When springtime brings warm weather, you may be visited by some uninvited guests. Fleas become most active when temperatures are favorable. Fleas are indeed very active insects, feeding on blood from your cat and you. They jump onto passing animals and burrow down into the fur to the skin, where they stay well hidden while biting and ingesting blood. This is irritating to the cat, and humans as well, as the bites can cause severe itching and inflammation.
In severe infestations, it’s easy to spot fleas jumping and moving on and off your cat’s body. In less obvious situations, you may notice that your cat is restless and doing more scratching or chewing on certain areas of its body. Shaking the head often and scratching at the ears is another indication of a possible flea infestation in your cat. Excessive and constant licking at the haircoat is another sign of potential fleas, especially in cats. Many cats will even groom the fleas out of the haircoat before you get a chance to see the evidence.
Turn your cat on its back and check areas that allow fleas to hide. The armpits and groin are two areas that are warm and protected; favored spots for fleas to hide out. Check your cat’s ears carefully for signs of scratching, redness, blood, or dirt. These can all be signs of fleas. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail may appear red and bumpy, especially if your cat is doing a lot of scratching. Hair loss may occur in certain areas that are being scratched excessively, and there may be black spots on the skin along with scabbing.
Get a flea comb (a specially made comb with closely set teeth) and run it through the hair on your cat’s back and legs. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas out from under the haircoat where they are hiding. Make sure you get close to the skin when running the comb through the hair so you have a greater chance of getting to where the fleas are hiding out. Have a bowl of soapy water on hand to douse any live fleas into as you find them while combing.
Fleas don’t just stay on your cat. They can also be found throughout the house and in areas where your cat spends a lot of its time. Closely examine your cat’s feeding area, bedding, and other favorite locations for signs of flea dirt (black specks), or for the fleas themselves. As you know, cats like to sleep on top of things like the window sills, kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, so be sure to get up high when examining their favorite haunts.
If you can’t find any signs of actual fleas on your cat or in the environment, or if you have done the full flea eradication treatment on your cat and home but your cat is still scratching, it’s time to get advice from your veterinarian. He or she will help you determine the cause of your cat’s discomfort and suggest treatment options.