by Soojin Um
Fleas – the bane of any pet’s existence. However, your cat is an indoor-only cat, so you don’t have anything to worry about, right? Well, not so fast. Indoor cats can get fleas (and other pests, such as ticks) just like outdoor cats can. A home is not a sealed environment – people come and go, doors and windows open and close. Even window screens are not complete guarantees. Despite our best efforts, fleas can still enter the home, and thus, onto your cats. So what can we do? Here are some tips and ideas that can help you protect your cats from discomfort, scratching, and disease.
First, how do these little buggers get inside the house in the first place? It turns out, pretty easily. Fleas can hang on to shoes or clothes, and when you return from the outdoors, you can unwittingly carry fleas into your home. The same can happen if you also have dogs. Dogs are the primary way fleas get into a house. So even if your cat is strictly indoors, fleas can hitch a ride on your dog and come inside. Fleas aren’t just attracted to dogs and cats, they live and feed on many mammals. If your house has a mouse or rat problem, they may bring fleas in as well. Those fleas then jump off the rodents and onto your cats.
Also, your cat may be an indoor cat but there are times when they have to leave the house. For example, you may have taken your cat to the vet recently, or to the groomer’s. Perhaps even you had your cat boarded while you went on vacation. Any place where other dogs and cats congregate can be a haven for flea eggs and larvae. These then can get attached to your clothes or your cat’s fur, and then when you come home, it’ll become ground zero for an infestation.
If your cat scratches and bites on their fur often, there’s a good chance he might have fleas. You’ll want to make sure it’s fleas and not just allergies by checking the skin. Fleas usually camp out behind the cat’s head, along the back, and the tummy area. Even if you don’t see fleas, you might find “flea dirt” which are the flea’s… well, poop. That’s a sure sign that fleas are present.
The best course of action is to take your cat to the vet. Your vet will be able to prescribe the best topical or oral flea medicine to deal with the problem. Nitenpyram (known by its brand name Capstar) kills fleas very fast. Spinosad (Comfortis) is also effective in killing fleas, and Spinosad continues to kill fleas for up to a month. Lufenuron is another medicine where it prevents flea eggs from surviving. When fleas feed on blood that has been treated with lufenuron, the eggs will not hatch.
If you’re looking at topical treatments, the most popular brands are Frontline and Advantage. These are applied to the back of the neck where it becomes absorbed by the skin. Each dose will kill fleas for a whole month, at which point you can apply another dose if needed. Also, most vets do not recommend sprays, powders, and collars. These products have minimal effectiveness, and the chemicals contained in them may do more harm to your cat’s health than good.
Fleas can be a big problem for your furry family members, even for those who stay indoors. Some cats have allergic reactions to fleas on top of the itching and discomfort. Fleas can also transmit parasites, such as tapeworms, to humans. Checking for fleas and taking measures to prevent them are important practices in ensuring the health of your cats, your family members, and you.
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