How does a cat get fleas

Difficult to break down: fleas in cats

They reproduce rapidly, can jump about 25 cm and are in season all year round: fleas. Even with good hygiene, humans and animals are not immune from the blood-sucking insects. Preparations against fleas can effectively contain an infestation in cats or prevent them with regular use.

The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common flea hard in Germany. But the name is deceptive: because when looking for a suitable host, the cat flea is not particularly picky. It affects not only cats, but also dogs, small mammals and birds - sometimes humans too.

Adult fleas are around 2 to 3 millimeters in size and feed on blood. Flea bites are extremely unpleasant for cats and cat owners and can have health consequences.

Fleas: where the danger is greatest

Fleas are one of the most common parasites in pets. Many cats become infected through contact with other animals or outdoors. But the home environment can also be contaminated with fleas, eggs or larvae. Cat fleas in particular survive very well in apartments. B. the dog flea.

They multiply rapidly: only 5 percent of the flea population are adult fleas, 95 percent consist of eggs, larvae or pupae. The eggs are laid by the adult female fleas in the fur of infected cats and can from therebe distributed throughout the apartment. Larvae about four millimeters in size develop. They are light-shy and therefore like to stay in carpets, upholstered furniture or in beds. especially the Dolls can survive in the home for a long time.They are extremely resistant to external influences. Therefore, it can happen that a cat continues to infect itself in its environment. New adult fleas are constantly hatching out of the pupae and immediately looking for a host.

When combating a flea infestation in the cat, the animal itself should first be treated with a suitable anti-parasitic agent. It can also be useful to treat the area with a fogger or spray.

  • Use biocidal products carefully. Always read the label and product information before use.

The following deserve special attention in the cat environment:

  • Cup
  • scratch tree
  • Upholstered furniture and beds that the cat is on
  • pillows and blankets
  • Carpets and cracks in the floor

Since it is often not possible to remove the fleas and all of their developmental stages in one fell swoop, it may be necessary to use the anti-parasitic for 2 to 4 months.1 Because this is the only way to break the flea cycle sustainably. With the regular use of suitable preparations, a flea infestation can also be prevented.

The cat flea is the most common flea in Germany and Europe.

Identifying fleas in cats

There are several symptoms that suggest a cat has fleas. Occasional scratching is a first warning sign. If the infestation is more severe, the affected animals scratch each other continuously, because flea bites are often accompanied by severe itching. However, there are also animals that show hardly any itching despite a pronounced infestation. This can make it difficult to identify the infestation.

The possible consequences are:

  • Restlessness
  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair breakage or loss

Cats who are allergic to flea saliva are at risk of severe skin reactions. Veterinarians then speak of flea salivary dermatitis or flea saliva allergy. This complication can also affect dogs.

It can also happen that cat owners first notice a flea infestation on themselves, as many fleas are flexible in their choice of host and also feed on human blood. Characteristic of flea bites in humans are several stitches in a row that itch strongly (so-called flea street).

Aside from these signs, there are a few simple tools that can be used to test whether their cat has fleas. In fact, it is easier to detect flea excrement than to recognize fleas with the naked eye in thick cat fur - especially in long-haired cats such as Burma, Persian or Maine Coone.

To prove a flea infestation in your cat you need:

  • A flea comb from a pet store or a veterinarian
  • A sheet of white paper, handkerchief or kitchen roll

Comb your cat's fur well with the flea comb. Then wipe the comb over the sheet of paper or handkerchief.

Black crumbs are a first indication of flea droppings. To be sure, dampen the paper. If the material from the comb turns red, it is probably flea excrement, consisting of undigested blood.

If you don't have a flea comb on hand, you can place your cat on a piece of paper and rub through its fur with your hands. Even then, flea droppings fall out and can be detected with the method.

Flea Infestation in Cats: Health Consequences

Fleas are uncomfortable and annoying. But they can also trigger or transmit diseases. These include:

Allergic reaction: Some cats are allergic to flea saliva. The result is skin inflammation, hair breakage and eczema. The back of the body is particularly affected. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is one of the most common skin conditions in cats.

Tapeworms: Fleas can transmit the cucumber seed tapeworm to dogs and cats.

Cat scratch disease: The cat scratch disease manifests itself in infected animals by loss of appetite and fever. The lymph nodes and spleen may be enlarged. Even if the infection in the cat is symptom-free, there is a risk of infection for humans, especially if the immune system is weakened.

Anemia: Usually only kittens are affected by this complication. If the flea is badly infested, a kitten weighing 0.5 kilograms can lose up to 10 percent of its blood.

Cats in times of COVID-19

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Fight fleas in cats

Once fleas have settled on your cat and in your home, they are not that easy to get rid of. Even if you regularly vacuum, wipe and wash the blankets and pillows of the cat basket: Fleas can resist normal hygiene practices.

The affected animal should therefore be treated with a suitable preparation. Combination preparations are now available for cats with which not only fleas, but also other parasites are effectively combated or repelled. The advantage of such preparations in which the flea agent is integrated: They are easy for the pet owner to use.

Regular use of preparations against fleas can not only kill existing fleas, but also prevent re-infestation. Year-round, regular preventive care may be appropriate depending on the animal's living situation. This is especially true for cats that are outdoors and have close contact with other cats.

If several cats live in the household: remember to treat them all! Of course, this also applies to dogs or other animals in the household.

Common mistakes in flea control

Pet owners often find that controlling fleas on their cat has not been successful. This usually has one of the following reasons:

  • The treatment time was too short.
  • The environment was not treated.
  • The anti-parasitic drug was not used properly.
  • The intervals between the individual treatments were too great.
  • Not all animals in the household were treated.
  • The animal was bathed shortly after the treatment.


1. Halos et al., Trends in Parasitology, May 2014, Vol. 30, No. 5