Cats are often regarded as immaculately clean because they are constantly grooming themselves, and that’s why cat owners don’t often associate their feline friends with fleas. We hate to break your bubble, but fleas can also inhabit the skin of your well-kept felines—not just on adult cats, but also kittens, which is why it is important to learn how to get rid of fleas on kittens.
According to studies, there are about 2000 species of fleas in this world, and they can be found everywhere! Fleas affect approximately 1 in every 5 felines and 1 in every 10 dogs. It can cause serious medical complications in cats and can cause life-threatening conditions when it infests more fragile and vulnerable kittens. But don’t worry, because flea infestations can be prevented, or treated if the infestation is already underway
In this article, we have an in-depth look at these tiny nuisances—what they are, how they affect pets. We will explain how to determine whether your cat is suffering from a flea infestation or not. Best of all, we will be providing you with some valuable tips and guidelines on how to get rid of fleas on newborn kittens and keep your beloved kittens healthy and free from fleas.
What are Cat Fleas?
Ctenocephalides felis, more commonly known as “cat flea,” is a very common parasitic insect that affects domestic cats. Although there is a separate species known as Ctenocephalides canis which is mainly found in dogs, cat fleas are found to also affect a large population of canines.
Cat fleas belong to the group Siphonaptera (meaning wingless, tube-drinking insects) and are classified as an obligatory hematophagy. They have a reddish-brown color and can grow to about 1-2 mm long in adulthood.
Because these fleas are laterally compressed, they can easily slip through or in between the often dense hair of our pets just above the surface of the skin. This hides them from plain sight and makes them quite undiscernible even in white fur.
These fleas are attracted to other living species as a host and source of sustenance, and without proper treatment, they can easily multiply, with females laying as many as 50 to 60 eggs a day. If left unattended, this can lead to a serious, even life-threatening infestation.
Female cat fleas can produce at least 2,000 eggs during their lifetime. Once a flea reaches your kitten’s skin surface, it will immediately start feeding and may draw blood from your cat for about 2 to 3 hours.
Female fleas are generally more insatiable, consuming blood up to 15 times its body weight. With hundreds of thousands of these voracious predatory insects staying on your feline’s skin for up to two months, imagine how much blood your pet can lose!
Fleas are also notoriously hard to pin down, not just because of their small size, but because they can easily jump up to 18 cm vertically and 33 cm horizontally. That’s about a hundred times their height and length!
They have above their hind legs a ball of the substance known as resilin. This is the most elastic of all substance that is known to man. This is also the reason why fleas are such great jumpers.
A flea infestation cannot be stopped within days. Once treatment is started, it will take about 3 to 8 weeks before fleas are completely eliminated. Thus, it is important to start treatment as early as possible and to stop the infestation as quickly as possible—not just because your cat suffers the longer they are infected, but also because fleas can also feast on humans.
Because fleas need a constant supply of sustenance, they will take whatever they can get. Fleas can pass on serious diseases to humans. An example of bacteria that fleas can transfer to humans is Bartonella henselae, which causes the cat scratch disease.
What are the Dangers Cat Fleas Pose to Kittens?
Newborn children require special attention, and the same rule should apply to kittens as well. While it’s true that cat flea infestation is already a major concern in itself, kittens are much more susceptible to this serious and potentially fatal parasitic condition.
Due to their small size, they have less blood and a weaker immune system than a full grown cat. Because they have less blood volume, kittens are more susceptible to anemia. An infestation on kittens can also lead to hemobartonella, which is a more aggressive type of anemia. This causes parasites to infect the red blood cells until they fall apart or cause your kitten’s body to reject its own blood cells.
Aside from these, frequent scratching and licking may cause your little feline to accidentally ingest some fleas, which feed on tapeworm eggs. This can cause further parasite infestations and serious complications to your kitten.
How Do Kittens Get Fleas?
There are so many ways that fleas can enter a household and prey on our felines. Even though flea infestations are less likely for indoor cats, it still happens frequently due to a variety of reasons.
#1: Your Doggie Might Have Brought Some Unwanted Friends In
Dogs, no matter how well you keep them indoors, will always need daily walk. Brief as these walks may be, some fleas may still decide to hitch a ride.
Even canines who are kept on flea preventative can still host fleas. The moment you get home, these fleas may just hop off your dog to your unsuspecting little felines.
See Also: How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog
#2: People Might Have Brought Fleas In
If dogs can be a means of transit for these hitchhiking pests, they can also find ways of getting to different places by hitching on people.
If you or anyone from your household, or perhaps a guest, enters your house after being in a flea-infested environment, it is very likely that fleas will find their way into your house through that person.
#3: Fleas Already Reside in Your Home from Previous House Owners
After fleas feed on the blood of an animal or person, they can jump off and settle in the environment while laying a multitude of eggs on your carpet, closet, or practically any furniture in the house.
These flea eggs can survive and stay dormant for extended periods of time until they can attach to a warm-blooded entity nearby.
If you happen to have moved into a new house, you might just find yourselves with other miniscule residents that are waiting to feed on the blood of your little feline pets.
#4: Rodents Might Have Brought Fleas Inside the House
Although cats may keep the rodent population in the house in check, some flea-carrying rodents can still sneak in. Their fleas can jump off and make themselves at home. These predatory insects can then lay eggs and start major flea problems in your house.
#5: Fleas Getting in Your Car During Vet, Grooming, or Kennel Visits
When you take your kittens for routine checks to the vet, have them groomed, or take them along when buying pet supplies, you are actually exposing them to the possibility of picking up fleas from these places where other animals may frequent.
While most of these areas are often kept clean and hygienic, your unprotected kitten may still pick up a flea or two from these places.
How to Identify the Presence of Fleas on Your Kittens
Before you start an appropriate flea-treatment program for your beloved feline, you must first establish and confirm the issue of a flea infestation.
Since pet skin allergies are often diagnosed by veterinarians, you need to keep in mind that not all redness and skin itching are synonymous to fleas. It is always best practice to rule out the possibility of allergies in order to come up with the best treatment for your pets.
So how can you identify the presence of fleas in your cat? For starters, you need to understand the distinct qualities of cat fleas. These are predatory insects that are often brownish, wingless, and have the uncanny ability to jump at a distance that is 50 times their entire body length.
These little predators thrive best in an environment that is about 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature and at 75-85% humidity. They are a lot smaller than mites, and they like to squeeze in on warm and moist areas such as the armpits or groins.
Besides seeing their obvious physical presence, there are other signs you need to look out for that would indicate the presence of cat fleas—some of which are as follows:
Lethargy from loss of blood
There are times when sores result due to excessive scratching, licking, and chewing. This, in turn, may result in further infection, and so you will have to get your kitty to a veterinarian for a possible antibiotic prescription.
Some felines also suffer from flea allergy dermatitis or flea bite hypersensitivity. Your cat will demonstrate severe itching as a reaction to flea bites.
See Also: Anemia in Cats
How to Treat Fleas on Kittens
Prompt treatment of fleas on your kittens is vital to increasing their likelihood of surviving this parasitic condition. Aside from the annoying itch flea bites can produce, cat fleas can also transmit other diseases that can pose life-threatening dangers to your fragile kitten.
Before even starting with the flea treatment process, look into the possible infestation on the mother. Even after ensuring that your kittens are free from fleas, mother cats can pass on fleas to her babies in no time.
For the momma cats or for any other older cats in the household, you may refer to the vet for the best kind of conventional flea treatment you may use. As for the kittens themselves, here’s what you can do to help them shake off the infestation:
#1: Bathing and Combing
Before you begin with the flea removal process, it is best to prep the kittens by bathing them first using a mild soap. While this procedure may sound simple, a good bath and an efficient yet gentle combing can help remove fleas from your feline babies.
Although it may not offer a long-term solution, it is still a good option for small and fragile kittens, especially if they are to be moved to a flea-free environment afterward.
You may also need to manually remove the fleas from your little kitties using either your hands, a tweezer, or a flea comb. Because kittens are so tiny and their coat is not that thick, you shouldn’t have a hard time taking out the fleas.
Because 90% of developing fleas are found in the environment, places your pets frequent should also be regularly checked for fleas. Beddings and cages need to be washed and vacuumed frequently, especially those that are shared by other animals.
Although there is a wide range of flea control products available in the market, only two ingredients are labelled safe to use in kittens:
Nitenpyram: This is an oral insecticide that can eliminate adult fleas and is recommended for use of kittens 8 weeks old and younger. Although its effects last only for 2 days, it can be safely given every 24 hours.
Lufenuron: This is an insect growth inhibitor and comes in oral and injectable form. It prevents flea eggs from developing into adult fleas. Labelled safe for use for kittens as young as 6 weeks of age, its effects can last for up to 6 months. Because of its limited effect, lufenuron may not be sufficient to stand alone as a complete flea control treatment.
#4: Homemade Remedies
While over the counter flea remedies are effective in treating fleas, there are some basic steps you can easily follow and ingredients you can find in your homes that can be equally effective in controlling cat flea infestations.
Below are a few homemade remedies for kitten fleas.
Flea baths. As a general rule, kittens should only be bathed after they have had their vaccinations. However, kittens with flea infestation are exceptions to this rule. When bathing your kittens, make sure to use a kitten appropriate shampoo, avoid wetting the head, and do it gently and quickly to avoid getting the kittens cold which may result in additional problems.
Vaseline. This versatile home remedy can help eliminate fleas by making it easier to remove them from the skin. Dabbing some Vaseline on the skin keeps fleas from jumping off, keeps them on the skin, and makes it a lot easier to pick the fleas up.
Alcohol. Another equally versatile substance that is helpful in eliminating fleas is alcohol. Rubbing it on the skin is effective in stunning fleas and makes it a lot easier to pick them up with either your hands or a pair of tweezers. You can also dab the tips of a comb/brush with it.
Apple cider vinegar. Used since the olden days, apple cider vinegar is a very good option to use in the absence of over the counter flea treatments. It is effective in deterring fleas from invading your kittens’ skin and can be used as a flea prevention agent. Just mix the apple cider with half part of water and transfer this to a spray bottle. You can spray this while combing through your kitten’s fur. Just make sure to keep it away from their nose, eyes, and ears to avoid irritation. For best results, you may repeat this process every day.
See Also: Flea Bath for Cats
How to Prevent Flea Infestations in Kittens
While there are a number of steps you can utilize in order to control a flea infestation, it is a problem that can easily reoccur unless you figure out an effective way of keeping them away permanently.
Keep in mind that controlling and resolving a flea infestation requires more than killing the fleas, but also their sources, the environment, and all factors that may contribute to the recurrence of flea infestation. Below are a few tips and guidelines on how you can effectively protect your home and your beloved kittens.
Because cats often contract fleas from other pets or domesticated animals, make sure to apply flea treatment to your cat and wash all other belongings with you once you return home from a trip to a boarding facility, kennel, the vet, or from someone else’s house.
Always provide your felines with a healthy diet. As you know, it is much easier for fleas to infest a host with a weakened immune system. A healthy cat diet can boost your pet’s immune system, and it can also decrease the likelihood of developing allergic reactions to flea saliva. It also helps prevent the possibility of secondary infections. A protein rich diet will help boost immunity while a dose of neem bark supplement can help improve detoxification. Choose healthy treats for your cats and make sure they don’t eat too many carbs that don’t really supplement their nutritional needs.
If your cat happens to like playing outdoors, be sure to do some rounds of flea spray each time your pet gets back to the house. This is especially necessary during flea season.
Bathe your cat with lukewarm water using a flea and tick shampoo or soap bar. The geranium and citronella it contains are effective in repelling insects.
Make it a habit to regularly vacuum your carpets and rugs and launder your blankets and beddings. You will also need to do the same with your cat’s belongings at least once a week.
Since fleas thrive best in a warm and humid environment, it is helpful to use a humidifier and keep the humidity within the house below 50%. This will help eliminate the fleas that might be lurking in your home.
During the course of treatment, try to keep your kitten preoccupied with a toy to avoid excessive scratching and licking.
Treatment should be directed to all of your household pets. This is to avoid possible flea transmission from one pet to another.
Try to keep your little feline indoors as much as possible to gain better control of the environment and lower the risk of your pet getting fleas from the outside.
Since fleas thrive well in dark, mushy, and brushy areas, keeping your lawn well-kept and neat will discourage these little unwanted inhabitants.
Cat fleas cause itching and are extremely annoying to our cats. But more than the discomfort, these miniature parasitic insects pose serious health concerns especially when they infest your fragile and helpless kittens.
It takes a lot of diligence and a holistic approach to completely eradicate fleas, but it can be done.
We hope that the tips and guidelines we have discussed in this article will help you in protecting your kittens against these harmful fleas. Proper treatment and a lot of determination will go a long way in keeping your kittens safe, free from fleas, and in the best of health.
Do you have any other methods of your own in getting rid of fleas? Do let us know your opinion about that and more in the comments section below! Finally, check out our next article on how much diatomaceous earth for cats for another holistic approach to get rid of fleas.