How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Fleas?

While it's relatively easy to tell if your cat has fleas once the infestation has widely spread, no one wants to wait that long. It's a good idea to keep an eye on your feline and periodically check for the signs he might have a flea problem.

Check the Areas Fleas Like Best

Fleas gravitate toward certain areas of a cat's body, primarily near the hind legs, abdomen and the lower back just above the tail. These are the spots you'll want to check the most.

While you may or may not see any actual fleas present, what you want to look for are dark, almost pepper-like spots on your cat's skin. These come off if you pick at them. They are flea feces and might look more red than black if your cat is wet. If these are present, your cat has a flea infestation.

Scratching and Biting

When fleas bite, the offended spot itches. You might notice your cat jerking and suddenly going after a spot on their body; this could be a sign of fleas. Any excessive scratching, biting or licking should always be paid attention to. If your cat is biting and licking, ingesting fleas can lead to tapeworm.

Flea Bites on Owners

While your cat might be an outdoor pet that rarely, if ever, comes inside, your cat might be one that likes to come in and lay in your bed or on your clean laundry when you aren't looking. Your cat might be an entirely indoors pet. Either way, if you start noticing an increase in the number of bug bites you get, you might want to take a look at them. These might very well be flea bites because the fleas are hopping off your cat and into your bedding, clothing or carpets of your home.

Visible Fleas

Of course, the easiest way to tell if a cat has fleas is to be able to spot the fleas on them directly. In darker-furred cats, this can be difficult. If you notice an abundance of fleas, especially if you can see them crawling on your cat's face, then you have a big infestation and it needs to be treated immediately. If you aren't sure what to try on your own, you can always ask your vet for advice, but most owners are able to successfully deal with fleas without vet intervention.

How to Treat Fleas

Flea powder and flea collars are decreasing in popularity due to their ineffectiveness and their toxicity to cats. Shampoos are a good quick-solution, although many owners dread the idea of giving their cat a bath. Shampoos, however, get rid of the fleas on the body but do not necessarily prevent a reinfestation.

Topical flea treatments come in tiny capsules full of an oily liquid, which is squirted onto the back of the cat's neck against his skin. This oil works itself naturally throughout the cat's body. Topical flea treatments are usually applied once a month to once every three months or so, and come in a wide variety of brands. Some can only be obtained through your vet.

Generally, the best treatment for fleas is to give your cat a bath with a good flea shampoo (make sure you rinse it all out), and put him on some of the topical flea treatments to kill any remaining fleas and keep them off.

If you fear your infestation of fleas is severe and worry your cat may have developed tapeworm or other conditions such as anemia from his fleas, check with your veterinarian.