For many cat owners, fleas are only something they worry about during the warm, humid months of summer and spring. But did you know that if you want to give your fabulous feline the best possible protection against fleas, you need to stay on top of flea prevention all year round?
While these tiny wingless parasites thrive in the warmer weather, their eggs can actually lay dormant for a long period of time. From your carpet to your furniture and even in your backyard, flea eggs can lie dormant for months and then hatch when the right conditions develop. And when you consider that a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, it becomes perfectly clear just how important year-round flea prevention is.
The flea life cycle
To give yourself the best possible chance of protecting your cat against fleas, you first need to understand the life cycle of these nasty little pests. Most pet owners are stunned to discover that the adult fleas they see on their cat or dog only represent around 5 per cent of the total flea population. The other 95 per cent live in the environment as eggs, larvae or pupae — and if your dog lives solely indoors (as most do), that means there could be a whole lot of fleas throughout your home.
The eggs they lay can get stuck in your kitty’s fur and also be transported to all manner of nooks and crannies around the home, while adult fleas boast leg power that would make even Olympic high jumpers jealous and which allows them to move from one animal to the next with ease.
Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of their host, which means they can make a meal of your cat. Itching, biting and constant scratching are the telltale signs of a flea problem, while running a comb through your pet’s fur may turn up tiny black flecks of flea dirt (droppings). And while fleas can be a minor irritant for some cats, other unfortunate felines are allergic to flea saliva — this is known as flea allergy dermatitis and it can cause extreme discomfort, non-stop scratching and fur and skin damage to your cat.
Extreme flea infestations can even lead to anaemia, so controlling these nasty parasites is paramount for any responsible cat owner.
Flea infestations can be a nightmare to get rid of, so the best plan of attack is to stop them from ever occurring in the first place. And although fleas love warm and humid conditions, it’s essential that your precious kitty is protected against fleas all year round.
Flea prevention products for cats come in many forms, including:
- Tablets — Comfortis, Capstar
- Sprays — Frontline, Aristopet
- Spot-on treatments —Advantage, Advocate, Frontline Plus, Revolution
- A huge selection of other options, including collars, powders and special shampoos
Some products, such as Advocate, also offer protection against intestinal worms and heartworms for your cat. Your vet will be able to help formulate the best overall parasite protection plan for your pet — just remember to stay on top of flea control all year long to prevent an infestation reoccurring.
Treating a flea infestation
Just because you treat your pet for fleas doesn’t mean you will get rid of a flea infestation — remember, around 95 per cent of fleas don’t even live on your pet!
As well as treating your furry friends for fleas, it’s crucial that you eradicate the fleas from your home. You can do this by:
- Vacuuming regularly to remove flea eggs from the carpet and other hidey-holes — don’t forget to vacuum the furniture and curtains as well
- Washing your pet’s bedding, rugs and blankets in hot water to get rid of flea eggs
- Using a good-quality flea bomb to kill the flea population living in your home. Alternatively, you might want to get a professional pest control company in and let the experts take care of the problem
With a good knowledge of how fleas work and a thorough approach to the task of eliminating them, you can rid your cat and your home of fleas — and make sure they never return!