Fleas and ticks in cats

Fleas are the most common external parasite found on cats. Ticks can also be a problem, particularly for those cats that roam outdoors.


All cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Even cats that never go outdoors can get fleas because these tiny parasites can enter your home very easily.

Fleas may be visible as the adult version, a small black or brown quickly moving insect in your cat’s fur. However, the adults are often hard to spot. Look for flea dirt in your cat’s coat. Flea dirt will appear as small black specks of debris and is most easily found on the area over your cat’s back just in front of his tail or on his abdomen.

Fleas feed on your cat’s blood. Adult fleas lay their eggs while on your cat and are quite proliferative. One or two adult fleas can quickly become a population of thousands.

Once the eggs are laid, they fall off of your cat and mature in places like your carpeting, cracks in your hardwood or tile floors, the upholstery on your furniture and in bedding where your cat sleeps.

Fleas can cause numerous problems for your cat.

  • Fleas can carry tapeworms which can infect your cat.
  • Fleas can carry other diseases, such as plague, which infect your cat.
  • Fleas can also carry diseases, such as cat scratch fever, which may affect you and your family
  • Some cats are highly sensitive or even allergic to fleas. In this case, your cat can suffer from hair loss, inflamed skin, scabs and sores on the skin, “hot spots”, and even skin infections.

Flea infestations are much easier to prevent than they are to control once present. If you are fighting an already existing flea infestation, you will need to battle the larval forms of the flea in addition to the adults. There are many monthly topical or oral flea products that are safe and effective in preventing fleas. Consult your veterinarian to find out which is safest and most effective for your pet.

For an existing infestation, you will also need to vacuum all flooring surfaces frequently. Vacuum your upholstery too. Remove the vacuum bag from your home. Wash all bedding, preferably in hot water.


Ticks also feed off of your cat’s blood. When doing so, they can transmit disease to your cat. However, they can also carry disease to you and your family.

Inspect your cat frequently for ticks, particularly if he goes outdoors. They are most commonly located around the head and ears but check the entire body. A tick will be visible as an insect attached to your cat’s skin.

If you find a tick, grasp it firmly as close to your cat’s skin as possible and pull gently and steadily to remove it. Try to remove the entire tick with its headpiece intact. Do not handle the tick without gloves. Kill it by placing it in a small jar of alcohol.