Methods to eliminate cat fleas: Determine infestation and deal with with house cures

Sep 22, 2022 1:37 pm EDT

How to get rid of cat fleas: Identify infestation and treat with home remedies

By Aline Neißner, Evan Williams

Cat fleas are particularly nasty little buggers and, if left untreated, can make your cat very ill. There are a few home remedies that can help you with a flea infestation, so let’s take a look at how to get rid of cat fleas and what signs to look out for.

Cat fleas can be transmitted to humans and other pets. © 123rf / Zdravinjo

Cat fleas are one of the most common parasites infecting our beloved pets. They’re nasty little things that nest in their fur and skin, feeding on tiny particles of skin and blood. If left untreated, these critters can cause serious health problems, both physical and mental.

Free-ranging cats are likely to bring home fleas at least once in their lives, which can have far-reaching implications if it becomes a household infestation that affects humans. It is a serious and very uncomfortable pain.

As always, the TAG24 cat guide is here to help! We’ll go over how to get rid of cat fleas, what to look out for, and steps you can take to prevent an infestation in the first place.

On the run? Here’s a quick TL;DR:

  • Typical symptoms of a cat infested with fleas are itching, skin sores and small black spots on the fur.
  • In the event of an infestation, you should seek professional treatment from your veterinarian. Flea collars and flea combs are also the best choices for getting rid of them.
  • There are a variety of effective anti-flea sprays that can be quickly made from common household ingredients.
  • Prevent fleas with proper hygiene and consistent anti-flea treatment.

How can you tell if a cat has fleas?

Only about five percent of the flea population are adults.

Only about five percent of the flea population are adults. © 123RF / Thamkc

Cat fleas are absolutely tiny, so it’s hard to see with the naked eye (we’ll get to that in a moment). Since they are only a few millimeters in size, it can be much easier to look out for symptoms of a flea infestation than the tiny critters themselves.

Here is a selection of flea bite symptoms in cats:

  • Itching: Flea bites leave small red spots on the skin that often cause severe itching. Your kitty will scratch more than Baloo in Disney’s Jungle Book, which is pretty hard to miss.
  • Skin Wounds: All that scratching eventually leads to skin abrasions. These can become infected and cause other serious health problems.
  • Change of coat: Another consequence of the severe itching caused by flea bites is that your cat’s coat can become brittle and start shedding. Bald patches can appear, which is not good at all.
  • Allergic Skin Reactions: Some cats can have severe allergic reactions to flea bites because fleas also transmit foreign objects and disease. Severe itching, but also swelling, skin rashes, pustules and redness can be the result.
  • Black Spots: If you notice small black spots on your cat, it’s most likely flea droppings. You may notice that these crumbs turn red if you crush them and then moisten them. That’s because they’re mostly made up of undigested blood.
  • Restless Behavior: A flea infestation is very uncomfortable for your kitten, causing them to become incredibly restless, anxious, and irritable.
  • Fleas in the Fur: Small as they are, you might occasionally catch a glimpse of a flea petting it, or even see it in its fur. Even if you see even a slight movement in your cat’s fur, it could indicate the presence of fleas.

In general, however, it’s best to keep an eye out for symptoms, which are much easier to spot.

What do fleas look like with the naked eye?

Fleas are small parasites, typically about a tenth of an inch (2-3 millimeters) long. They are wingless, thin, and have brown to reddish-brown bodies. A flea’s body is covered in hair that helps it move on its host. One thing they’re famous for is they jump like hell, which gives them away on occasion.

Treatments against cat flea

When dealing with a flea infestation, you should first treat your kitten with an appropriate antiparasitic.

When dealing with a flea infestation, you should first treat your kitten with an appropriate antiparasitic. © 123RF / Goodluz

Cats should be treated for any flea infestation as not only do these parasites spread incredibly quickly between hosts, but they can cause serious health problems if left to eat.

They can cause serious animal-to-animal transmission of diseases, including worm infections, typhus, and meningitis.

Fun fact: It’s widely believed that fleas were actually the main cause of transmission of bubonic plague – or the Black Plague – across Europe in the 1340s. The fleas were mainly carried by rats that landed on merchant ships.

It’s important that you not only treat your cat, but also your home and anything your kitten has come into contact with.

Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • Use spot-on preparations: Apply these drops directly to the cat’s skin. Make sure that your pet cannot reach the treated area with its tongue – preferably on the neck!
  • Use a flea collar: Put a flea collar on your cat. These devices contain a selection of ingredients that are released regularly in low doses and then spread as a layer of fat on your cat’s skin. This kills fleas and prevents new infestations.
  • Use a Flea Comb: Use a flea comb to remove fleas and their eggs, pupae, larvae, and feces. Yes, your kitty will probably protest. It’s worth it, though, so put on gloves, apologize in advance, and comb the grain to minimize the inconvenience.

If you think your cat has a flea infestation, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. To avoid spreading, don’t bring your cat in right away, call first and get advice.

How to get rid of cat fleas with home remedies

There are a variety of home remedies that can help control flea infestations in your cat and home. These essential oils or certain plants are said to put an end to these blood-sucking pests. Let’s take a look at a few options and assess if home remedies are the way to go.

If you don't treat a cat properly for fleas, it can become infected repeatedly.

If you don’t treat a cat properly for fleas, it can become infected repeatedly. © 123rf / Vailery

vinegar and lemon spray

Ingredients and preparation: For this flea spray, mix 8.5 ounces of water, 50 ounces of household vinegar, and 5 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake vigorously.

Directions: Spray this vinegar-lemon solution on your cat when infested with fleas. Hold your nose and apply to furniture and clothing as well.

Essential Oils

Ingredients and Preparation: For this blend, mix together 8.5 ounces of water and various essential oils. Tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and lemon oil are particularly suitable, of which around 10 drops each help with a flea infestation. Pour into water and pour into a spray bottle.

Application: Spray the cat gently with this mixture, being careful not to get it in the eyes.

Keep in mind: Some oils are toxic to cats and should not be used. Check with your vet beforehand or use another option if you’re concerned.

Rosemary Lemon Spray

Ingredients and Preparation: Boil about 34 ounces of water along with a finely chopped lemon (including zest) and a handful of fresh or dried rosemary. Simmer for about fifteen minutes and then let cool for at least two hours or until cold. Pour the mixture through a sieve to catch the rosemary and add a few drops of geranium or tea tree oil before pouring into a spray bottle.

Directions: Reapply this spray to your cat and any furniture that may have been affected. This remedy also works on infected people. Make sure you leave the mixture on for at least 20 minutes before rinsing it out.

Remember: Home remedies are not nearly as effective as using a medicinal solution. We recommend avoiding at-home solutions and instead seeking advice from your veterinarian.

How to prevent fleas on cats and in the home

Flea larvae hide in beds, furniture and carpets.  These should be cleaned thoroughly after an infestation.

Flea larvae hide in beds, furniture and carpets. These should be cleaned thoroughly after an infestation. © 123rf / Lipsky

Treating and preventing cat fleas can be a lengthy and difficult process and is often not enough to prevent an infestation. The biggest problem with fleas is that they spread quickly, infesting furniture, other animals, and even people. Therefore, it is best to discourage them from settling in your pet’s fur from the start.

To effectively prevent cat fleas, try these methods:

  • Thoroughly clean your home regularly.
  • Dispose of all vacuum cleaner bags in the household waste immediately after vacuuming.
  • Change your bed linen regularly, at least once or twice a week.
  • When washing your sheets and bedspreads, make sure the temperature is set to at least 60°C.
  • Wash cat beds and blankets regularly, even at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Spray and comb your cat’s coat regularly, preferably daily.
  • Treat your furniture and scratching posts with an anti-flea spray.
  • Put non-washable fabrics in the freezer for a few days if you are worried about a possible flea infestation.

You should regularly treat your cat with anti-flea medication, which will be provided and prescribed by your veterinarian. Follow the directions and speak to your veterinarian. This is the most important tip.

Cat fleas can be a real pain

Cat fleas can be dangerous as they are a major vector of diseases and nasty infections. That being said, don’t freak out if you get an infestation. It is quite normal and can be treated relatively easily.

Groom your cat regularly, check for fleas and make sure you take appropriate measures to protect them. If you play it safe and consult your vet regularly, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with these nasty little critters.

Cover photo: 123rf / Zdravinjo

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