It’s almost winter, which means that most of the creepy, crawly insects that hover around your home in the summer months are either dying off or preparing to lay low. However, one type of pest might actually be making its way inside your home before the cold settles in: cat fleas.
Cat fleas are the most common type of flea found on your four-legged friend, and they are a total nuisance to handle. Cat fleas love warm places, meaning they might seek out the warm comfort of your home in preparation for the upcoming cold months. Before you close all the windows and doors and lock your home away from the cold this winter, make sure to take precautions to check for and remove fleas from your pets and home.
Signs your cat has fleas
Before winter, do a thorough flea check on your cats. Itching and biting are the main signs that your cat has fleas. Many cats are allergic to flea saliva and the digestive juices fleas leave on the skin as they bite and suck blood. These allergies can result in atopic dermatitis, or an allergic reaction that manifests on the skin, causing irritation and itchiness.
Although itching, licking and biting are common in many skin irritation issues, they all encourage you to check out what’s laying beneath your pet’s fur. Once you take a look, the signs of fleas will be unmistakable.
Fleas will look like little black moving dots on your pet’s skin. Fleas also leave “flea dirt" on your pet—essentially, this is flea poop and dried blood, but it looks like little specks of brown or black dirt on your pet’s fur. If you notice one or a combination of these two things, your pet has fleas.
Removing fleas from your pets
The first step to eradicating fleas from your home is to get them off your pet. Many vets can recommend flea control medications that are either taken orally or applied on the skin. You should also use a flea comb to clean the flea dirt and living fleas from your pet’s fur.
If your pet’s skin is very irritated, apply a topical gel to soothe and heal the skin. This will relieve your cat of its intense itchiness and prevent it from injuring itself or causing hair loss through itching and biting.
If you have multiple pets, you’ll want to check all of them, not just the one originally affected. Fleas spread easily from animal to animal, so if one pet has them, it’s likely that the others do, too.
Cleaning your home
After your pets have been treated for fleas, your job isn’t done. Even though the living adult fleas may be gone, there’s a good chance there are flea eggs or pupae around your home, waiting for the right time to hatch and re-infect your pets. An adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, meaning there could potentially be hundreds of flea eggs hiding unseen in your home.
If you allow these fleas to hatch, they can easily re-infect your cat, starting the cycle over again. To ensure your home is completely safe from fleas, you’ll want to do a thorough cleaning.
The most common places for fleas to congregate and infiltrate your home are your pet’s bed, floor mats, your pet’s favorite blankets and other places where your pet spends time around the house. All of these surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned to remove any remaining fleas and keep your home flea-free.
- Wash all bedding: Remove all bedding from your pet’s bed, the blankets they sleep on and any other removable cloth from the places your cat lounges. Thoroughly wash and dry all of these surfaces.
- Vacuum: Rugs, carpets and furniture upholstery also make great hiding places for flea eggs. Give your home a solid vacuuming every day until your cat is rid of fleas, and then once more for good measure. Each time you vacuum, throw away the bag or clean the inside of the container with soap and water to kill off any living fleas.
- Clean all surfaces: Give all the counters and major surfaces of your home a scrub-down using pet-safe cleaners. You can also make a homemade natural flea spray with water, vinegar, lemon juice and witch hazel to spray on both fabric and non-fabric surfaces.
- Clean all the toys: If your cat has a lot of toys, throw them in the washing machine with the bedding or soak them in soapy water. If they can’t be cleaned, it’s best to throw them away and buy new ones to minimize the risk of another infestation.
Cleaning your entire home thoroughly will help ensure that all living and dormant fleas have been removed. If you don’t take steps to clean your home, there is a good chance that your pet will continue to become infected with fleas all winter long.