HEALTH & CARE

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Cats: Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Have you noticed your cat scratching incessantly? It could be due to pesky bed bugs. Pets like cats are not usual targets of bed bugs, but this doesn’t mean that those pests won’t feed on felines if given the chance. The more important question for you is: how to get rid of bed bugs on cats?

Bed bugs have been a problem for humans since time immemorial. Many thought that those pests were a thing of the past after World War II, but alas, they’ve been making a comeback. It is important to learn some techniques to prevent bed bugs from spreading in your home and potentially biting your family members and other pets, and to nip this problem in the bud.

In this article, you will learn the signs that your cat has bed bugs and how to remove them from his or her body. At the end of this article, you should be more knowledgeable on bed bug infestation and how to protect your cat against these parasites.

What are Bed Bugs?

bed bug

Bed bugs are parasitic creatures with the scientific name Cimex lectularius L. An adult bed bug is about 5 mm long. That’s almost the size of an apple seed. Because of their size, they can easily hide in bed frames and box springs.

These warm-blooded animals are more likely to feed on humans than pets like cats, though. It’s because we release carbon dioxide which they are attracted to. Unlike other common pests such as lice, mites, ticks and fleas, bed bugs don’t live on pets.

But this doesn’t mean that our feline friends are spared from bed bugs. If there’s no human to feed on, these minuscule creatures will hitchhike on cats and feed for up to 5 minutes.

Yet bed bugs will not make cats their home. They are also not attracted to the fur of our pets no matter how thick it is. After biting a cat, bed bugs would go back to their nesting area. This is likely the cat’s bedding. It’s also possible for the bed bugs to stay in crates, toys, or other nearby things.

What are the Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation?

cat scratching himself

Bed bugs are not only small but also very quick, so it can be difficult to spot them. In fact, it is easier to spot secondary signs of bug infestation than finding a live bug. The following are some of the signs that your house has been infested by bed bugs:

  • Red blood stains on bed sheets

  • Black spots of droppings

  • Transparent shed exoskeletons

In cats, aside from incessant scratching, the following are other signs that your pet may have been bitten by bed bugs:

  • Bite marks especially at the back and the tummy area

  • Red lumps all over the skin

  • Stress

  • Hair loss

While bed bugs won’t transmit infectious or serious diseases to cats, they can make our beloved pets uncomfortable. Cats could develop a severe itch from a single bed bug bite. And it is hard to keep a cat from scratching that bite. Suffice to say, cats are likely to suffer from a case of skin irritation because of bed bug bites.

See Also: How to Shave a Cat

You may wonder: ‘When should I bring my cat to the vet?’ If your pet continues to scratch, then you may want to see your vet. He or she may likely give antibiotics to your cat to prevent infection.

How to Remove Bed Bugs on Cats

Now for the question we have posted earlier: how to get rid of bed bugs on cats?

Method 1: Bathe Your Cat

bathing calico cat

If you suspect that your cat has bed bugs, bring him to the bathroom and bathe him. It’s easier said than done given the notoriety of cats for disliking baths, but it is essential for a cat which has been bitten by bed bugs. And while bed bugs don’t really stay long on the body of cats, you don’t want to take any chances, do you?

Start by brushing the mat and dirt from your pet’s hair. While there’s no bed bug shampoo designed for cats, you can use a tick and flea shampoo instead. Just don’t use shampoo for dogs as this would be harmful to your pet, nor human shampoo as it can dry out the skin of the cat, making him irritable.

See Also: DIY Cat Shampoo

Run up to 5 inches of warm water into the bathtub and coax your pet into going there. Using a hose attachment, wet his body with water. Focus on the fur starting from his neck down to the tail.

Once he is thoroughly wet, lather his body with shampoo. Don’t forget to lather his underside, too.

Rinse his body until you can no longer feel the shampoo in his hair. Wrap him in a towel so that the water will be absorbed then use another one to dry him. And remember to give him some treats or shower him with praise.

A thorough bath or cleaning should get rid of bed bugs on a cat’s body. But as you will realize, removing bed bugs from a cat’s body is not that simple. We suggest you follow the other methods to effectively free your pet from these pesky bed bugs.

Method 2: Cleaning His Things

cleaning cat's things

As mentioned earlier, the beddings and other items your cat often plays with are likely nests of bed bugs. It is thus imperative for you to clean these items if you want to get rid of bed bugs in your household permanently.

Start with his beddings. Put this in the washing machine and launder it in the high-temperature setting. Bed bugs are killed by heat so it would be a good idea to set the temperature to at least 120 degrees Celcius or 248 Fahrenheit in the wash water. Wash it for 60 minutes. As for the dryer, set it on the medium or high setting.

You don’t want the bed bugs to further spread in your home so be careful when transporting the cat’s bedding to the laundry as well as when sorting it.

Once you are done with the beddings, do the same for other cloth or fabric items your pet is regularly in contact with such as blankets and towels.

You may wonder: what about other cat accessories that can’t be machine-washed like cat trees or toys? How would you clean them?

You can use isopropyl alcohol to kill bed bugs and their eggs that may have been hiding in cat accessories. Alcohol is powerful and effective enough to kill adult bugs and eggs. Spray rubbing alcohol directly on the area where you can find bed bugs. You may also use a dish brush to remove bed bug eggs.

You can also try essential oils like mint, tea tree, lavender, rosemary, or eucalyptus. It’s been said that bed bugs don’t like the pungent smell of these oils. Try to rub the oils around your cat’s beddings to prevent them from biting your pet.

Method 3: Vacuuming Areas Where Your Cat Lives

woman vacuuming

The next step in getting rid of bed bugs on your pet’s body is to vacuum the area where he lives. Ideally, this is done after you have finished the first two previous methods. Doing so would ensure that you can remove any bed bugs that may still be in the area and prevent further outbreaks.

Vacuuming is very effective in capturing adult bed bugs and their eggs. However, you need to use a vacuum cleaner with strong suction. You should also use the crevice tool that’s attached to the cleaner. Those pesky bed bugs can cling to fabric and hold themselves in crevices.

It is also important not to press too hard against the fabric as this could lead to the bed bugs being flicked off the surface instead of being captured.

Once finished, immediately remove the vacuum bag then seal it with a tape. Put the vacuum bag in a plastic bag, seal it, and then immediately throw it in the trash. In case the vacuum cleaner lacks a bag, you may empty and discard its contents in a sealed plastic bag.

After discarding the contents, you must also wash the removable container in hot water to ensure that any remaining bugs are killed. You can also replace the filter with a new one.

If you will still use the vacuum cleaner in another location, put tape over its nozzle to prevent the pests from escaping. In fact, repeated vacuuming is necessary to control bed bug infestations.

Method 4: Using a Steamer

woman using a steamer

Steamers aren’t the cheapest home appliance, but you may be able to borrow it from someone who owns one or possibly rent one in your area. As we have mentioned, bed bugs are killed by high heat, so the use of a steamer can be one of the best ways to control bed bug infestation in your household.

Before using a steamer, vacuum the part of the house where your cat lives. This will boost the steamer’s effectiveness.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual in using the steamer. In most steamer units, it is important to clear the nozzle of excess liquid by purging the steamer into a cloth towel. You can do this when the steamer starts heating up.

Again, remember that bed bugs won’t survive if they are exposed to temperatures of at least 120 degrees Celsius or 248 Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 minutes, so set the steamer to this temperature range. Use the steamer on all areas where you think the bed bugs are hiding.

Method 5: Call a Pest Control Company

Pest control company

In the unlikely event that the methods mentioned above still fail to eliminate bed bugs in your home, you may call professionals in. Pest control experts have the techniques, tools, and manpower to help deal with the pest problem.

You can ask for word of mouth referrals in choosing a pest control company. Your friends, family members, and colleagues may have enlisted the services of one before. Don’t get the services of the first firm you come across. It’s best to compare at least three quotations so you can get the lowest rate.

How to Keep Bed Bugs from Spreading

checking cat's bedding

Bed bugs are very tough to exterminate, but it doesn’t mean you can’t prevent them from spreading. The following are some tips to follow if you want your pet and your loved ones protected against these parasites:

  • Cover the power outlets. Yes, those pesky pests evade extermination by hiding in power outlets. They can even travel through the walls through power outlets, spreading the infestation to other parts of the house.

  • Clean up the clutter. Simply put, a cluttered home means more areas for bed bugs to hide. It can make locating and removing bed bugs even harder.

  • Always check your cat’s bedding. Like human beds, your cat’s bedding is attractive to bed bugs because it is warm enough for them to lay eggs and feed in. Regularly inspect the area where your cat sleeps, too.

  • Regularly inspect items around your house. Electronic products, for one, may seem harmless, but they can be hiding places for bed bugs. Thus it would help if you regularly check on things around the house where bed bugs can hide. Items such as computers, televisions, stereo receivers, and even remote controls have vents where bed bugs can hide.

Wrap Up

happy and healthy cat

Bed bugs are really annoying. These minuscule parasites have infested many homes for decades. And they not only feed on us humans but also our poor cats!

To get rid of bed bugs on your pet’s body, it is important to bathe him immediately after discovering that he has those little critters. Then wash his things including his beddings and other items which he is regularly in contact with.

You can also spray alcohol or rub essential oils in said items. You can also ensure that the bed bugs won’t spread to other parts of your home by using a vacuum cleaner and a steamer.

Now that you have a better understanding of bed bugs and how to remove them from a cat’s body, go ahead and start treating your cat who’s been bitten by these pesky little critters. Do you know of any other ways to get rid of bed bugs? Share your opinion in the comments section below! You may also be interested in learning how to remove a tick from a cat.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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