Fleas are unwelcome, unpleasant pests for our pets. Even when the fleas are finally dead and gone, your feline friend may still have evidence of their visit in the form of flea dirt. Luckily, flea dirt is much easier to get rid of than fleas.
The Life of an Adult Flea on Your Cat
Fleas are one of the world's peskiest animals. The fleas you see on your cat are adult fleas, which are only about 5 percent of the flea population in an environment. The other fleas are scattered about as eggs, larvae or pupae. Adult fleas generally live two to four weeks, although in a hospitable environment they may live up to four months. During the time the adult flea is on your cat, he will bite your feline friend up to 400 times a day. During those bites, a flea can consume up to his full body weight in your kitty's blood. Female fleas will also lay eggs constantly, which fall off of your kitty and are scattered throughout your environment.
Flea Dirt is Flea Waste
Flea dirt is the nice name for flea waste. Flea dirt looks like tiny flakes of black pepper on your cat's fur and skin. These tiny black flakes are actually flea excrement and consist mostly of digested blood. Many cats will groom themselves to remove the flea dirt, but if your kitty's flea problem is severe, she may not be able to keep up with the problem. If you aren't sure if what you are seeing is flea dirt or not, wipe your cat with a damp paper towel. Since flea dirt is made of mostly digested blood, it will turn blood red when it comes in contact with water. If it turns red on the paper towel, you've got your confirmation.
Fleas are Gone But Dirt Isn't
Flea dirt will stick around on your cat even after you have killed all of the fleas. Although the dirt is not as dangerous as the fleas themselves, this unwanted reminder of the fleas may irritate your feline friend's skin or cause stomach upset from grooming. The most effective way to get rid of the flea dirt is to give your cat a bath. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, so be prepared for a struggle. If you have just given her topical flea medication, wait at least 48 hours before trying a bath. If the bath is too stressful for you or for your cat, try rubbing your cat with a damp towel or brushing her with a soft, moist brush. Both of these methods will help clear the flea dirt from your cat. In mild cases of fleas, your cat may take care of the flea dirt herself through her regular grooming.
Controlling Fleas After the Dirt is Gone
The key to getting rid of flea dirt permanently is to get rid of the fleas. As long as your cat is hosting any of these irritating pests, you'll see the evidence on her skin and fur. One of the most effective methods of controlling fleas for an indoor cat is to comb her every day with a flea comb. If you see more than two or three fleas in any one combing session, you should talk with your vet about monthly preventative options like Advantage or Revolution. Don't use the inexpensive medications or flea collars, as both can be dangerous for your cat and the rest of your family. You can also try alternative flea control products, such as diatomaceous earth or peppermint oil. Many health food stores, organic gardening stores or independent pet stores carry natural flea control products and can help you learn how to use them.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.