Pet Health, Treatment & Care

Fleas, Ticks, and Your Cat

Can your cat get fleas or ticks? You protect your dogs against these biting bugs — but do your cats need the same types of treatments? Your feline friends will need different types of treatment and prevention from external parasites.

How Do Cats Get Fleas or Ticks?

Like your dogs, your cats can also attract fleas and ticks when they venture outdoors. If you have outdoor or part-time outdoor cats, they may pick up one of these hitchhikers when they walk through tall grass, climb a tree, hide under shrubs, or go almost anywhere else in your yard.

Even though fleas and ticks can easily attach themselves to your cat outdoors, what happens if your pet never leaves the comfort of your home? While an indoor cat is less likely to get fleas or ticks, this is still possible. Another pet or a human can carry these pests into your house. After fleas or ticks get inside, they can lay eggs in cracks or crevices and multiply. The new generation of fleas and ticks can infest your indoor pet.

How Do You Know if Your Cat Has Fleas or Ticks?

One of the first signs of a pest infestation is the presence of fleas or ticks. Check your cat regularly for these tiny brown or black bugs. Along with the pests themselves, other signs of a flea infestation are flea dirt (flea droppings that look like small black flecks), patchy fur loss, scratching, redness, or bleeding.

You won’t likely see dirt or excessive scratching if a tick attaches itself to your cat. The primary sign is the small brown or black bubble of the tick’s body.

How Do Fleas and Ticks Affect Cats?

Both of these pests can cause irritation and itching. Fleas tend to cause extreme itchiness in pets, leaving your cat with red, raw, or bloody sores (from over-scratching). While ticks can cause skin irritation, these pests can cause more serious symptoms. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, of the 800 species of ticks, about a dozen types can cause illnesses in cats.

Symptoms of flea-related feline disease include fever, decreased appetite, and stiff or swollen joints. If left to progress without treatment, a flea-borne disease can cause serious illness in felines. This may include cardiac problems, neurologic dysfunction, joint damage, or kidney failure. Fleas and ticks can also cause anemia due to blood loss, especially in young cats.

What Should You Do if Your Cat Has Fleas or Ticks?

Fleas and ticks always require treatment. Failure to treat fleas will leave your cat itchy and could lead to infections. Beyond the damage these pests can do to your pet, your flea-carrying cat can bring the invaders into your home and cause a household infestation. If you see signs of fleas on your cat, contact the vet for the best treatment option.

A variety of types and brands of feline flea treatments are available in stores, online, or through your vet’s office. Some treatments help to eliminate an existing infestation, while some act as a preventative. It’s important to discuss flea and tick medications with your veterinarian, as some over the counter products can be harmful to cats.

Never give your cat a flea treatment meant for a dog or another animal. Your cat can’t metabolize a flea treatment made for a dog. These medications aren’t intended for felines and cause serious health issues.

While flea treatments can effectively eliminate the pests, they won’t work for ticks. If your cat has a tick or had a tick, call your vet’s office for advice on the next steps to take. The vet may want to see your cat in person to remove the tick or look for signs of a tick-borne illness.

You may also need to pay close attention for post-bite signs of infection or other tick-related issues. Talk to the vet about medications and treatments to prevent future tick infestations.

Does your cat need a flea or tick treatment? Contact 1st Pet Veterinary Centers for more information.