Fleas are a common parasite in cats of all ages. Ticks are found predominantly in bushy areas, and in the warmer months of the year. However, even cat owners who live in suburbia can’t be complacent; some animals have been affected by ticks without having left their back yard.
Your cat’s health can be adversely affected by fleas and ticks, and they need to be treated regularly to keep them free from these little blood sucking parasites. The difficulty is that cats are more sensitive to insecticidal chemicals than dogs are, so you must only treat your feline friend with products that are registered for use in that species.
THE EFFECT OF FLEAS AND TICKS ON CATS
Some cats don’t seem to be terribly affected by fleas. They may scratch a little when they get bitten, and that’s as far as it goes.
Others can develop an allergic reaction to flea bites, which causes a severe itch. The condition known as miliary eczema or miliary dermatitis can be due to flea allergy. This is characterised by small crusty sores all over a cat’s body, often accompanied by hair loss.
If your cat has a lot of fleas, he may lose enough blood to become anaemic. Small kittens in particular are susceptible to flea anaemia, and it can be fatal.
Fleas also spread tapeworms in cats, which don’t cause serious illness but can make your cat’s bottom itchy.
Ticks are much more dangerous. They inject a toxin while they feed that causes paralysis and death. The first thing you’ll notice is that your cat’s meow sounds a little strange and he appears weak in his hind legs. Paralysis progresses until he is no longer able to walk, and eventually he won’t be able to breathe.
PREVENTING FLEA AND TICK INFESTATIONS
When you’re looking for products to keep your cat free from fleas and ticks, it’s absolutely essential that you only use products that are safe for him. Don’t be tempted to use dog products on him, because they can make him seriously ill.
Although there are fewer options for treating external parasites in cats, there are still several safe and effective products for you to choose from.
- Frontline Plus and Advantage are both liquids that are applied to the back of your cat’s neck once a month. They are very effective at killing fleas and are easy to use.
- Revolution and Advocate are similar products, but have the added advantage of controlling intestinal worms and heartworm too.
- Fido’s Fre-Itch Rinse can be applied to your cat’s fur and allowed to dry. The main disadvantage of this product is that most cats don’t enjoy a bath, and it can be difficult to thoroughly wet them.
There are really only two products you can use for tick control in cats: Fido’s Fre-Itch Rinse and Frontline spray. Both should be used three- weekly to keep your cat safe.
WHEN FLEAS TAKE OVER
If you find that your cat is being over-run by fleas or has picked up a few ticks on his travels around your neighbourhood, then you need to act fast.
Fleas can be brought under control by giving your cat a Capstar tablet. These kill fleas within 30 minutes and before you know it, your cat will be completely flea-free. Couple this with a topical treatment for longer lasting control.
The fleas you see on your cat are only 1% of your problem, with the remaining 98% of your home’s flea population in the form of eggs, larvae and pupae. You won’t get anywhere with your flea control if you don’t tackle them too. Purchase a can of insecticidal spray or an insecticidal fogger that contains an insect growth regulator. This will prevent the immature fleas developing into blood sucking adults.
If you happen to find a tick on your cat, then remove it immediately with a pair of fine tipped tweezers. Put the tweezers between the tick and your cat’s skin, and pull firmly. Don’t worry if the mouthparts are left behind; his body will treat them just like a splinter and they will eventually work their way out.
Both fleas and ticks will bite humans, causing itchy red lumps on your skin. People can also develop paralysis from the bite of a tick but this isn’t very common.
KEEP YOUR CAT FLEA AND TICK FREE
Your cat doesn’t need to suffer the discomfort and ill health associated with a flea and tick problem. It can be hard work keeping them under control, but it’s worth it to keep your cat safe and well.
Whatever product you choose to control fleas and ticks on your much loved feline family member, use them exactly as directed, and as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
If you are using flea products regularly and still having problems with fleas, we recommend you reading our article focused on getting rid of fleas in the environment as well as the pet.