Although the fleas seemingly appear overnight, getting rid of them can be a long and difficult process. You have to kill them on your pet and in your home, as well as take preventive measures to ensure that they won't return. But where to start?
While there are plenty of them on the market, it's best to skip the over-the-counter sprays, powders and flea collars. They're just not strong enough, and they may also contain chemicals that are toxic to your pet as well as the humans in your house. Discuss treatment options with your vet. He or she can prescribe medication (usually administered by mouth, topically to the skin or by injection) to both kill adult fleas and destroy their ability to reproduce. These medications are usually given to the cat on a monthly basis. Some have the additional benefit of helping prevent heartworm, ear mites and intestinal parasite infestation. All pets in the house have to be on some type of flea control medication for it to work. This will be more expensive than using the over-the-counter products, but a prescription medication will work better and faster, it will last longer.
If you just treat your cat, any fleas not killed will abandon ship (remember their astounding jumping ability) for a new host or hide out until the treatment wears off. Evict fleas from your home by thoroughly vacuuming all floors and upholstery, and then immediately dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag. Wash all bedding and linens in hot water. Clean up the yard and prevent wildlife from re-infecting it by trimming brush and removing food sources, such as pet food bowls, garbage cans and bird feeders. You may also want to ask your vet about insecticide foggers that treat the entire house, or get pest control services if you have a particularly bad infestation. Even if you've been successful in killing every flea, there can still be eggs left behind. You'll probably have to repeat treatments again to catch these stragglers as they hatch out.
Cats that go outdoors are almost guaranteed to pick up fleas again. Fleas can also be transferred to indoor cats by the family dog, or through open windows and doors. Regular, preventive flea treatment in your home will help prevent a sneak attack. In areas that have cold winters, outdoor fleas die off (although untreated indoor infestations can last year-round). In warm and humid regions, however, flea season is a year-round event.
With diligence, your cat's flea infestation will soon be a thing of the past.
- ASPCA. "Cat Care: Fleas." ASPCA. 2011. (April 17, 2011)http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/fleas.aspx
- Companion Animal Parasite Control. "Fleas on Cats." CAPC. 2011. (April 17, 2011)http://www.petsandparasites.org/cat-owners/fleas.html
- Eldredge, Debra M., et al. "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook." Howell Book House. Dec. 10, 2007.
- Griffin, Morgan R. "Natural Insect Control: Flea and Tick Treatments for Pets." WebMD. Sept. 25, 2009. (April 17, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/health-ehome-9/flea-tick-control-for-pets