Fleas, or Ctenocephalides felis are the most common external parasites in cats and dogs. Spring is often the peak of flea infestation: it's time to protect your pet!
Learn all about the cycle of the flea
Adult fleas live on cats to feed and reproduce. Two days after mating, the female flea begins laying eggs. It can lay 30 to 50 eggs per day! With the eggs, it also deposits a large amount of feces ("flea droppings "), consisting of digested blood. These eggs do not remain on the animal, they fall off quickly. Two days after, on average, the larvae hatches and begin feeding on feces left by the mother flea.
The larvae goes through several stages of development before forming a cocoon and pupate. The cycle is very similar to that of a butterfly! An adult emerges when it detects vibrations, carbon dioxide, or heat, which are signs that a host animal is nearby. The entire life cycle takes about 15 days, but the pupa can remain dormant for up to two years in inhospitable conditions (eg, cold). Fleas like the heat and humidity.
How do I know if my cat has fleas?
Flea bites cause itching, so your cat will scratch and lick themselves vigorously. Some cats develop an allergy to flea saliva, called Flea Allergy Dermatitis which can cause severe skin lesions with hair loss, redness and even ulceration. In kittens, fleas can cause anemia.
The diagnosis of a flea infestation can be done by viewing fleas crawling on or near the animal, or the detection of small black balls on the bristles that are "flea droppings". The use of a flea comb may facilitate visualization of these fragments.
How to fight against fleas?
Adult fleas spend most of their time on the animal, but the eggs, larvae and pupae are found in abundance in the environment (carpets, rugs, between baseboards,... ). For each flea you see on your pet, there are hundreds of eggs and larvae in your home!
It is therefore important to treat both the environment and your cat.
Treat the environment
To treat the environment, start by vacuuming thoroughly. This can eliminate up to 50 % of the flea eggs. Then use a product that will kill any remaining adult fleas and stop the development of eggs and larvae. The product must contain an adulticide and an insect growth regulator. The selection of the presentation in the form of spray or fogger depends on the surface to be treated. Your veterinarian will help you choose the right products. Do not forget to treat your car, garage, or any other place frequented by your pet!
Treat your pet
The next step is to treat your pet. There are many products against fleas as spot-on, lotion, powder, shampoo, collar... The spot-on, must be applied once a month, and are the most used. They are applied to a small area of skin at the back of your cat's neck. Some spot-on are effective against both fleas and ticks. Caution - certain products used for dogs, such as permethrin, are toxic to cats: it is important to read the labels! If you use lotions, shampoos and powders, check that they are not dangerous for your cat.
Fighting against fleas is not always simple. Even on a treated animal you can still see fleas, because some immature forms may continue to grow. Eradicating fleas may take several weeks or months. You have to be persistent. Finally, do not forget, the best flea control requires good prevention!