Everything you need to know about fleas
Fleas give foster parents and animal shelters a headache. Unfortunately, this unwanted pest can be found in almost all our rescued cats. In the first round at the shelter, we try to get the incoming kittens rid of the fleas. Of course we provide regular parasite control for all of our housed cats. The real challenge is usually for the foster parent volunteers because some of the rescued kitties arrive straight into their families. The common practice is to go to the vet first. This is the easier way of course, since the cat is sprayed with insecticide from the head to toe. Usually, we wait for a little and watch his/her little head carefully, since spraying should be avoided around the eyes. This pest is so persistent that one or two fleas survive spraying. To kill them easily put your thumbs together, bend them with nails facing eachother. Catch the flea between your nails then press your thumbnails together firmly.
Thousands of anti-flea devices can be obtained in animal pharmacies and over the internet. There are flea-collars, in various colors and styles, granules (which should be dissolved). All manufacturers offer some kind of Spot-on products, anti-flea gloves, shampoos, powders, and there are natural methods. I found valuable information in the latter which I am presenting here, however I did not have the opportunity yet to try it. Mix cider vinegar and water in the ratio of 1:2 or one spoon of olive oil with 2-3 drops of lavender and eucalyptus oil and rub the neck, body folds and abdomen of the dog or cat from time to time. These mixtures sound interesting maybe I will give them a try someday.
One of our volunteers’ experiences
„In my opinion, only Spot-ons are effective, other products are not really. What is very important is NOT to use any products designed for dogs on cats. Certain substances are poisonous for cats and may cause death. None of these is a good thing. „
Well, now let us see what we are talking about. The origin, diet and reproduction of fleas:
Fleas are 1-4 mm long, dark brown, wingless insects. Their bodies are laterally compressed, their heads are small, with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to pierce the skin and feed on the blood of their hosts. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) has a comb-like structure on its head and thorax, which are actually spikes, modified from bristles. This permits easy movement through the hairs. Their hind legs are powerful, enabling them huge jumps comparing to their small body size.
This is disgusting of its own but here is the best part. A flea looks like this:
Adult fleas feed on blood, offspring feed on the feces of the mother. Flea larvae do not feed on blood, but on organic matter and they hide in the nest of the host animal. Several species are known to suck enormous amount of blood during the breading season and their excrement contain undigested, coagulated blood on which their larvae feed on. Some flea species only contact host animals to suck blood, otherwise they live in the nest of the host.
Female fleas mostly lay eggs into the nest of the host animal, house, floor cracks, dust or trash. Eggs laid on the body of the host animal fall into there eventually. The eggs are oval shaped, grayish-white, about 0,5 mm in size. The larvae hatch between 2-12 days. After 9-15 days and two larval stages they weave a so-called cocoon around themselves from the secretions of the salivary gland and pupate. The pupa stage lasts for 4-14 days, sometimes for several months. Flea eggs look like this:
It occurs throughout the entire year among indoor animals, and in spring and summer among outdoor animals in temperate climate. It disturbs the animals and may cause iron deficiency anemia to young animals.
The cat flea is able to suck blood on humans as well thereby spreads infectious diseases. Flea saliva can cause allergic reactions. The cat flea is the intermediate host of tapeworms and it also transmits the pathogen of the „cat-scratch disease”
If the cat has very thick or black hair in which fleas difficult to find, flea poo is the warning sign. It looks like dirt, small black dots hidden in kitty’s fur. It can be easily diagnosed by putting the cat's bed upside down over the sink or bathtub, so that dust, cat hair fall out and maybe flea droppings as well, which look like black dots or dirt. Then moistened tissue paper should be put on the flea poo to check if it will turns red, because flea droppings contain blood and moistened tissue paper washes it out. The sink or bathtub can also be wetted first and then the cat's bed should be turned up above it and checked if there are red spots. The first method is better in my opinion and only a little flea poo is enough to be shown, provided that the droppings are stuck on the moistened tissue. Flea-comb can be used as well and then the tissue test can be done on the combed out material.
Significant thing about the fleas is that their bite causes contact dermatitis. On cats it manifests as blisters, pockmarks in a few millimeter in diameter mostly on the head, neck and back. Scratching is not typical. These symptoms are not specific, other diseases could cause such symptoms.
It is very important if we see flea on the animal then it means that the environment is already infested! Therefore it is not enough to get the cat rid of the fleas but the entire environment should be treated by vacuuming the house for example.
We are much smarter now and I hope that it will not be a problem to know what can be done and how if someone meets a kitty with fleas.
Thank you for your attention!
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