One of the few living creatures able to sneak past a cat's ever watchful eye, fleas can cause your feline to spend her days scratching and licking. But don't think that your cat's the only victim in this blood-sucking game -- humans are in play too.
Scratching and Licking
If your cat sends a fury of swipes at her ear, she may just have an itch to scratch. But if her scratching turns into what seems like an addiction, and she's constantly licking her belly, legs and any other part of her body she can reach, fleas are likely the culprit. But fleas don't take solace in only pestering a cat; they'll jump onto your other pets and even your own skin. You might not notice a few fleas biting you, but if an infestation occurs, you'll likely be next to your cat, mimicking her scratching.
Evidence of a flea problem manifests itself in physical marks as well. Small red bumps or lesions that appear on your cat's skin for seemingly no reason often indicate a flea problem, although excessive scratching from dry skin can also cause lesions to appear. When enough fleas appear and decide your cat isn't good enough, they'll begin leaving behind tiny red bumps, mostly on your legs and ankles. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension explains that one puncture hole will appear in the middle of the bump, unlike other pests which leave two puncture holes or cause considerably larger bumps.
Appearance of Fleas
Regardless of all the other symptoms, finding the parasites is the smoking gun. Fleas are small, but not microscopic, usually between 1/12 and 1/8 inch long. Inspecting your cat's belly is the easiest way to spot them. They can't fly, only jump, which is why they usually only bite humans on the ankles and legs. Flea traps also reveal the parasites courtesy of a sticky pad.
Prevention and Management
Applying topical flea medication or giving it to your cat orally are the two best options to prevent the high-jumping parasites from invading your house. If your cat's only battling a few fleas, daily brushing with a metal flea comb will remove the pests, but won't prevent more from hunkering down inside your house. A vacuum will suck up flea eggs and some adults, while submerging pet beds in hot water with a bit of soap will help keep them flea-free. If your house falls under an all-out attack, the University of California's Integrated Pest Management program suggests spraying flea-affected areas -- such as carpet and baseboards -- with flea insecticides.
- Tabby cat taking a cat nap on a pair of shoes image by mario beauregard from Fotolia.com