How Fleas Harm Your Cat

By Gemma Hopkins on 25 January 2017

Why you can’t ignore a flea problem

A surprising number of cat-owners are completely unaware that their pet has fleas. False beliefs about fleas, such as the myths that they don’t appear on indoor cats and don’t enter clean homes, can lull you into a false sense of security. This makes you less ready to spot fleas when they do appear. So it’s important to be aware that fleas do present a danger to your pet, whatever your circumstances.

Severe Infestations

Fleas are parasites who feed on the blood of the host animal. If the infestation is severe, the blood loss can be serious and lead to anaemia. However, this is usually only the case with young kittens and cats that are already weakened by other health problems. But being continually bitten is very unpleasant for any cat, however healthy, and many owners first suspect a flea problem when they notice excessive scratching and grooming. Since you’re familiar with your cat’s grooming habits, you’ll probably be quick to spot even subtle changes. In some cats, the signs of distress are unmistakable even to strangers, because they scratch and bite their own body to the point where they start losing fur. Obviously, this can be very upsetting for you as the owner to witness.

Flea Saliva

Many cats are distressed not just by the biting, but by developing an allergy to flea saliva. This is known as flea allergy dermatitis and is the most common type of allergy found in cats. Just one or two bites will cause misery for a cat with this allergy. The bites will feel bumpy to the touch and turn into scabs. Cats with flea allergy dermatitis are more likely to demonstrate the obvious signs of distress such as scratching and chewing their skin.

Tapeworms

If all that wasn’t worrying enough, occasionally fleas can give a helping hand to a different type of parasite – the tapeworm. Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs, so a cat that accidentally swallows a flea or two while grooming its itchy skin could also swallow a tapeworm along with it. A tapeworm infestation will cause tummy problems and you may notice your cat losing weight and/or being sick more than usual.

Be prepared!

Prevention is key to avoiding all flea-related health problems in your cat, from skin allergies to potential worm infestations. To find out more, read about how to treat fleas in your cat.

Gemma Hopkins BVetMed, CertVC, MRCVS, RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Veterinary Cardiology


Gemma holds an RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology and continues to work part time in practice to remain up to date and continue her interest in cardiology