Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cats and Fleas!

Every year we have hundreds of cats and kittens admitted into our care with severe flea infestations. A number of these cats will need urgent vet treatment due to flea bit anaemia, most cats will survive once they receive vet treatment, sadly kittens are more vulnerable and don’t always survive.  In this blog we discuss the flea life cycle and what steps are needed to make sure you cat stays flea free
Fleas can be found on most animal species but are more commonly found on cats and dogs. A flea is a small wingless insect which feeds on the blood of animals. There are more than 2,000 types of fleas that can be found on animals around the world.  An adult flea can grow around 3mm in size and can jump up to 50 times the length of its body!  In the summer months we see a big boom in fleas. This is because the flea’s life cycle happens at an accelerated rate when the weather is warmer. Another contributing factor is that our pets spend more time outdoors in the summer.
Flossy - 1 year old heavily pregnant female admitted into our care with a severe flea infestation
The life cycle of fleas
An adult flea will live on its animal host permanently. The entire cycle from egg to flea will take between twelve to twenty two days, depending on temperature and humidity. Warm homes with fitted carpets are ideal conditions for fleas to reproduce all year round.
Female fleas will produce 50 eggs daily. These eggs will fall off the cat where they will hatch out into larvae within two to sixteen days. After this stage they then change into immobile pupae within a cocoon. While in the cocoon the pupae will grow into an adult, it will stay in the cocoon until it senses the presence of a cat, such as heat or vibrations. When it senses these it will emerge and attach itself to the cat within seconds. If no host can be found the flea can stay within its cocoon for up to two years!
The signs of fleas
·        Itching
·        Bites on humans
·        Flea dirt
·        White eggs in the cats sleeping areas
Fleas move around fast so sometimes they can be difficult to spot. An effective way to check your cat for fleas is to comb your cat with a fine toothed flea comb while placed on a white sheet of paper. Fleas may be trapped within the comb or black specks (flea dirt) may be visible on the paper. Flea dirt is the droppings of fleas which consist of undigested cat blood.
Treating fleas
For an effective flea treatment we recommend a licenced product. This will come from your veterinary surgery in a spot on, injection or table form. Flea collars and unlicensed products should be avoided. Do not use a product intended for dogs on your cat as it can be toxic.
To control a flea infestation adult fleas must be killed and the environment treated so prevent re-infestation. The most common product used to treat households is in a spray form. This spray should be applied to carpets and furnishings. This spray should never be used on the cat itself. Regular vacuuming will also help reduce the number of fleas within the home.
To prevent re-infestation regular, monthly treatment of your cat is recommended. It is also recommended that any other pets within the home are also treated regularly. It can be hard to get an infestation under control, sometimes taking weeks or months. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent fleas before an infestation can occur.
It is important to treat your cat as fleas can cause many other health problems to your cat:
·        Fleas feed on blood, this can cause anaemia which can be life threatening.
·        Fleas can transmit other infectious agents.
·        Many cats develop allergies from flea bites which can cause hair loss, scabby skin and sores.
·        Cat fleas can bite humans which will result in an itchy raised bump.
·        Fleas can carry the larval stage of a tapeworm which a cat may ingest while grooming.

Licenced products from vets is the most effective way to control fleas
Hope our blog helps you keep your cats flea free!
Purrs for now!