What Are the Effects of Fleas on Cats?

Cats can lick and bite themselves if afflicted by fleas.

Cats can lick and bite themselves if afflicted by fleas.

The Ctenocephalides felis felis, or common cat flea, may only measure up to 1/8 inch long, but this tiny parasite can cause Herculean problems for you and your kitty if you don’t instigate prompt eviction with effective flea treatment.

Itching

Itching is the most immediate and obvious effect fleas have on cats; it is usually the first warning sign of a flea invasion. Doodles will scratch, nibble and lick at her fur in an attempt to rid herself of these pinhead-sized parasites.

Skin and Coat Problems

Incessant scratching and nibbling can cause your cat’s skin to become red and irritated. If your pet grooms herself to the extent that she cuts her skin, there is a risk that one of the wounds could become infected. Your kitty may also pull out lumps of hair in sheer irritation, leaving bald patches on her coat.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergies, known as flea allergic dermatitis, are triggered by flea saliva. This condition is more common in kitties aged up to 5 years, but felines of any age can develop an allergic reaction to fleas. The itching normally associated with fleas is exacerbated to a distressing extent for the poor cat who suffers from this condition, resulting in skin lesions and hair loss. Administering flea treatment regularly is the most effective solution for flea allergies, because just one or two flea bites can trigger an outbreak.

Fleas on Kittens

Fleas are like tiny, invisible vampires because they feed on cats’ blood. Kittens are particularly vulnerable to this onslaught because they are so small; the sustained loss of blood can leave them weak and anemic, and even kill them if the flea infestation isn’t treated. It’s important to consult your vet about effective flea treatments for your kitten, because most topical flea treatments are toxic to kittens younger than 8 weeks. One solution is to bathe a young kitten with baby shampoo, taking care to avoid his nose and eyes -- you can remove fleas from those areas with a pair of tweezers. Remove any remaining fleas with a flea comb once his fur has dried. Borax powder kill fleas and you can help to prevent re-infestation by sprinkling it on carpeting and soft furnishings. You can rid your kitten of fleas if you continue bathing and combing him two times a week for two weeks.

Tapeworm

The Dipylidium caninum tapeworm is an intestinal parasite transmitted by fleas that have eaten tapeworm eggs. If Buttons swallows an infected flea while grooming, the tapeworm hatches after the flea has been broken down by his digestive system. Tapeworms quickly multiply, laying their eggs in your pet’s intestines, causing weight loss and diarrhea, and robbing him of nutrients. Although it sounds nasty, tapeworms can easily be treated with an oral medication provided by your vet. Keep an eye out for those telltale rice-like grains, which contain the tapeworms eggs, usually found around your pet’s anus and in his litter box.

 

About the Author

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Burns began writing professionally in 1988. She has worked as a feature writer for various Irish newspapers, including the "Irish News," "Belfast News Letter" and "Sunday Life." Burns has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ulster as well as a Master of Research in arts.

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