Many people think that because they have an indoor-only cat, fleas are an impossibility.
According to Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM, although an outdoor cat is more likely than an indoor cat to be infested with fleas (as well as ticks and intestinal worms), an indoor cat can, in fact, attract these parasites.
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How Do Indoor Cats Get Fleas?
First, know this: A flea can jump 100 times its own height. That alone should tell you something about how sneaky they can be.
In a nutshell, anything, or anyone, can unknowingly bring a flea into your home. It is very easy for one of these buggers to jump on an article of clothing when you are outside. The flea thinks nothing of hitching a ride on your pants leg, sock or shoe.
Or perhaps your dog goes outside for a little playtime, picking up a flea or two before coming back in. Fleas are so tiny, they can even enter your home on their own, jumping through screens or coming in through the smallest cracks of a door or window.
Once inside, the flea jumps onto your cat. And that’s that, right? Well, not quite. There’s more to the story…
From a Single Flea to Hundreds
After a little feast on your poor indoor cat, the flea then jumps off to lay hundreds of eggs, which will quickly hatch, becoming hundreds of hungry larvae. Ick!
After a while, these larvae turn into adult fleas as well, ready to satisfy their thirst with the blood of your kitty. Thus begins another cycle.
The bad thing about this situation is that your indoor cat cannot get away from the blood-hungry critters. Regardless of how much your cat grooms, the fleas just refuse to go away. Anyone who has dealt with a flea infestation knows how rapidly this problem can be spread to other pets in your home.
Fleas can disrupt your cat’s happy-go-lucky lifestyle, possibly causing anemia and tapeworm infection. If your cat is continuously scratching or has any kind of skin problems such as sores, a flea may be partly to blame.
Because they multiply so fast (eggs hatch in 3 to 10 days), fleas are difficult to treat. PETA suggests that rather than running out and buying the first flea shampoo you see on the shelf, you should chat with your veterinarian, who can recommend a treatment.
Worried about toxins in flea treatment products? Believe it or not, good old soap and water will kill fleas on a cat. An even better nontoxic solution is the lowly flea comb (it has very fine teeth) combined with the aforementioned soap and water.
Check your cat daily for fleas. Even if you don’t actually see any, you may notice a few tell-tale signs that they are present: Their eggs and excrement (“flea dirt”) will resemble pepper or black sand on the fur.
One way of preventing a flea infestation to some degree is to vacuum your carpets often to suck up any stray fleas. Empty the vacuum cleaner bag/canister after each use. Fleas can reproduce right there inside the bag and sooner or later escape, ready to strike again.
If your indoor cat goes outside every now and then, you may find a spot-on monthly preventive such as Advantage or Frontline to be quite effective. These often control ticks as well.
- Dr. Paris Revoir, DVM: Do inside cats need flea/tick prevention?
- Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM: Indoor vs. outdoor cats
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): Safe solutions for flea control