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    Fleas! How To Prevent and Treat Your Cat's Greatest Nuisance

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    Updated: August 15, 2017

    If you have pets, you’ve probably experienced fleas or heard horror stories from others who have. Fleas are miserable pests that can wreak havoc on a household.

    Understanding how to prevent fleas and how to treat your pets if they become infested are the keys to this nuisance. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to help prevent your pet from bringing fleas home plus some good treatments available if the worst does happen.

    Prevention Is Best

    Flea prevention is the easiest and most cost-effective way to deal with fleas - the costs and inconvenience of dealing with an infestation once it’s established are far worse than those associated with preventing such an infestation from taking hold in the first place. As with most things… prevention is easier (and less expensive) than treatment.


    • For flea prevention to be effective, ALL pets in the household need to be on a monthly program -- even indoor-only cats!
    • As with most things… prevention is easier (and cheaper) than treatment.
    • Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum!

    Why Flea Prevention Medication Should Be Year Round

    Generally pets should be on flea prevention throughout the year. You might have heard that you don’t need to continue flea prevention when it’s cold outside, but I highly discourage this. There are just too many ways for fleas to take hold and keep themselves going.

    For example, one stage of the flea life cycle is the pupal stage, a lifestage that is protected from the environment by a cocoon. Pupal-stage fleas can remain dormant for several weeks while waiting for more favorable conditions. Also, in some areas, when the weather gets cooler, rodents start trying to seek shelter in homes. Those mice and rats could easily bring plenty of fleas into your home.

    Don’t Forget Indoor-Only Cats!

    For flea prevention to be effective, ALL pets in the household need to be on a monthly program. This includes indoor-only cats! Indoor-only cats are not immune to getting fleas.

    For example, I once had to treat indoor-only cats from two different families in the space of two weeks for fleas. Both families brought their cats in because of extreme lethargy and weight loss. One of the families thought they were going to have to have their cat euthanized. They feared the worst because their beloved cat’s lethargy and weakness was so bad.

    Fortunately, I was able to diagnose both cats with severe flea infestations. The cats had become anemic from the loss of all the blood the fleas had been drinking. Once we got the cats treated, on a good quality diet, and on a long-term whole home flea prevention plan, both cats were back to their playful selves. Both families had seen their cats hunting rodents inside which is likely how the cats became infested. Even if your cats don’t go outside, they’re still at risk of getting fleas.

    If you are not on a prevention plan currently, I suggest speaking with your veterinarian about a safe and effective flea prevention program immediately. I also suggest purchasing your flea preventatives from your veterinarian directly. Though you may be able to purchase them cheaper online or in some pet stores, the advice and knowledge that your veterinarian can provide is well worth the slight increased price you may have to pay at their office. Trust me.

    How To Get Rid of Fleas In Your Home and on Your Cat

    Clean Regularly
    While flea preventative medications are the most effective tool for preventing an infestation, cleaning is also a big help. You should regularly vacuum your carpets and wash any bedding on which your pets sleep – including your own. This will help to kill any fleas or larvae, and remove any flea ‘dirt’ that may occasionally get into the home.

    Prepare Any New Home
    When moving into a new house or apartment, it’s always a good idea to get the carpets and floors thoroughly cleaned. Ideally you should "flea bomb" the whole environment several days before you move in, then steam clean the carpets and mop any hard floors. This will help to truly ensure that you and your pets are starting with a fresh slate and no fleas.

    Remember the flea life cycle I mentioned above? The pupal stage can hibernate for several weeks in the absence of an appropriate host.  Even if the home hasn’t had pets in it for a while, a flea infestation can still be lying in wait. Taking a little extra time before you move into your new home will help you avoid an unfortunate experience later on.

    Of course, even with the best preventive measures, there are some rare instances where fleas can sneak in and take control. In these instances, it’s important to quickly and effectively treat the infestation to save you and your pets as much discomfort as possible.

    Many of the steps necessary to treat an infestation are the same steps you take to prevent one:

    • Get all pets on a safe and effective flea medication. Speak with your veterinarian for recommended products. [Do not use pyrethrin or permethrin-containing spot-ons, collars, dips, or shampoos on or around your cats! Pyrethrin toxicity in cats can be devestating.]
    • Bathe and/or flea comb your pets to remove ‘flea dirt’ and adult fleas. Young fleas feed on flea dirt, so by removing it from their environment you deprive them of food.
    • Clean the environment. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum! Pre-treat carpets with Borax, let the powder sit for an hour or two, then vacuum it up well and dispose of the vacuum bag outside. Be sure to keep all pets and children off the carpets until you are sure that you have vacuumed up all of the Borax.
    • Shake and “punch out” your couch and chair cushions over the carpet before vacuuming - this will get rid of the fleas and flea dirt present on your cushions. Steam cleaning also works well as does a product called FleaBusters.
    • When vacuuming, pay particular attention to the areas around and under couches, chairs, beds, and any other raised areas where your pets spend time. When your pet jumps down, the fleas and flea dirt fall off your pet onto the floor in these landing spots.
    • Launder all bedding in the hottest water possible.
    • Leave all pets on an effective and safe flea preventative all year long to avoid having to go through this again.

    Hopefully you and your pets will never experience a flea infestation. It isn’t a fun time. Save yourself the frustration and costs, and save your pet the discomfort. Follow my recommendations for preventing fleas, and you’ll likely never need my recommendations for getting rid of them.

    Topics: Cat Health, flea control, cat fleas, flea treatment, Fleas on Cats, Fleas in Carpet, How to Get Rid of Fleas, fleas in home, fleas in house, fleas on kittens, kill fleas

    Photo Credit: Preventive Vet

    Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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