Q/Oh no! My indoor-only cat somehow got fleas. How could this have happened, and how can I prevent it from happening again?
— Concerned in California
Fleas find their way into many
homes where cats purportedly
never leave. What happens?
It seems those six-legged bloodsuckers don’t notice the “Please
Take Off Your Shoes” sign as they
race into your home on a dog —
perhaps after a romp at the dog
park; infest your yard courtesy of
a visiting cat, who delivers these
heinous hitchhikers to your doorstep from across the street; or jump
through an open door or window,
and makes themselves at home.
Lonely and bored at first roaming
around carpet fibers rather than
hair, the flea hops aboard a passing
cat (or human) and takes a blood
meal so that it can reproduce. You
think rabbits can reproduce — the
female flea can produce 50 eggs per
day, and soon has a lot of company.
See one flea in your home and don’t
feel too worried? Be worried! Flea
populations are evenly distributed,
with about 50 percent being eggs;
35 percent larvae; 10 percent pupae;
and 5 percent adults.
So what harm can these pesky
parasites cause? Plenty, it turns out.
“Diseases associated with fleas are
well-known, such as dermatitis due
to an allergic response,” said Susan
Little, D.V.M., DABVP, president of
the American Association of Feline
Practitioners. “Fleas themselves also
carry diseases that can be trans-
mitted to cats, such as infectious
anemia (Mycoplasma haemofelis).
People are at risk of cat scratch
disease caused by exposure to
Bartonella bacteria found in the
feces of fleas.”
If you suspect that fleas have
made themselves comfy in your
home, break out that flea comb.
“Many owners are often unaware
that their cats are suffering from
a flea infestation. The easiest way
to confirm if your cat has fleas
is to use a flea comb and gently
comb the cat’s fur, moving from the
head/neck area toward (and) to
the tail,” said Craig Prior, BVSc, CVJ,
president-elect of the Companion
Animal Parasite Council and medical director/president at Murphy
Road Animal Hospital in Tennessee.
“Remember, you’re only seeing 5 percent of the
flea population. Only
THE VET IS IN BY DR. MARTY BECKER, CHIEF VETERINARY
CORRESPONDENT, CATSTER MAGAZINE
Can I Use My Dog’s Flea
Control Meds on My Cat?
“Cats are not small, fuzzy dogs when it
comes to insecticides. There are some ingredients that are safe for dogs that can be
deadly for cats. Always read and follow label
directions when it comes to using flea products
on your dogs or cats.”
— Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’
Animal Poison Control Center
Get Fleas to Flee ...
and Not Come Back
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