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Maintaining a  Flea-Free Cat or Kitten

Fleas are a common problem for cat owners. Not only are these tiny pests extremely annoying, they can also cause flea-bite anemia, flea-bite dermatitis and tapeworm infestation. Therefore, flea control is an important step in maintaining your catís overall well-being.

Use a flea comb to search for adult fleas residing in your catís fur. You can also check for flea dirt by combing your cat over a clean white paper towel. Flea dirt is actually flea feces and is comprised of digested blood. Flea dirt looks like black pepper specks that may cause white paper towels to turn red when wet.

Fleas ingest blood and a heavy infestation could lead to flea-bite anemia. Flea bite anemia can be very serious and even life threateningóespecially for debilitated cats or young kittens. If your cat is heavily infested with fleas, appears weak or has pale gums, she may have flea bite anemia. If you have a hunch she does, you should seek veterinary assistance immediately.

For successful flea control, both infested pets and the premises need to be treated with insecticides. There are many formulations such as flea shampoos, flea dips, flea sprays, flea powders, flea collars, flea spot-ons and oral treatments that can help you in your flea battle. Your veterinarian can advise you on a specific plan of attack, but here are some general guidelines to remember:

  • Never use insecticides on very young kittens, pregnant queens, debilitated, sick or elderly cats without consulting your veterinarian. 
  • Before using any flea product on your cat or in your catís home, read and follow the label instructions completely. 
  • When using a flea fogger or a home premise spray, make sure to remove all pets from the house for the time period specified on the container. Food and water bowls should also be removed from the area during treatment. 

Flea-bite anemia
Fleas are like tiny vampires that feed on the blood of cats. Of course, one flea canít do too much damage, but with heavy infestations fleas can even ingest enough blood to cause anemia. Anemia is the physical state of having a low number of blood cells and it can be fatal. Young puppies, small breeds, or sick animals may be more prone to severe effects associated with anemia. Symptoms of flea-bite anemia include weakness, pale gums and lethargy. If you suspect your cat has anemia, see your veterinarian immediately (a good rule whenever something serious seems to be happening). Treatment of anemia often includes blood transfusions and intensive supportive care, but with quick attention, an anemic cat can be brought back to full health.

Flea-bite allergies
Constant itching and scratching are clear signs that something unpleasant is happening to your canine crony, but it may be more complicated than some annoying fleas. Some cats develop a severe allergic skin condition called flea-allergy dermatitis. Flea-allergy dermatitis occurs if your cat has an allergic reaction to the fleaís saliva. Symptoms seen in cats with flea allergies include scratching (of course), chewing, licking, red, irritated skin and hair loss. Your veterinarian can diagnose flea allergies with an intradermal skin test and put an end to the problem.

As if the itching and the allergies werenít enough, fleas containing tapeworm eggs (Dipylidium caninum) can transmit a tapeworm infection to your cat when the flea is ingested. Tapeworm Tabs for Cats are now available without prescription.  After being ingested, the tapeworm egg matures into an adult tapeworm that is segmented and can be 6 inches or more in length. While the flea clings to the outside, the tapeworm hooks on to your catís intestinal lining and absorbs nutrients that are passing through the intestinal tract. The segments contain eggs that are passed through the catís intestinal tract and expelled from the body with the stool. Tapeworm segments look like pieces of rice and can be found wriggling around the catís anus or present in the stool. Though theyíre tiny, tapeworms can ultimately lead to weight loss and debilitation for the cat.


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