cat with fleas on bed

Cat fleas? How to get rid of fleas on cats

It’s almost as bad as having your child sent home from school for having head lice – your cat has fleas

But cat fleas are easy to prevent, and there’s a wide range of options available to avoid these nasty critters – and to treat your pet, and your home, should an infestation take hold. Your vet will talk you through the best options.

We look at how to identify cat fleas, and the best ways to keep your cat flea-free.

Symptoms of fleas on cats

Fleas are the most common cause of scratching and skin irritation in cats and kittens. They’re nasty, irritating creatures that nestle into your cat’s fur and, once they’ve made themselves at home, bite into the skin and feed on your cat’s blood.

Chances are the first sign that your cat has fleas will be the scratching, but fleas in cats can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Chewing
  • Hair loss
  • Restless behaviour
  • Biting
  • Licking
  • Sores on the skin
  • Visible adult fleas in the fur, or on your cat’s skin
  • Excessive grooming

Potential problems caused by cat fleas

Once a flea’s saliva enters the bite wound, your cat may have a mild reaction. Some cats develop sores on their skin that become infected. A small proportion of cats are hypersensitive to flea saliva, and become intensely itchy, while old or sick cats, can become weak and anaemic as a result of the resultant blood loss.

Fleas can also carry and spread some pretty nasty diseases, and are a common cause of tapeworms, which enter the cat while he or she is grooming.

Though complications caused by cat fleas are reasonably rare, it’s best to focus on preventing cat fleas – your vet will advise you on the prevention methods available.

Common conditions for cat fleas

Fleas are common in hot, damp climates, and are most often found in pet-friendly homes during the winter, when central heating creates the conditions fleas need to thrive.

They’re known for their jumping ability – leaping up to 100 times their body length – and often hop from one cat or kitten to another, so if you have one cat with fleas, other pets are at risk of contracting them, too – not to mention your home.

With female fleas capable of laying up to 50 eggs a day, you need to act fast, as flea infestations are quick to take hold. It’s vital to treat your home with a suitable flea prevention product, as fleas and their larvae can survive without a host animal for months.

Effective flea treatment for cats… and your home

The best cure for cat fleas is prevention. Your local vet will happily advise you on the most effective barrier method to prevent cat fleas – including flea collars, spot-on liquid prevention methods, flea tablets, and vaccinations.

Help! My cat has fleas

If it’s too late for prevention, you’ll want to know the most effective treatment to fight those pesky pests, before cat fleas make themselves too comfortable in your cat’s fur – and your carpet!

Your vet will talk you through the best ways to treat your pet and your home. In the meantime, combing your cat with a fine-toothed metal flea comb several times a day will help to remove adult fleas.

Need advice and help for a cat with fleas?

For advice on flea prevention and treatment for cats, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.