsucking that accompanies heavy infestations of fleas can cause iron deficiencies and anemia in cats. This is especially seen in young felines, which eventually leads to the death of some pets. Heavy infestations also mean that the fleas have spread to other parts of a household, often biting human occupants.
Cat fleas are known to transmit other parasites to their host, including cats, dogs, and humans. Common diseases include Bartonalla, tapeworm, and murine typhus.
c) Hair Loss:
When a cat frequently scratches and licks at their flea bites, their hair may fall out.
d) Flea Allergy Dermatitis:
Cat fleas are responsible for causing flea allergy dermatitis (also known as FAD) in both cats and dogs. This type of allergy is believed responsible for more than 50% of all the dermatological cases reported to veterinarians.
e) Stray Cats:
When a stray cat has kittens under or close to an uninfested home, the chances of suffering a flea infestation becomes much greater. Cats who live in a heavily flea infested home will also sometimes escape their surroundings to seek relief, usually bringing an infestation to an uninfested residence when rescued as a stray.
In the outdoors, cat fleas thrive when the weather is humid and rainy, which causes the southern parts of the United States to suffer flea infestations more than the north. The summertime also sees a high population of cat fleas.
g) Dormant Flea Cocoons:
Houses or apartments that have been unoccupied for a long time may suffer a flea infestation when new tenants or homeowners move inside and “awaken” dormant flea cocoons.
h) Frequent Outdoor Visits:
A cat that frequents the outdoors will heighten the risk of bringing fleas into their home environment.
Home Remedies for Cat Fleas
When it comes to using home remedies to treat cat flea problems, you should know that the fleas present on your feline only represent a minute piece of the entire flea population within your home. This is why it is important to follow home remedies associated with both your pet and household. Popular cat flea home remedies include:
a) All-Natural Flea Collar Vacuuming:
A regular vacuuming of carpets, upholstery, and pet bedding helps remedy flea infestations and aids in removing flea cocoons. Since vibrations trigger the emergence of new adult fleas, you may use the clipped ends of an all-natural flea collar as a deterrent. Simply place the flea collar clippings inside of your vacuum bag, which will destroy new fleas on the spot. It is important to use all-natural flea collars, as toxic fumes may arise when using other selections.
b) Yard Cleanup:
Since fleas thrive in moist, wet environments, you may treat the exterior of your house to lower the flea population outside of your home. To create a drier yard, you should cut the grass, trim shrubs, and avoid leaving piles of gravel and sand about the house for long periods of time. Additionally, remove any unnecessary organic debris, including leaves, grass clippings, and straw, which easily becomes a haven for fleas.
c) Promote Spider and Ant Populations:
Ants and spiders serve as great enemies to the flea by eating their eggs and larvae. When mowing your lawn too short, you help fleas to thrive within the outdoors. Lawns kept shorter than two inches encourages a lowering of the population of ants and spiders in a yard, who become susceptible to ground-feeding birds.
d) Birds :
While ants and spiders put a dent in the flea population, so do birds, such as songbirds, sparrows, and starlings. If you encourage birds to settle in or close to your yard, you will also help lessen the fleas outside of your home because birds consider them a fine source of food. You should offer seeds, water, and shelter throughout the year to promote birds frequenting your yard.
e) Vinegar and Water:
In a spray bottle, place equal parts of white vinegar and water, which is then used to mist flea-infected bedding, pets, and carpets.
f) Cedar Shavings:
The local home improvement, home and garden, or feed shop can provide homeowners with cedar shavings, which makes an effective remedy for cat fleas. It is suggested to sprinkle the shavings about the house, in the garden, and inside flowerbeds. You may also fill a pillowcase with cedar shavings and sew it shut for your cat to lie on.
g) Hydrogen Peroxide:
Some individuals have found results when placing their cat in a tub and administering hydrogen peroxide to their coats. It is important to avoid getting the liquid in their eyes, nose, or mouth. In the end, you should see fleas dropping into the water. This home remedy should be avoided if you are worried about lightening the coat of your cat, which may last for a couple of weeks.
Applying borax to cat bedding and surrounding floor spaces, carpeting, rugs, and furniture is known as an effective home remedy for fleas .
i) Routine Pet Bedding Washing :
It is suggested to wash your pet’s bedding and treat surrounding areas with a product that prevents the growth of fleas. This especially comes in handy when your cat frequents the outdoors. As a rule of thumb, regular checks and cleaning of the basement, garage, car, and pet carrier is needed to remedy any possible flea infestations.
j) Flea Combs and Detergent Water:
When it comes time to remove fleas, many cat owners underestimate the power of a good flea comb, which provides a great non-toxic method of ridding your pet of cumbersome cat fleas. The proper way to use the tool is to comb your pet and then place dislodged fleas into a bowl of water filled with detergent, which kills the pests. Be sure to set aside a chunk of time to complete this home remedy. Effective combs should provide 32 teeth per inch.
k) Summer Maintenance:
Since fleas tend to thrive under warm conditions, it is suggested to wash pet bedding in hot, soapy water once per week, followed by a session in a hot dryer. You should always keep in mind that 90% of fleas in a household congregate where your pet sleeps. Rugs and carpeting should be vacuumed every two to three days.
l) Soap Detergent, Water and Light:
Place a pan filled with water and a few drops of dish soap in the center of a room infested with cat fleas. Next to the pan, situate a bright light onto the water as the only source of light in the room. The cat fleas are attracted to the light, causing them to jump into the water and drown because of the added dish soap. Without the dish detergent, the fleas will simply bounce back out.