Warm weather is a paradise for cat fleas and ticks. Being a school teacher the summer is the greatest season for me and my family, however it can be miserable for your cat. At best fleas can make you kitty scratchy and uncomfortable. They are not just annoying when they bite, but they can spread deadly diseases and parasites through the salvia they inject to keep their victims’ blood from coagulating.
The most common flea on both dogs and cats is Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea. Understanding the life cycle allows you to better target the use of control products.
Adult cat fleas will spend their entire life on your cat. When this critter hops on, they instantly begin feeding on blood, which is rapidly digested. The excretions of blood will dry into reddish- black fecal pellets that are called “flea dirt”. After feeding it will mate and females begin producing eggs 24 to 48 hours later. The Female can lay between 20-50 eggs a day. Eggs will fall off the coat and accumulate in areas where your cat sleeps and naps. Larvae hatch in 1 to 6 days and will avoid light by burrowing into carpets and cracks in hardwood floors. The flea larvae feed on organic remains including the flea dirt that falls from your cats’ fur. After 5 to 11 days the larvae spin a cocoon and transform into a pupae. After 21 to 35 days the adults will emerge from the cocoon and wait for a cat to walk by. After hitching a ride on your kitty the cycle begins again. The entire flea cycle takes between 3 to 6 weeks.
These cat fleas can cause severe irritation in cats. While dogs usually bite or scratch, cats will use their barbed tongues to remove them or sharp claw to scratch them often causing abrasions on the skin.
One of the most common skin disorders in dogs and cats is flea allergic dermatitis (FAD). The flea salvia contains proteins that can induce a hypersensitivity reaction. This allergic reaction can cause severe itching and cause crusty patches and hair loss on their neck and face.
Since fleas feed on blood, they can cause life threatening anemia if severally infested, especially in kittens.
They are also responsible for transmitting tapeworms to cats. These cat fleas are the intermediate host of the tapeworm. This means that the tapeworm is unable to complete its life cycle without fleas. The flea larvae feed on tapeworm eggs. After it becomes an adult and bites the cat, the cat will lick itself and ingest the flea. As the cat digests the flea, the tapeworm egg hatches and attaches to the lining of the intestine.
There are many products that are used to treat the pet and its environment at various phases of the fleas’ life cycle. This includes sprays, dips, powders, flea collars, medicated shampoos, and room foggers all targeted to kill fleas at the egg, larval, pupa, and adult stages. These products often fail to be effective when applied during the wrong life cycle and are often required to be repeated. They can also be potentially dangerous if used inappropriately or in combination with incompatible products. The best flea control products are the one-spot products. These products are much easier and more effective and can be applied topically once a month for long lasting control. For cat flea prevention your veterinarian can recommend one of several brands currently on the market. These products typically come in a small tube and are dabbed directly onto the cats’ skin on the back of the neck once a month. The active ingredient spreads across the entire animal and kills flea adults by impairing the nervous system before they can lay eggs and bite and irritate your cat. Remember to select only products labeled as safe for cats. Do not use products that are intended for dogs for they may be too strong and be fatal to cats. Never use any product on kittens unless you ask your vet first. Veterinarians will have dosage levels appropriate for kittens.
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