Fleas are the bane of every cat owner’s existence -- and they’re no fun for the cat either! Some cats are hypersensitive to flea bites and develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) and will scratch and bite their skin, causing hair loss and sores. Fortunately, there are home remedies to relieve symptoms and prevent future problems.
Is It a Flea Allergy?
While FAD is fairly common in cats, food or other environmental allergies can cause similar symptoms. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, most FAD cases occur in late summer, which is the peak season for fleas. It is also rare for a cat to develop FAD before 1 year of age. If you do have evidence of fleas, either on your cat or in your home, and have ruled out other possible causes, the cat most likely has FAD. Remember, if your cat is excessively licking his fur, you might not find actual evidence of fleas on his coat because he’s licked them all off!
According to veterinarian Terri McGinnis, frequent bathing (once or twice per week) can help control the symptoms of FAD and also prevents secondary infections. Use a gentle, hypoallergenic soap, such as castile soap or baby shampoo. If Kitty’s skin gets too dry from the bathing, add a small amount of bath oil. Human bath oils are fine, as long as they are hypoallergenic.
There are also natural supplements that can help make your cat less “palatable” to a flea’s taste buds. Diane Stein, author of "The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats," recommends adding a teaspoon of nutritional yeast to your cat’s food daily, along with a pinch of fresh garlic. This combination is thought to create an unpleasant taste in the blood, which is what those nasty fleas feed on.
Practicing good flea control is essential to combating FAD. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends washing all your bedding and carriers and vacuuming the areas under and around your cat’s favorite sleeping areas. Don’t forget to vacuum under furniture and beds. Cats love to nap in small, hidden areas, and these are considered prime real estate to fleas!
While these remedies can be effective alternatives to prescription medication, always consult a veterinarian if your cat’s condition worsens or fails to improve. If any of these remedies makes your cat’s skin worse, immediately discontinue the treatment and call your veterinarian.
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Fleas and Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Introduction
- The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats; Diane Stein
- The Well Cat Book; Terri McGinnis DVM
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images