Mrs. Quinn was shocked and became a bit defensive when we combed her dignified, handsome tabby Gus, only to find evidence of fleas. “But he’s indoors only, he’s not scratching, and I haven’t seen any fleas. Are you sure that is not just dirt!? And besides, how could they have gotten in the house? ”
After she had time to catch her breath, the more we discussed the presence of fleas, the fact that her beloved cat was harboring fleas began to sink in. I reassured her it had nothing to do with poor hygiene but everything to do with awareness of fleas. However, it took some convincing that they are not just annoying little parasites but are harmful and must be eliminated from her house and Gus as soon as possible.
This is an every day scenario here at the Chico Hospital for Cats, a cat who is diagnosed with fleas yet their family had no clue and felt blind-sided by the news. Let’s start with the most common myths regarding fleas:
Myth #1) “My cat(s) are indoors only. They don’t have fleas. ”
Every day we see indoor cats with fleas. Just like other bugs such as spiders march their way into our homes, fleas are even better at it. They may hitch a ride on you or a guest and make their way in via the flea infested animals passing by your home (raccoons, opossums, other cats and dogs). By the time most people notice them, if one notices them, they’ve been in their house for approximately 2 months!
Prevention is key when it comes to adequate flea control! Often we hear “I’ll just keep flea combing them and if I see anything then I’ll get some flea products.” First of all, once you have an infestation, it’s already too late. Not only do you have to treat your cat, but you now have to treat the environment. This is not only tedious but expensive AND now your family has already been exposed to these harmful parasites.
Did you know that fleas may cause numerous illnesses to your cats and for human family members?
Cats can develop all of the following from fleas:
A skin rash called flea allergic dermatitis (most cats don’t show obvious itching signs)
Anemia (low red blood cell count, fleas feed off your cat’s blood)
A life-threatening infection called Mycoplasma
And, humans can develop Bartonellosis (Cat Scratch fever) which can lead to serious disease. It’s not just some strange made up words to a song.
Myth #2) “I don’t see any fleas, I’m not getting bit, and besides I have hardwood floors.”
Fleas come in all different stages, all of which are difficult to see with the naked eye, especially at the beginning of an infestation. Also remember, cats lick them away with their fastidious grooming habits.
Various stages of the flea include the eggs (which are great at falling into the cracks of even hardwood floors), larvae (which are rarely seen), the pupae (they have a lovely sticky cocoon that loves to Velcro themselves to cat trees, in the cracks of furniture, or carpets), and then the elusive adult flea (which can live in the environment for months before its fed or even seen).
Most people do not get noticeable bites on themselves. And, you do not need carpets to have fleas. They thrive on all types of surfaces.
Myth #3)”I will just go to the store and get some flea treatment for a couple months.”
A single dose will NOT rid your cats or house of fleas. Year round monthly treatment is necessary. Though their population amps up during summer and fall, fleas are present year round.
Do not buy over the counter flea products, even if they have the same label as the flea product you bought from your veterinarian. Buy only from veterinary hospitals. We could write a book on all the cats who became extremely ill (and even didn’t survive) from an over the counter product that claimed it was safe. On top of this, the over the counter flea products often do not work. In other words potentially toxic, worthless products are too often purchased over the counter and only your veterinarian should discriminate which products are safe.
Take home message: Treat all your cats year round with a veterinary approved flea product. My favorite is topical Revolution and I use it on my cats every 3 weeks from May to October and every 3 to 4 weeks the rest of the year.
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