What are fleas and ticks?

Fleas and ticks are external parasites we can see on many animals, including cats. They will create an infestation that can invest your home and your pet. They tend to feed on blood.

Dr. Kathrine White
Highland Park Animal Hospital

How do fleas and ticks impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

Regarding your cat's health and wellbeing, we can see pretty significant anemia with a bad enough flea or tick infestation. We also very commonly see animals that are allergic to flea bites, just like humans who are allergic to mosquito bites, so they can be severely itchy with even just a few bites. There is also a severe tick infection blood disease called Cytauxzoon, which can cause death in cats.

How do cats get fleas and ticks?

Fleas and ticks can either get on your cat when they go outside, but even for our indoor-only cats, we have fleas that will actively come into your home and infest your kitties. We have lots of wild cats, there are lots of feral possums, and all these sorts of wildlife that will come right up to your back door and leave little fleas there that'll seek out your kitty.

Why is prevention for fleas and ticks so important?

This is really important in our indoor cats because we have much fewer options for controlling their itching infection once they have it since so many cats have a very hard time getting oral medications from their owners. We can save a lot of stress and heartache by preventing this infestation as well as just generally preventing problems to their health, such as anemia and tickborne diseases.

How can a veterinarian help with flea and tick prevention?

We carry Revolution Plus here, which is a really nice product. It's topical, so it's extremely easy to put on your cat. You don't have to give them anything by mouth; you just put it on their skin once a month. It's a tiny volume, and then they're protected all month, and that product includes heartworm prevention too.

What are some signs and symptoms of flea and tick infestation in your cat?

The most common one we see is just a really itchy cat. So a cat who's over-grooming, has hair loss near their tail and on their belly, and they'll just seem extremely uncomfortable and be constantly grooming. For the most part, you really won't find a flea on a cat.

Can you tell me a little bit about itching?

Kitties tend not to do a typical scratch as you think of with a human or a dog. The most common thing you'll see in cats is just grooming obsessively to the point that they'll lose hair. Sometimes they'll do a little bit of gnawing, but much more commonly, we see a cat who just grooms and grooms and grooms.

What about skin irritation and rashes?

Our kitty friends tend to get hair loss, redness, and bumps regardless of the cause. The other reason is it can be really challenging to diagnose cat dermatology compared to dog dermatology. So it's better if we just know it's not fleas ahead of time.

What about scabs and flakes?

Some cats will develop crusting or scabbing, and honestly, even open ulcers that are really painful to them.

What do fleas and ticks look like?

Fleas are extremely small. The size of the end of a writing pin is about the size of a flea. They're extremely fast, and they're flattened. For the most part, unless fleas are dying, you probably won't see them. Ticks will be quite small in their first couple of stages, so unless again you find a female one that's in its endstage and really has been eating for a while, you won't see it.

What are some possible diseases that can be transmitted by fleas and ticks?

The biggest ones that we worry about are Bartonella and cytauxzoon. Bartonella from fleas can be given to humans and spread through a cat's feces. So we certainly don't like that one. It can cause flu-like symptoms in humans as well as not discernible symptoms in cats. Cytauxzoon causes serious bloodborne disease, and often cats who catch this disease perish and die.

What are the most effective flea and tick treatments for cats?

Our kitties get a lot more complicated because many of the products we use in dogs will actually cause seizures and death in cats. So our options are much more limited on what we can use in kitties. There is Revolution Plus which will cover fleas and ticks. There is a handful of other over-the-counter products that have varying effectiveness, but most of them will not cover ticks. Then there are Bravecto and Seresto collars for cats.

What should I do if I find fleas or ticks on the cat?

If you find a flea, please go to the veterinarian because they have a severe infestation if you actually find one.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (214) 833-9821, or you can email us at info@hpanimalhospital.com. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/HighlandParkAnimalHospital, https://www.instagram.com/hpanimalhospital/