Cat and kitten flea treatment advice
Flea bites are itchy, irritating and uncomfortable, so it's important to treat your cat or kitten regularly to prevent any unwanted infestations.
Fleas are very common parasites that live on our pets and can live in our homes. They can quickly spread and become out of control. If left untreated, fleas can cause cats a painful rash, but the consequences for kittens can be much more serious and potentially fatal.
If your pet has fleas, 95 per cent of the total flea infestation will live in your home. This means they might not only be itchy and irritating for your cat!
Thankfully, there are lots of flea treatments available to prevent and kill fleas quickly which are very easy to give your cat. Products from your vet are much more effective than those from shop shelves.
Prevent fleas if you have kittens as they can become anaemic and ill more quickly than adult cats. You will need to treat the pregnant mum as many flea treatments cannot be used on young kittens.
Signs my cat might have fleas
Fleas can be hard to see, particularly on darker fur, but there are some obvious signs that you cat might have fleas:
- nibbling their fur or skin
- bald patches of fur
- itchy red bumps or sore-looking skin
- a rash
- flea dirt
- seeing fleas in your home or on your pet
What do fleas look like on cats?
Cat fleas can be tricky to spot and are well camouflaged in cat fur. They are around 2mm long and reddish-brown in colour and may look like a dark brown spec. You can also often see flea dirt (dried flea faeces).
How to get rid of fleas
To get rid of fleas, it's important to remember that adult fleas can live for up to 14 days, so you'll have to be very thorough to make sure they're all gone. Make sure you:
Remove fleas from your home
Most fleas will live in your carpets and soft furniture. They can stay there, dormant, for up to a year. They will wake up through vibrations and are attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide. To treat your house:
- Wash any pet bedding on at least a 60 degree wash cycle
- Vacuum your home thoroughly
- Use flea-killing aerosol spray - do not use this while your pet is in the room or spray it directly on your pet, and always follow the instructions
Never use flea sprays containing permethrin as this is dangerous to cats . Flea spray is also highly toxic to fish, so if you have a fish tank always follow the instructions.
Clean any outdoor spaces
Cat fleas might also survive in garages and garden sheds. If you know your cat visits a space like this, then it will need to be tidied and treated as thoroughly as possible.
Treat your pets
Speak to your vet about the best flea treatment for your pet. If you have multiple types of pet (eg dogs or rabbits), they will all need individual treatment suitable for their species.
Some dog flea treatment products are lethal to cats. Never use dog flea treatment on your cat, and always ask your vet which product is OK to use on your dog if you have cats.
Your vet may also recommend any skin treatment if necessary and worming treatment as fleas can pass worms onto your cat.
We've listed several flea treatment options below.
Flea treatment for cats and kittens
If your cat has fleas, you should contact your vet to ask about the best flea treatment and how often to give it. There are lots of products available in pet shops and supermarkets – but 'spot on' treatments, flea tablets and injections from your vet are the best effective long-term methods of flea control.
You'll usually need to give your cat this treatment, regularly. For example, most spot on treatments recommend that they are applied every month.
Most flea treatments are only suitable for kittens aged over eight weeks old. Call your vet for advice urgently if your younger kitten has fleas, as blood loss from flea anaemia can be fatal.
Spot on flea treatment for cats
Spot on products involve you applying a liquid to the skin at the back of your pet’s neck so that your pet can't lick it. They are a very popular and effective method of flea control. Some products contain substances that kill adult fleas, while others work by interrupting the development of fleas – and some do both.
How to apply spot on treatments
- Make sure your cat is calm. You might want to give them a treat to keep them occupied and still.
- Find a spot on the back of your cat's neck or between their shoulder blades that they will not be able to reach or lick
- Part your cat's fur with one hand and place the open applicator as close to their skin as possible with the other
- Squeeze the applicator until the full dose has been given
- Always wash your hands afterwards
- Avoid stroking the area for at least 24 hours or until visibly dry so that you do not get any of the treatment on your hands
Some spot on treatments have a strong smell and some cats hate it! Always praise your cat with treats after each application.
Tablet and injection flea treatment for cats
Flea medication can be given as a tablet or injection if you find it difficult to give your pet a spot on treatment. It works by preventing the flea eggs developing into fleas.
Flea combs for cats
Flea combs do not prevent fleas and will not control fleas on their own. But they can be useful if think your cat may have fleas.
Use one of these fine-toothed combs on your cat over a clean white surface. If you see any fleas of spot any small black specs, place these on damp cotton wool. If it is flea dirt, it will dissolve to leave red-brown marks, and your cat is likely to have fleas.
Flea powder treatment for cats
Flea powders remain on the coat and only kill adult fleas, not the larvae. This means they do not work long-term and are not a good treatment choice.
Flea collars for cats
Flea collars have growth-inhibiting substances in them to stop fleas growing, but most are not a reliable treatment option. Some can also cause irritation.
You should only use high-quality flea collars if they're recommended by your vet. Read more about cat collars.
Flea treatment shampoo for cats
Flea shampoo is not a long-term effective solution for tackling fleas as it will only kill the fleas on your cat at the time of bathing. It does not prevent any eggs hatching.
Flea herbal remedies treatments
Herbal treatments are not effective in tackling fleas and there is no research to show they are safe to use on cats.
Some herbal treatments, such as tea tree oil, are toxic to cats.
Can cat fleas live on humans?
There are about 2,000 types of fleas and only one of those can live on humans, so it's extremely rare. Fleas don't live on humans for long periods of time as they can't survive on human blood but can be transmitted from pet to pet by people, as they are capable of leaping long distances.
If they are able to travel onto your body, they can bite and cause irritation or rashes. If you're concerned, contact your GP.