The most common parasite your cat is likely to come into contact with is the cat flea. If your cat is allowed outside, it’s almost impossible to prevent them from getting fleas at some point. Powders, collars, drops and even ingestible flea tablets and liquids are all worth using but no method is 100% effective in preventing fleas.

Fleas can be a real problem for your cat. These small wingless insects range in size from 1 to 3mm bite your cat’s skin and feed of the blood. The flea’s bites and faecal matter will irritate your cat leading to scratching, which in turn can create sores. Your cat will scratch the most densely affected areas which will also contain the most flea poo which they are effectively scratching into their own skin. Cats can also be allergic to flea saliva resulting in dermatitis and hair loss.

A flea infestation is easy to spot. The fleas will be easily visible crawling on the belly of your cat and they will also be visible in a fine comb together with the flea excreta. As well as the discomfort the infestation will cause your cat, you will also soon be sharing in their discomfort as the flea infestation will move from cat to carpet. For some members of your family, this might be little more than a minor nuisance – for others? Flea bites cause an autoimmune response leading to raised lumps that leave scars that are visible for a year or more, and which remain itchy for almost as long.

Whilst no cat flea treatment is particularly good at prevention, they are much better at cure. The levels of poison you can safely apply to your cat as an occasional measure to remove fleas is much higher than your cat can be exposed to on a virtually permanent basis to try and prevent them. Flea treatments are always changing and improving – speak to your vet about the latest and greatest treatment.

No matter what flea removal method you choose, remember to read the label with regard to dosage and application. This is especially important with methods such as drops. Your cat should be held firmly when applying flea drops lest most go on their fur rather than their skin. Always apply flea drops behind the neck where they can lick it as opposed to on their belly where the infestation is likely to be worse. There is no need for this treatment to be applied at the spot of infestation.

Take care to make the treatment as stress-free as possible for your cat otherwise next time they will run and hide when they see you coming for them with the flea powder. Aerosols should be avoided as the noise and smell will imprint on your cat and they will start to struggle as soon as you press the nozzle each time after the first.

Cat bedding and carpet will need to be vacuumed, washed and/or disinfected as flea eggs, pupae and larvae will be waiting to reinfest your cat.

More than Just Fleas?
Cats, especially those with access to outdoors, can suffer from a variety of external and internal parasites, including lice, fleas, fungal infections, ticks and worms – all of which cause ill health. There is a wide variety of preparations available to buy off the shelf at pet stores and supermarkets designed to treat these parasites, but they are not as effective as those that are available on prescription from your vet. So, while the former products may be cheaper and easier to obtain, they often prove to be false economy in the long run.

Intestinal worms roundworm and tapeworm are most efficiently controlled via all-in-one treatments prescribed and administered by your vet. A typical worming regime is to treat kittens aged four to sixteen weeks for roundworms every fortnight; from six months old, treat the cat every two to six months depending on whether he is an outdoor or an indoor cat for both roundworm and tapeworm. Consult your vet for advice about the most appropriate worming plan and treatment for your cat.

Flea dermatitis in Cats

Symptoms
Irritation and soreness of the skin occur around flea bites. Red, raw areas and scabs caused by the cat scratching himself obsessively; these may be found all over the cat’s body, or just in localized areas such as near the base of the tail and behind the ears. Some cats are more sensitive than others to flea bites and can be driven almost to distraction with the resultant itching.

Causes
A reaction to the saliva of the fleas when they bite the cat in order to feed on his blood.

Treatment
The cat may require a course of treatment to alleviate irritation, along with treatment to kill the fleas and prevent reinfestation.

What to do
Some of the fungi responsible for ringworm are zoonotic, contractable by humans, so take care that you and your family are not infected. Only your vet can prescribe effective treatment, so seek urgent advice.