For anyone who has owned a cat, fleas have been an unwelcome visitor. Measuring 1-2 millimeters long, these pests are capable of jumping over one foot in a single bound. While that’s not leaping tall buildings in a single bound like Superman, it’s quite a feat for such a small creature. However, that’s about the only thing that’s impressive about these creatures. Fleas spend their lives sucking the blood out of cats, and in return can also cause them to develop tapeworms or anemia. If left untreated, a severe flea infestation can prove fatal, especially to kittens.
A Flea’s Life Cycle
While a cat can be covered in fleas, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most experts state that a cat contains between only 5-10 percent of all the fleas that are in a household. The life cycle of a flea is very similar to a butterfly, in that it takes place in several stages. It all starts with eggs, which are laid by fleas on their host animal.
After hatching, the larvae feed on the fecal matter of the host for about a week, then becomes a pupae. Essentially a pre-adult flea, they spend another week developing before becoming full-fledged adults. Once a flea reaches adulthood, it feeds on its host, mates and keeps the destructive cycle going.
Does My Cat Have Fleas?
It’s very easy to determine if your cat has fleas. Many people put their cat on a white paper towel and then brush them. If after doing so you see what looks like small specks of dirt on the paper towel, the cat has fleas. If these are spotted, dropping water on them will usually result in blood oozing out. Also known as flea dirt, it’s conclusive evidence of a flea problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Topical Flea Treatments
Fortunately, there have been many advances in flea control that make it very easy to get a handle on the situation. Gone are the days of having only flea powder, sprays or collars to combat fleas.
In today’s war on fleas, topical treatments have revolutionized the way fleas are controlled. Widely regarded as the best way to get rid of fleas on cats, many of these remedies are made to kill not only the adult fleas, but also the larvae and eggs. Available in packs containing 3-12 tubes, these treatments are very effective at ridding one’s kitty of fleas.
Most tubes come in sizes designed for small or large cats, and range in price from $25-$100 per pack depending on the brand used. Some of the most popular topical treatments include Advantage, Frontline and Revolution. As an added bonus, many topical treatments are made to kill not only fleas but also ticks, lice, ear mites and various kinds of worms.
These treatments are applied monthly, using one tube per month for maximum benefit. Just remember it may take up to 24 hours for these treatments to take effect, so it may be a good idea to use a flea comb on the cat to give it some immediate relief.
For those cat owners who want another option for getting rid of fleas on cats, there are a number of home and natural remedies to try. These are also great options for those who have cats that are sensitive to chemicals, for owners who prefer holistic methods or those who cannot afford the more expensive topical treatments on the market.
A vey effective home remedy for fleas is using a hydrogen peroxide mix. Combining equal parts of water, hydrogen peroxide and baby shampoo and then working it into the cat’s fur will kill fleas instantly. If using this, just be sure to keep it away from the cat’s face and be sure to rinse them thoroughly when finished.
Another holistic option is herbal shampoo. Using a mild bath gel meant for humans, many people combine lavender oil, citronella and eucalyptus into a sweet-smelling solution that’s great for killing fleas. When using this solution, rub some of it around the cat’s neck and let it foam up well. This will prevent the fleas from running to the neck and face for refuge, allowing you to keep them in areas where they can be easily reached and killed with the shampoo.
Whatever approach is used to rid your cat of fleas, it’s a battle that must be fought constantly. While many people believe fleas are only a warm-weather problem, they can thrive quite well in cold conditions if they have taken hold on a cat. By brushing your cat regularly and checking for fleas, you can use various treatments to stay on top of the problem. And as cat owners everywhere can attest, a flea-free kitty is a happy kitty.