It is hard to know what the right flea meds for kittens are. Many cat owners experience the issue of fleas with new kittens and cats. One of the questions we are asked is “are cat fleas and dog fleas different?” In short the answer is yes, scientifically, but in reality the issues they cause are much the same. Symptoms of flea infestation in your kitten include excessive itching, red skin and there can be secondary infections. In some extreme cases cats may develop flea allergy dermatitis. This is not a common outcome and as long as you treat the flea infestation quickly your kitten or cat should recover well. Unlike dogs, our feline friends are good at hiding they have fleas. Fleas are more prevalent in outdoor cats but any of you with indoor cats may still have a flea problem. Fleas are fast moving and hard to spot. They are very small which makes them hard to see even if you have great eyesight! Fleas feast on your cats blood, similar to mosquitoes, and cause itching. Depending on the level of infestation, and your cats skin sensitivity, the severity of the itch and potential hair loss can vary. As recommended with children, if you have seen fleas on your kitten remain calm and treat with the right medication.
Whilst there are many different types of fleas the most common for cats is the Ctenocephalides felis. If you see your kitten scratching, and you haven’t seen any fleas, first try using a flea comb. This will allow you to see whether any little black dots (fleas) appear. Flea dirt, as it is known, is the excrement of the fleas. I am sure you can imagine the excrement, flea dirt, is difficult to spot. Fleas are small so their excrement is even smaller and very hard to see yet irritating for your cat. If your kitten is still scratching and you haven’t spotted any black dots with the comb it does not mean no fleas are present. They are good at hiding in cat’s fur and harder if you have a multi-colored feline friend. An interesting experiment, if you do find some black dots, is to crush some with a paper towel dampened with some water. As the flea has been feasting on your cat’s blood the flea dirt will turn an orange, almost rust, color.
Flea Life Cycle
I’m sure when you decided to adopt a kitten you didn’t think you would want to know about the life cycle of a flea! Now your furry friend may have an infestation it is good knowledge to have. As with most insects there are multiple stages to a fleas’ life.
- Animals are the host where fleas lay their eggs and often the entire cycle may take place on that animal. Some eggs naturally fall off around your home with your cat scratching and moving around. This means you may need to check your carpets, cat bed, couch and your own bed for fleas.
- The next stage is a little gross. It is the flea larvae which hatches and feeds on the faeces left by the adult. For the next six months it continues to develop in your home and no doubt creates havoc.
- Whilst nowhere near as attractive as a butterfly the flea larvae spins a cocoon in which it grows into an adult. Unlike butterflies the flea can hold off emerging from its cocoon for up to one year.
- When the adult flea emerges from its cocoon it goes on a feeding frenzy on your cat before it mates and begins the cycle of life once more. I am sure none of us want this experience occurring on the skin of our kitten or cat!
Diseases Carried by Fleas
By now you are already looking for a solution to get rid of the fleas but in case you need a little more convincing I would like to share some common diseases carried by fleas which can cause more significant issues for your kitten or cat. As with many insects fleas can carry and pass on other conditions which can have a disastrous effect on your feline friend. These can include:
- Being blood suckers, fleas can carry blood born parasites including haemobartonellosis (Mycoplasma Haemofelis). This parasite is nasty and can cause fever, severe illness and anemia. Haemofelis in cat’s. This disease is diagnosed by blood tests run by your veterinarian and will then be treated by antibiotics. Blood transfusions may be needed if your cat has a severe case.
- If a flea infestation is not treated it can cause anemia due to the blood loss. In some cases this can cause the death of your cat with kittens at greater risk. To check for anemia you can look at the gums of your cat and if they are pale that is a sign of potential problems and you should seek immediate veterinary attention.
- Tapeworms: A common parasite is the tapeworm which is another disease carried by fleas and found in cat’s who have a flea infestation.
Safest Flea Treatment for Cats
As a responsible cat owner you will firstly want to remove as many fleas as possible from your kitten or cat. You may have tried the flea comb mentioned in this article but you want to make sure they are all gone. The next thing to try is bathing your cat or kitten in specially designed shampoo such as a natural plant-based formula. If you have a kitten they may tolerate a bath as they are still young and you are able to handle their smaller size. It may be distressing for them so you should be as calm as possible. Cat’s do not like water especially around their ears so care must be taken when bathing older cats. It is critical you do not force a cat who is distressed from the flea infestation. The bath will not solve the problem on its own so if your kitten is too distressed you should skip this step and try either an oral or topical flea treatment. The combination of the comb and bath may be enough if you have caught the fleas early, but they are fast and good at hiding so well camouflaged rogues may remain. For the safest path to prevent further flea infestations we recommend using either an oral flea control or a topical flea control. Both work by focusing on the flea’s nerve receptors via your cat’s skin. In most cases these treatments are used once but if you have a well progressed infestation it may be wise to use the treatment two or three times as directed on the product packaging. Most veterinarians recommend an annual preventative treatment so you can stay on top of the situation before it becomes an issue. If you have more than one cat, or a dog, in your home it is recommended this treatment is done at the same time with all animals in your home. When using medications please make sure it is one designed for cats or kittens, like the one’s linked in this article, and that you take note of the size of your pet and purchase the one best suited to their weight. For alternate flea treatments to those mentioned above we recommend the following: Flea combs:
- Groomer’s Best small Slicker Brush for Cats and Small Dogs
- Oster Animal Care Comb & Protect Flea Comb for Cats (2 pack)
- Sentry PurrScriptions Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo for Cats and Kittens
- Natural Flea Shampoo for Cats & Kittens
Oral Flea control:
Topical Flea control
- Cheristin for Cats Topical Flea Treatment
- Advantage Once-A-Month Topical Flea Treatment for Cats & Kittens
Do Not Forget to Remove Fleas From Your Own Home
Now you have dealt with the flea infestation on your cat, do not forget areas such as your carpet, bedding, mattress and areas where flea eggs may be hiding. It is important that you wash all bedding, vacuum your carpets daily and dispose of the vacuum bags so you are not leaving the fleas and their eggs in your home. While you have the vacuum out make sure you also do your mattress and any small crevices around your home. If you still have concerns you can apply a carpet flea treatment yourself or have your carpets cleaned professionally. The heat and steam from the cleaners will kill any remaining fleas and eggs that have been missed. You can also ask professional cleaners to add a flea treatment. If you deal with your first infestation thoroughly and include an annual prevention regime you should avoid any further flea problems with your cat. Not only will your kitten or cat be grateful but no doubt everyone else in your household will be as well. Whilst our recommendations should resolve the issue in most cases, it is important that if you think your cat or kitten is unwell you seek advice from a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to get to a vet you can try an online vet for on the spot advice.