Your cat is scratching, licking and chewing like crazy. Upon inspection you spy tiny little bugs crawling around in her fur. She has fleas, tiny little bloodsuckers that reproduce faster than a rabbit with Viagra. Soon the little buggers could be all over your home, waiting for their next meal.
Adult fleas, the bugs currently hitching a ride on your poor cat's back, know a nice neighborhood when they see it. These little interlopers will spend their entire lives on your cat, freely noshing on her blood while they mate and pop out eggs. Females can lay up to 50 eggs in a single day, and when you multiply this by the possibly dozens of female fleas happily roaming around your cat's fur, that can result in quite the population explosion.
Litter Box Layover
Because your cat spends at least a few minutes in her litter box every day, the fleas making camp on her back may end up in the smelly box, too. Adult fleas are not hoping to settle down amongst the litter, however; they're simply biding their time until another meal comes along. Then they'll hop back aboard the blood buffet and get back to their business of getting it on and laying eggs.
Flea eggs, however, tend to fall off wherever your cat happens to be at the moment, and they could fall into the litter box. The eggs hatch anywhere from two days to two weeks later, and the larvae begin feasting on any nearby organic material. And since poop is technically organic, it's quite possible that flea larvae could live in the litter box until they're mature enough to spin a cocoon and morph into an adult flea, anywhere from two to twenty days later. It takes a larvae anywhere from a week to a year to hatch as an adult, at which time they hop onto your cat to perpetuate the cycle.
Flea infestations pose another threat to your pet, in that they are a cat parasite that plays host to another cat parasite. Tapeworm eggs are eaten by the flea, which then transmit the intestinal parasite to the cat once they themselves are eaten. Once inside the cat, the tapeworm matures and begins releasing segments of its own body to spread more eggs. These segments exit as the cat hits the litter box, where they will wait to be picked up by another host.
So your cat's litter box could act as a bed and breakfast for not only flea larvae, but tapeworm egg segments as well. The box is simply a means to an end -- ultimately finding a new host -- and the parasites don't necessarily view the stinky location as a place to grow old in.
The Great Flea War
Tapeworms only require a few doses of a de-worming medication to put an end to their reign of terror, but fleas aren't as easy to get rid of. You not only have to kill the fleas partying on your cat's back, but also the larvae hunkered down in various locations about the house.
Over-the-counter flea drops usually kill all adult fleas on your cat within a few days, but you'll need to use sprays and powders to kill the larvae in your carpeting, bedding and any crack or crevice near where your cat likes to spend time. In a situation like this, you can't clean too much -- you must get each and every last flea, larvae and egg.
The good news is if there are any larvae or fleas in your cat's litter box, getting rid of them is as easy as tossing out the litter. Dump the litter into a plastic bag and close it tightly to prevent the little buggers from escaping back into your home. Clean the box with hot water and bleach to remove any lingering eggs, larvae or tapeworm segments and refill with fresh litter.
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images