Fleas are a pesky parasite that cause our pets to be uncomfortably itchy. But for kittens, fleas can be dangerous to their health. In young kittens especially, fleas can cause anemia, so acting quickly to get rid of fleas may save your furball's life.
The safest way to get rid of fleas from your kitten is to use a flea comb. Flea combs will remove a large percentage of the fleas, especially the larger adult fleas. Fleas can jump quickly from the comb, so have a small bowl or glass of water with dish soap ready. After you run the comb through your kitten, dunk it in the soapy water to kill the fleas. Be sure to wipe the comb off before combing your kitten again, so she doesn't get covered in soapy water.
24-Hour Internal Flea Bomb
If your kitten is at least 2 pounds and 4 weeks old, you can use Capstar, which is like a 24-hour internal flea bomb. Capstar is an oral medication and is available for pets under 25 pounds or over 25 pounds. The medication in Capstar is nitenpyram, which begins to kill the fleas on your kitten as quickly as 30 minutes after dosing. Capstar only stays in your kitten's body for 24 hours, so it's not a good choice for long-term flea control. But it is safe to use more often than most of the other flea medications and is a great choice if your kitten has a severe flea problem. Be sure to follow both the age and weight guidelines closely, as some adverse effects have been reported in kittens younger than 4 weeks or under 2 pounds.
Diatomaceous Earth for Flea and Worm Control
One of the safest flea control products for kittens is diatomaceous earth. This fine powder is made from fossilized algae and kills fleas by dehydrating them through their exoskeleton. Most fleas die within 24 hours. Diatomaceous earth can be used directly on your kitten, as well as in your home and yard. As an added bonus, diatomaceous earth is not only safe if your kitten eats it, but it also works as a natural dewormer. If you choose diatomaceous earth, be sure to use only the food grade and not the kind used in pool filters, which is not safe for pets.
Flea Control Medications
There are several long-term options for medications for flea control, depending on the age of your kitten. Advantage, Frontline and Revolution are all topical flea medicines that can be used in kittens as early as 6 weeks old, depending on the manufacturer's guidelines. All three medications kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs. Program is an oral medication that does not kill adult fleas, but does prevent eggs and larvae from developing. It can be used on kittens who are 6 weeks old and works well in conjunction with Capstar to control fleas.
Flea baths can be an option for getting rid of your kitten's fleas, but should not be used as a first line of attack. Kittens, especially very young kittens, do not have a lot of body fat and can quickly develop hypothermia after a bath. In severe cases, the loss of body temperature can be life-threatening. If you do choose to give your kitten a flea bath, use a natural flea shampoo rather than a shampoo with heavy pesticides. You can also use Dawn dishwashing liquid to kill the fleas. Be sure to wash all of the shampoo off of your kitten after the bath and have a plan to keep her warm for several hours until she is completely dry.
Flea Control Products to Avoid
Some topical flea products, especially those available at grocery stores or large pet stores, can be dangerous for cats. According to veterinarian Jill Richardson of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, flea products using permethrin pose serious health risks for cats, causing tremors, seizures and even death. Research done by the Natural Resources Defense Council has shown that the pesticides in flea collars are also dangerous for both cats and people, and should be avoided. Even if these products do kill the fleas, their side effects are too dangerous.
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.
- Cat World: Removing Fleas From Newborn Kittens
- Pet Informed: Flea control for Kittens - A Guide to Treating Fleas on Kittens
- Care2: All-Around Non-Toxic Flea Control
- WebMD: Natural Insect Control: Flea and Tick Treatments for Pets
- ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center: Permethrin Hazards for Cats