Flea and Tick Prevention, Treatment, and Information for Cats
Fleas and ticks are tiny parasites that feed on your cat’s blood through their skin. They are a concern to veterinarians because not only can they cause severe irritation to your cat’s skin, but they can also transmit diseases to you and your cat. Every cat’s risk of picking up external parasites will be different and depend upon factors such as:
- Whether they go outside or are indoors-only cats
- Where in the country they live
- Whether there are other animals in the household that spend time outdoors
Flea and tick prevention for cats is one of the easiest and most valuable ways you can ensure the highest quality of life for your favorite feline friend. Contact a local veterinarian to help you determine your cat’s risk factors, as well as the best course of prevention for your pet and family.
Fleas are parasites that jump onto animals passing by and make their way down below the fur and onto the skin of your cat. There, they will bite and ingest the blood from their bites. Their bites are very irritating to your cat, causing itching and inflammation. Some cats also have a severe reaction to the fleas’ saliva and develop a skin condition called flea allergy dermatitis.
Fleas can carry diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, and Bartonella, which can be transmitted to humans. Fleas can also carry tapeworm eggs, and those tapeworms can then infect your cat when they groom themselves and ingest a flea.
The diagnosis of cat fleas is usually straightforward. It’s not uncommon for veterinary staff to see a flea jump off your cat or move around in the fur. If fleas don’t immediately make their presence known, then your veterinarian will look through your cat’s fur down to the level of the skin or use a fine-toothed comb that will pick up any fleas that may be present. Flea dirt is often also visible near your cat’s skin and will also be picked up with the flea comb. Flea dirt looks like tiny black specks of sand and can be differentiated from regular dirt by dissolving it with a drop of water. If it is flea dirt, a reddish-brown color is produced; the color is from the digested blood meal.
There are many products available for the prevention and treatment of fleas. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about what products are safe to use for cat flea treatment. Never use a flea and tick product designed for dogs - they are toxic and even potentially deadly for cats without prompt medical treatment. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you accidentally applied a dog flea preventative treatment to your cat.
Ticks are less common in cats than fleas because cats’ fastidious grooming will often remove ticks before they can attach. However, they can be found in places cats can’t reach, such as the top of the head and the back of the neck. Once the tick’s mouthparts are attached to your cat’s skin, they begin feeding on your cat and become engorged with your cat’s blood. During the feeding process, they inject their saliva into your cat’s skin and, thus, can transmit diseases to your cat.
The diagnosis of ticks is also straightforward. Ticks on cats can be identified on sight as a grayish swollen nodule attached to the skin at a single point. The size of the tick will depend on how long it was attached and feeding, but it can grow as large as a small pea.
Once attached, the tick needs to be carefully removed. It is especially important to get the mouthparts of the tick that are embedded in the skin because if they are left behind, they can cause irritation. It is also important not to squeeze the tick when removing it. Your veterinarian has the tools to safely remove attached ticks from your cat and ensure that all parts of the tick have been removed. They may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent any possible infection.
Both fleas and ticks can transmit serious diseases to your cat, and some of those diseases could also be passed to you. Thankfully, flea and tick prevention for cats is possible by using one of the many safe parasite preventatives available. Each works slightly differently, so be sure to schedule an appointment to properly address cat fleas and ticks.