Cat Flea & Tick Prevention

Q: Why is my cat constantly scratching?
A: Itching is the most common symptom of fleas on cats.

Also visit our Dog Flea & Tick Prevention page.

What dangers do fleas and ticks present to my cat?

It seems no other pet health concern gets more attention than fleas and ticks. They are more than an obvious nuisance. They can actually endanger the health of your cat. Both fleas and ticks feed on blood and, therefore, have easy access to your cat’s bloodstream. So, in addition to the itching and scratching that these parasites can cause on the outside, they can also introduce infection of disease on the inside.

The presence of fleas on cats is indicated by the infamous scratching, chewing, or licking of the irritated, itchy skin. This “self-infliction” in response to flea bites may result in hair loss. Pale gums and lips may also be seen in cats with flea infestation. If you see in your cat’s fur “flea dirt” (droppings of fleas that look like dark grains of sand), flea eggs (like white grains of sand), or the nasty critters themselves (pinhead-sized brown shapes that move quickly), then your cat has fleas.

Over time, a number of fleas can lead to blood loss and anemia in cats, which is especially life-threatening in kittens whose red blood cells have not yet sufficiently built up. If cats are sensitive to flea saliva, they can also suffer allergy dermatitis, an allergic reaction to flea bites. Tapeworms are another flea-bourne danger to cats.

Ticks are mainly indicated by their physical presence—as light-brownish, bulbous bumps on a cat’s skin. If you find such a tick on your cat, it means the tick has gorged itself on your cat’s blood. They start off tiny and then swell with blood as they feed. Don’t try to remove it without special care; the tick has attached its mouth inside your cat’s flesh. If you traumatize the tick by squeezing and tugging it, it could vomit its contents into your cat, including disease-causing agents.

The dangers to cats from tick bites include irritation or infection of the skin, loss of blood, anemia, tick paralysis, Lyme disease, cytauxzoonosis, haemobartonellosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. In the event your cat is introduced to any of the dangers brought by fleas and ticks, your veterinarian is ready to diagnose and treat them. However, please bear in mind that not all of the dangers have a cure or vaccine. This makes prevention of fleas and ticks the best medicine.

How can I protect my cat from fleas and ticks?

The longer fleas and ticks remain on your cat, and in his or her environment, the greater the risk of infection. You can help reduce the risk by avoiding or reducing areas where they like to live. Ticks like trees, bushes, and tall grass; they can’t jump, so they perch on high places and grab hold to passersby. Fleas like warm, moist, dark areas. Here in Florida, keeping your cat indoors doesn't always protect them from these unpleasant parasites.

We recommend year-round flea prevention for almost all cats, indoor and outdoor. Use a flea comb on your cat multiple times each day. Vacuum your home everyday to remove flea eggs that drop off your cat. Wash any linens and fabrics that your cat comes into contact with at least once a week. Cats who go outside should also be checked regularly for ticks.

Your veterinarian can recommend flea and tick prevention for cats to control these blood-hungry parasites. (As a cautionary note, prevention made for dogs can kill cats!) Prevention comes in a variety of forms and doses, so the doctor can help you decide which one is best for your cat. Remember, we want to remove the parasites as quickly as possible. So, in addition to prevention, talk to your veterinarian about how to kill fleas and ticks that are already on and around your pets. Working together, we can take control of fleas and ticks!

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