It won’t be long before the chills of winter subside and make way for the warmer weather, when a pet owner’s thoughts turn to sunny skies and fleas. Yes, fleas. And it’s not just dogs that are affected by these tiny terrors. Cats, too, can suffer from the scourge of this little insect.
While the warmer months are a flea’s preferred time of year, over winter they are still active, slowly multiplying, ready to strike – fleas can survive for almost 12 months without a feed. When a female lays, her eggs can hide in dirt, soft furnishings, cracks and carpets for many months before they hatch. Once the warm weather hits, out they pop.
So, what now?
- Firstly, remember it’s important to treat your cats for fleas all year round, not just in the summer months.
- Regularly check for fleas. If your cat is affected she might have just one, so finding that flea in the haystack that is your cat’s coat is a hard ask. Look out for flea dirt, which look like little black specks. Comb your coat on a white surface – a big sheet of paper will do the trick – which will show up the dirt easily. Taking a smaller, damp piece of paper and patting it over the cat’s belly will also show up the dirt – if it’s flea dirt and not just ordinary dirt it will turn a reddish colour when wet.
- If your cat is scratching more than usual, or if she has red or dry patches on her skin, chances are she has fleas.
It’s really important to get on top of fleas quickly if your cat has them and keep up with preventative measures if she doesn’t. Ask your vet about preventative products such as flea control collars and spot treatments. Don’t ever use a flea product designed for dogs on your cat – these products can be highly toxic to cats. Regular grooming and cleaning of the cat’s environment also helps keep flea infestation at bay.
If you’ve found evidence of fleas, remember it’s important to treat the environment as well as the cat. Only five per cent of the flea population is actually on the animal. The other 95 per cent are the eggs, larvae and pupae that live in the pet’s environment. So if you find fleas, you’ll have to wash bedding and soft furnishings your cat uses, vacuum all floors and consider flea bombing the house. There are some nasty chemicals in these bombs so follow the instructions on the packaging to the letter. Pack away food, cover things like fish tanks and close cupboards, and stay out of the house for at least as many hours as the directions say. Get your pet a flea treatment to kill any existing fleas or eggs. Check with your vet if you are at all concerned about your pet or family. And remember sick, old and young pets can be sensitive to flea treatments.