It may be mid-summer, but two bothersome and potentially lethal pests still abound: fleas and ticks.
For each flea found on your cat, there may be scores developing from unseen eggs within your own home. Besides being itchy, flea bites can cause your cat medical problems including flea-allergic dermatitis, tapeworms, hair loss due to excessive scratching, and secondary skin irritations. An infestation can cause anemia in kittens, which, if severe enough, can even kill them.
And remember! Fleas also bite humans.
Because cats are self-groomers, many owners mistakenly assume if they can’t see any fleas, there aren’t any fleas. But the signs will be there: persistent scratching, bald patches, scabs or red, sore areas. A flea is dark brown and 1 to 2mm in length, while flea “dirt” (feces) looks like tiny black specks. And they can be found anywhere — from your cat’s body and fur to your carpets and furniture.
The market is flooded with products for flea protection and treatment, including flea collars, spot-on liquids, powders, sprays, shampoos, tablets and injections. But, as with everything else pet-related, prudent cat owners should consult their vets about the safest and most effective product to use.
Besides treating your cat, you may need to treat your home as well. Whether the infestation is minor enough to handle on your own or severe enough to call in pest control professionals, ensure that your cat is safely removed from the affected areas and returned only when everything has been properly ventilated.
Please note: flea control is essential year-round to ensure your cat’s health and keep your family from being bitten.
A tick is a fairly common parasite known for embedding itself in the skin of pets and people alike. Once it lands, it inserts its mouthparts into the skin and feeds on the blood of its “prey.” A single tick has the potential to pass on multiple diseases – more often to people than cats — such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
When bitten, the skin of some cats may become red and irritated around the site, while others may not even notice the parasite. It is imperative then, that, whether you own an outdoors or an indoors cat, you inspect yours thoroughly anytime you return from an area known for ticks.
Should you find a tick, remove it very carefully, making certain that the mouthparts are removed as well. If left behind, they can abscess and cause infection. Kill the tick by placing it in a zip-lock bag and pouring rubbing alcohol over it. For the hesitant owner, there are special tick removal devices available, while the squeamish can have their vet remove the tick instead.
As with fleas, there are numerous products on the market for tick protection and treatment, including spot-on liquids, oral medications, shampoos, tick dips, collars, powders and sprays. But, once again, conscientious cat owners should consult their vets about the safest and most effective product to use.
Since controlling and eliminating an existing flea or tick problem is, all too often, too little, too late, the only truly effective solution is PREVENTION.
Written for A Cat’s Tale Rescue by Nomi Berger