How To Kill Fleas On Cats (Safely And Effectively) — All To Do With Cats

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How To Kill Fleas On Cats (Safely And Effectively)

Discover how to kill fleas on cats safely without using harmful chemicals. If you’ve been a cat parent for any length of time you will have no doubt come across those tiny little black dots on your cat’s fur.

In this article you’ll learn what are fleas, why cats get them, and how to spot them on your cat. We’ll be looking at some of the natural ways that work, as well as what to avoid.

Unless you treat your home as well, you’ll find it almost impossible to stop fleas returning. In this post we’ll be covering some of the best ways to clean your home so the problem doesn’t reoccur

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny little insects that you can barely see. They can’t fly as they don’t have wings, but are capable of jumping up to 30 cm high!

It only takes one female to lay her eggs on your cat for rapid infestation. It’s not just your cat or dog that suffers, but your home as well.

One female can lay up to 40 eggs a day!! That’s 280 a week!! And, fleas can live up 2 years, so that’s a lot of eggs!!

How to tell if your cat has fleas

If you stroke your cat and notice what looks like specks of black dust, it could be flea dirt. My vet showed me a little trick to spot fleas immediately.

Comb your pets fur and place any dirt on a piece of paper soaked with water. If it’s flea dirt those little specks will turn red.

what causes fleas on cats?

Your cat doesn’t have to come in direct contact with another animal to catch fleas. Even if you have an indoor cat with no other pets, your cat can still get them.

Typically, flea eggs can make their way into your home on the soles of your shoes or clothing, so it’s impossible to stop an infestation.

If you have other pets such as dogs or rabbits, fleas can easily pass onto your cat. When your cat goes outside she may brush against another animal that has fleas. They can also easily jump from the grass or paving onto her fur.

It’s a complete myth that only dirty homes have fleas! You can have the cleanest house in the street and still get them.

Can humans get fleas from cats?

You won’t get flees in the same way as your cat or dog, but it’s not uncommon to get bitten.

This happens if one jumps from your pet onto you. Fleas thrive in warm, damp conditions, and your cat’s fur is the perfect home for them.

A flea bite is very itchy and looks like a tiny red dot. They can’t thrive on your body, and it’s not possible for females to lay eggs in your hair. However, they can still jump onto your scalp.

I will touch on this later, but for now our main concern is killing fleas on your cat and in your home. Prevention as they say is always better than cure. While you can’t prevent fleas entirely there are a few steps you can take to lower the chances of your cat getting infested

How to prevent fleas on cats

Combing your cat won’t stop fleas but you can buy topical products to help prevent them. It’s important to only use those formulated for cats and strictly follow the instructions.

The most well known is Advantage. It’s available for both cats and dogs, and simply applied onto the back of the neck.

Cats are much more sensitive to chemicals than dogs, and more liable to get an allergic reaction. While the product itself is very effective, it could have mild side effects if your cat ingests any.

Advantage is always applied to the back of the neck as cats can’t lick themselves there. It can however drip down onto the cat’s body.

Washing your cat’s bedding regularly also helps. If your cat sleeps on the bed make sure you change the sheets weekly. Keep carpets vacuumed daily if possible, and don’t forget to vacuum the sofa as well.

How to kill fleas on cats naturally

If you don’t like the idea of using chemicals on your cat, here are a few natural methods you may like to try. Some may prove more effective than others.

Flea combs and how to use them effectively

Using a flea comb the right way can remove most of the eggs from your cat’s fur. A flea comb is different from normal combs in that the teeth are placed very close together.

Before you begin, make sure your cat is sitting on an old towel or blanket. Flea eggs will be falling off the comb and your cat if she is infested.

Starting from the head and working down, gently comb your cat. You’ll be removing any loose fur as well as flea eggs. Check the fur for any flea dirt.

Rinse the comb with warm water and soap to kill any eggs. You may need to do this a few times if eggs are found. With long haired cats you’ll need to use a wider tooth brush to remove any tangles.

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It’s unlikely you’ll destroy all fleas and eggs in one go. You’ll probably have to repeat the procedure quite a few times. You can buy shampoo to remove fleas from cats, but in my experience cat’s hate water and being shampooed

What is the best flea comb for cats?

Safari flea comb is widely used by professional groomers. It can be used on both cats and dogs. As it’s smaller than some other combs it’s suitable for kittens.

Natural flea collars for cats-do they work?

There are many types of flea collars available, but most are embedded with harmful pesticides. However, there are natural alternatives.

Protecto’s cat flea collar is safer for your cat as it’s hypoallergenic. Instead of being embedded with chemicals it’s made from 100% natural oils.

It’s claimed fleas are killed on contact with the collar, and is effective for 8 months. It also comes with a guarantee which is reassuring.

Seresto flea and tick collar for cats is similar to frontline but without the need to apply drops every few months. Though it’s not a natural product it has excellent reviews.

The thing I like about this flea collar is it’s safety release feature. If your cat gets caught on anything the collar will safely release itself.

Apple cider vinegar for banishing fleas from your cat

Apple cider vinegar is noted for it’s healing properties. Though it doesn’t kill the fleas, they don’t like the smell and are quickly repelled by it.

Apply topically by mixing 2 parts of apple cider vinegar to 1 part water. Spray lightly on your pet’s coat. You can also dip your cat’s brush or comb in it before grooming.

Spraying your cat’s bedding, and carpets may also prove effective in deterring fleas. Fleas can be notoriously hard to get rid of after an infestation.

Green Fort Bio Spot On a natural alternative

Spot on treatments can be very effective, but many are made from harsh chemicals. Green Fort is made from 100% natural essential oils.

If your cat is sensitive to chemicals you may find this is a great solution. It can be used safely on pregnant cats and kittens over 8 weeks.

Green Fort is guaranteed for 3 months, so it’s very cost effective and great for your pocket. Though it’s advertised as causing causing no allergies there’s always a small chance your pet may be sensitive to it.

What you need to avoid when killing fleas

Though fleas are a nightmare to get rid of, one of the things you should avoid is overuse of harsh chemicals in your home. Many sprays for carpets and upholstery can be quite toxic.

I’m always in favour of using natural products whenever possible. It’s not just about exposing your pets to these chemicals, but you and your family as well.

Always spray any flea repellent in a well ventilated room, and avoid spraying anywhere near your pets. Some of these products have quite a strong smell.

How to treat fleas in your home like there’s no tomorrow!

Killing fleas on your cat is a useless task unless you treat your home as well. Keep reading as I share some tips that are completely natural and proven to be effective.

Fleas hate the smell of rosemary and cedar. You can use both of these to deter them from your home. You can buy cedar chips and sprinkle them in areas where your cat sleeps. They not only deter fleas but moths as well.

Place a pot of rosemary on your windowsill, or grow it in your garden. Finely grind the herb into a powder and sprinkle around the home.

You can also buy rosemary as an oil. Though it can be used to make a wash for dogs, never use it on your cat. Some cats can have a bad reaction to this herb if applied topically.

Thoroughly wash all bedding regularly, and vacuum your mattress. Remove all cushions from your sofa and vacuum using a small nozzle attachment.

Make a homemade flea spray using vinegar diluted in water. Add lemon juice, and pour into a plastic spray bottle. Using the misting nozzle lightly spray your sofa.

You can also use this to spray carpets, your cat’s bedding, windowsills, and all other areas of your home. This is purely preventative, but if you already have an infestation you’ll need to use stronger chemicals.

How to get rid of fleas in your hair effectively

If your cat has fleas it’s quite possible you may get some jumping on you!! Cuddling your cat and sitting near her makes this even more likely.

Most times you’ll simply get one or two harmless bites. However, a couple of fleas in your hair and you’ll soon start to itch!!

Fill a spray bottle with a mix of apple cider vinegar, warm water, baking soda, and lemon juice. Add a few drops of mild shampoo and shake well.

Spray generously onto your hair. Massage into the scalp and through the lengths and ends of your hair. Cover with a shower cap and leave for about 10-15 minutes.

Then, using a very fine tooth comb, drag it from roots to ends. Be careful not to pull any tangles and break your hair. Rinse thoroughly and shampoo as normal.

Apply a good quality leave in conditioner and style as normal. You may need to repeat this a few times, but if it doesn’t work you can buy shampoo that kills lice.

You’ll probably find lice shampoo will effectively kill any fleas that are left in your hair. Always condition well after using this type of shampoo as it will contain harsh chemicals.

Knowing how to kill fleas on cats the right way can keep your pets happy and your home clean.

In this article we’ve covered what fleas are, what causes them, and if they can be passed onto you. We’ve looked at prevention as well as ridding your pets and home of these fast breeding little mites.

While most of the methods I’ve shared in this post are natural, it’s possible you may still need to resort to stronger chemicals. As I previously mentioned, fleas can be very hard to get rid of once you have an infestation.

It’s not just about treating your cat but your home as well. If you kill fleas on your cat but fail to clean your home, they’ll keep coming back.

Flea collars and spot on treatments can be very effective, and in this post I’ve shown you a few natural versions that work, as well as one that’s widely used but does contain chemicals.

Feel free to share your experiences and comments below. Wishing you a purrfect day:)

Get Rid Of Fleas On Cats And Dogs (A Vet’s Top Choices)

When I worked as a small animal veterinarian, getting rid of fleas on cats and dogs was a very common concern for pet owners.

Pets are exposed to fleas in their home environment both indoors and outdoors. Since they prefer cats and dogs to other hosts, an infestation of your pet, their pen, and your home can occur very quickly – sometimes even before you realize your cat has fleas.

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So the first thing you want to do if you find fleas on Fifi is:

Jump to a section

Get rid of fleas on cats FAST

The fastest product to kill fleas on cats is Capstar. Capstar is a pill that begins to kill fleas within 30 minutes and continues to be effective for up to 24 hours.

Capstar is extremely affordable at just a few dollars a pill, and it can be bought over the counter (i.e. no prescription required) at your veterinarian’s office or local pet store.

Flea bites are very irritating and can make your kitty or puppy act crazy. Capstar is the easiest way to get rid of fleas on your cat (or dog) fast.

You should also bathe your dog in a gentle shampoo that is safe for their eyes. Your pet has not only live fleas but flea eggs and flea dirt (a term used for flea feces) as well.

A bath will wash all that away as well as relieve some itching and soothe irritated skin.

5 steps to get rid of fleas in your house

If you follow these steps, you’ll find it’s not very difficult to get rid of cat fleas fast, and you won’t need to resort to using chemical bombs or expensive pest control companies.

Basically, you need to clean your house very well making sure to do these things:

  1. Wash your cat or dog. Any shampoo will do as fleas will drown and die in the water. If your pet is very irritated from flea bites, try a soothing oatmeal formula like this one.
  2. Wash all bedding where your pet sleeps or fleas have been seen. You don’t need any special soap here either, just wash the bedding in your washing machine as usual.
  3. Replace any filling in dog or cat beds. If you can’t remove and replace the bedding, you’re better off buying a new bed for your pet. Flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are already hiding inside of the filling so you need to get rid of them.
  4. Vacuum. Every. Day. You can kill fleas in carpet simply by vacuuming. Flea eggs are not sticky and they’re easily sucked up by your vacuum. Sprinkle DE + Borax (in desperation, use Sevin Dust) into your vacuum bag or container to kill live fleas that get sucked in.
  5. Use a flea preventative on your pet. Combining these steps with one of the recommended flea pills or collars listed above for at least 3 months will get rid of your flea problem.

Treating flea bites on cats and dogs

Usually getting rid of the fleas will take care of the problem, however, the reaction to the bites can be very irritating for some pets.

  1. A bath is the very first step for soothing flea bites on your cat or dog. Try a soothing oatmeal shampoo instead of over the counter flea shampoos that contain pesticides.
  2. Benadryl can be effective at calming the itchy feeling as well. Benadryl dosing for pets is 1/2 to 1 mg per pound.
  3. Topical ointments and sprays that contain cortisone can be helpful as well. Be careful not to apply to the face or on a pet that is likely to lick the solution off.

Preventing fleas on your cat or dog

Prevention is really the best option if you live in an area that is prone to fleas. Fleas are most active during the warmest times of the year, but in some areas of the US, we can see flea problems year round.

It’s a common thought that you can discontinue flea preventative in the winter months, but as you can tell by the map below, a majority of our country will experience trouble with fleas for 10-12 months of the year.

There are many natural options for preventing fleas on your cat or dog, but if you’re in one of the hot zones for fleas, you may find that natural methods are just not enough to truly take care of the problem.

And if you or your pet are allergic to the flea bites, there’s no reason to torture yourselves by trying to avoid using pesticides for flea treatment. Judicious use of pesticides is nothing to be ashamed of if it improves your health and quality of life.

Fortunately, there are a lot of flea prevention options for your pet.

The best flea collar

One of my favorite products for pets with flea problems/allergies is the Seresto Collar. Unlike cheap flea collars which only work within a few centimeters of the collar, the Seresto collar will actually kill fleas over your pets entire body.

You can leave this collar on for flea control up to 8 months. Seresto collars do not require a prescription and can vary in price from $30 to $80. The cost tends to be higher at your veterinarian’s office because veterinarians do not have the buying power that stores like Wal-Mart and Target do.

So while you can get a better price by purchasing from your big box stores, you’ll be supporting a local business by purchasing from your vet. Be sure to ask about any coupons or rebates from the manufacturer as you can sometimes get a rebate coupon when you purchase from your veterinarian.

In my experience, Seresto has been very effective for most pet families. Occasionally, a pet will be allergic to the collar itself. If that happens to you, the manufacturer may refund your purchase price and pay for some or all of the treatment.

I haven’t been convinced that there’s been any flea resistance to Seresto. All flea preventatives take some time to kill the fleas, so pets living in an area where there are lots of fleas may still have live fleas seen on them from time to time.

Pros of the Seresto collar:

  • Works continuously for 8 months with no monthly pill to administer
  • Safe for pregnant and nursing dogs
  • Also kills ticks

Cons of the Seresto collar:

  • Can be expensive
  • Does not contain heartworm or intestinal parasite treatment
  • Occasionally allergic reactions will occur

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The best flea pill for cats and dogs

Honestly, there are lots of really good options for flea control in a pill form. I like Comfortis because the active component, spinosad, is organically derived from bacteria that live in the soil.

We use spinosad sprays for caterpillars in the garden, and I’ve even seen homesteaders use it to treat their chickens for lice. Unfortunately, although it’s available in the garden department as a spray, this flea pill for cats and dogs is available by prescription only.

Pros of Comfortis:

  • Naturally derived compound that is fast and effective against fleas
  • Convenient once monthly pilling
  • Is combined with milbemycin in Trifexis to treat heartworms, fleas, and intestinal parasites in dogs

Cons of Comfortis:

  • May cause vomiting
  • May lower seizure threshold in epileptic pets
  • Not safe in pregnant or lactating pets

The longest lasting flea pill

Bravecto is a great product for those who live in areas with a heavy flea burden. Bravecto is a flavored chewable pill that kills fleas and ticks on dogs for up to 3 months.

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The same product also comes as a topical flea treatment for cats as well as dogs. Bravecto is available from your veterinarian by prescription only and costs about $50 per treatment.

Pros of Bravecto:

  • One treatment kills fleas and ticks for 3 months
  • Safe for pregnant and lactating dogs
  • Also treats some types of mange

Cons of Bravecto:

  • May be expensive
  • Pets must be over 6 months old
  • Use with caution in pets with a history of seizures

What about Frontline?

Frontline has become much more affordable since the active ingredient, fipronil, came off patent a few years ago. However, even before the decline in cost, we were seeing a decline in efficacy which may indicate that certain populations of fleas were developing resistance to the treatment.

That said, I know some pet owners who find that Frontline is still very effective, so it might be worth a try for your family. It’s also an inexpensive and safe choice for pregnant and lactating dogs and cats.

Home remedies for fleas on cats and dogs

If you don’t have a heavy flea burden and you want to try natural methods for controlling fleas, then I have some good news. There are some natural methods for controlling fleas that work great.

But you need to have realistic expectations.

If your pet already has a lot of fleas, scabs on their skin, or a skin infection, then you should see your veterinarian for medical treatment. You’ll end up spending more time and money on treatments that don’t work and medical complications for your pet if you avoid going to the vet.

Let your pet’s doctor do his or her job, follow their recommendations, and then use these natural methods as adjunct approaches for controlling further flea problems.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) + Borax will kill fleas

A 50:50 mixture of DE and Borax will help control your flea problem. It works by scraping through their soft skin as they crawl through it causing them to dry out and die.

Be cautious spreading DE in confined areas as the aerosolized powder when inhaled in large amounts can cause lung damage to people, children, and pets. DE is, however, safe when applied directly to your pets and is not harmful if ingested orally (in small amounts).

Sprinkle the Borax + DE mixture in your pet’s bedding, around the edges of their housing, and under furniture, furniture cushions, and along baseboards in your home. (This is the same method I use for cleaning my chicken coop.)

While DE + Borax can help minimize a flea infestation, it’s not a great option for treatment in severe cases. I recommend using this method in addition to other flea control methods mentioned in this article.

Use flea repellent bedding

Some great options for flea repellent bedding include cedar and hemp. Both of these materials are repellent to fleas and may help reduce flea infestations.

Many pests find the scent of cedar and hemp unpleasant, so using either of these materials as bedding for your pets can decrease your problem with fleas.

Both will decrease in efficacy over time, so you’ll have to replace the bedding periodically. For pets that sleep indoors, use a bed with a removable & washable cover so you can refresh the bedding as needed.

I use hemp bedding in my chicken coops, and I found the best price including shipping for a 33# bag on Amazon. Cedar flakes are easy to find in pet stores and online.

Use dried herbs to repel fleas on cats and dogs

You can also sprinkle dried and ground herbs to help repel fleas on your cat or dog. Some good herbal options for repelling fleas include:

Using essential oils for fleas on cats and dogs

Essential oils can act as repellents for fleas, but you must be very cautious when using EOs with pets. If you overdo it, you can cause illness or even death.

I do not recommend applying essential oils directly to your pets without direct veterinary supervision. It’s very easy to apply too much oil to your pet and cause them harm. Plus, cats and dogs are very likely to lick any areas where you apply oils and, when ingested, essential oils can be extremely toxic.

Instead, try adding a couple of drops to your diffuser or sprinkling a couple of drops around their favorite lounging locations.

Some essential oils that can repel fleas include:

  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Cedar
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Peppermint

In her book for using essential oils in veterinary medicine, Dr. Shelton recommends using Longevity essential oil blend by Young Living for keeping fleas off of dogs. It is not generally used for cats.

Her recommended oral dosing for dogs is

  • 2-3 drops per day for small dogs
  • 3-5 drops every day for medium sized dogs
  • 6-7 drops maximum per day for large dogs

When to see a vet about fleas

When a flea bites the skin, it injects a small amount of its saliva to prevent the blood from clotting at the site so the bug can feed. The saliva injected causes an intensely itchy local reaction.

What’s worse, is that some pets and people are allergic to the flea saliva causing an even more intense reaction.

Your cat has fleas plus bald spots, open sores, or stinks

A pet with a severe flea allergy will lose hair exposing red, raw skin and scabs. Often they get a skin infection as well which causes more itching, scabs, and a bad odor.

Sometimes, pets are so allergic to fleas that even one flea bite can cause obsessive itching and open sores. Left untreated, flea allergies and infestations can lead to serious skin infections that are uncomfortable for your pet and expensive to treat.

Your cat has fleas and is lethargic or won’t eat

Because fleas feed exclusively on blood, small cats and dogs can become anemic (having low red blood cell counts) with a heavy infestation of fleas.

In addition to being extremely uncomfortable, fleas bites can lead to secondary skin infections. And if the pest is ingested they can cause intestinal tapeworm infections.

So you can see that it’s important to make sure you’re treating and preventing fleas before they become a major issue. And hopefully, this article has given you plenty of ideas to get your pet and home comfortable again.

Have you struggled to get rid of fleas on cats or dogs?

Share your experience in the comments below.

Disclaimer: Although I am a veterinarian, I am not YOUR veterinarian. The information in this blog post is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat medical illness. If you are concerned that you or your pet are ill, you should visit a qualified health care professional for treatment right away.

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