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How to Get Rid of Cat Fleas in 2021

Do you want to know how to get rid of cat fleas?

Cat fleas are the bane of every cat owner’s existence. Fleas on your cat pose a problem to your feline’s health. Today, we’re going to find out how to stop fleas dead in their tracks.

So what is the number one way of stopping fleas?

According to research, the answer is most likely down to – regular vacuuming.

Vacuuming is the backbone of a good flea strategy since it destroys the majority of the adult flea population and all of the younger flea population.

Supporting this, regular extensive cleaning of your environment, including bedding, and dust can be powerful supportive methods.

Vet-approved cat flea treatments help your treatment strategy and include sprays, flea collars, and oral treatments.

A multi-pronged treatment approach is the best way to get rid of fleas on cats.

My name is Derrick and I write for Simply Cat care. We are about creating easy-to-read articles to learn about cats. I am not a veterinarian.

I’ve have researched everything mentioned in this article to help you prevent fleas from becoming a problem.

This post will contain the following things.

Let’s get into it.


What are fleas?

Fleas are an external parasite [1].  Many different types of flea are unique to different types of animals [1].

The fleas will feed on your pet’s blood, consuming 15x its body weight in blood per day [1].

What is the life cycle of a flea?

Getting rid of fleas involves tackling all stages of a flea life cycle.

There are four phases: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult.

Female adults will lay 40-50 eggs per day on your cat [1]. The flea eggs will hatch into small worms (larvae) and then enter a cocoon state (pupae) for 1-4 weeks before hatching [1].  A female adult will lay eggs during her lifetime and accumulate up to 5,000 [4].

Eggs transfer to surfaces your cat will come into contact with [1]. 


What promotes flea infestation? 

Adult fleas, larvae, and pupae all prefer warmer climates [5].  This can reduce the time it takes for an egg to reach the adult stage of a flea’s life cycle, from two months to three weeks [5].

High humidity is also favorable for flea growth and improves the survivability of fleas [5].

Contact with other pets (e.g. dogs) or visitors to your house may be sources of outside flea infestation.

Signs your cat has a flea problem

Many common symptoms tell if your cat has a flea infestation.  They include:

  • Bald patches
  • Excessive scratching
  • Red spots
  • Tiny dark specks (flea dirt) on the fur
  • Unexplained insect bites around your ankles [3]

Use a fine cat flea comb to groom your cat and inspect fleas [3].  Examine the leftover specks (if any) under running water (often referred to as flea dirt).  If any of the specks turn red, it is due to the blood remnants of flea waste [4]. This indicates flea infestation.

Red dots around your ankles are due to a flea bite. Flea bites can also occur on cats (check under your cat’s fur) and irritate their skin.

How to get rid of cat fleas

What other ways you can identify a flea problem?

You can use the so-called ‘sock test’ to check for fleas [4].

This involves wearing high ankle white socks and shuffling along carpets or other flooring [4].  The heat generated by doing this attracts fleas onto the sock [4].

Check the socks for reddish-brown or dark speck remnants – which indicate flea infestation [4].

Another method is to place a bowl of warm or hot water with a lamp aimed at top of it [4].  This can cause fleas to jump into the water and die – showing you if they are a problem [4].

Why are fleas a problem?

If your cat has fleas, it can be a serious problem.

Fleas can serve as hosts for many serious diseases such as tapeworm and cat scratch fever [4].

A cat can also suffer large wounds that may need antibiotic treatment. Some cats may also groom to try to remove the fleas, and develop allergies and mouth sores [5].

Your cat might also be host to problems (e.g. murine typhus) that transfer from flea to you [4].

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fleas are the main way of plagues transmitting to humans [4].

This is usually from rodent fleas, but your cat can also transmit disease [4].

What are some other problems related to flea infestation?

Fleas may lead to unpleasant skin irritation.

You might have an infestation in your bed for example, that keeps you up at night [5]. 

Cats with flea infestation experience pruritis, which means excessive desire to scratch.  This can lead to hair loss, scaly skin, and wounds [6].

Kittens, in particular, are susceptible to anemia.  Pale gums are one sign of this and would require prompt vet attention [9]. 


How to get of cat fleas?

Many different flea treatment products include sprays, collars, and shampoos available on the market [1].  Solutions can be topical or oral [3].

Bathing your cat with a gentle cat shampoo will help to kill live fleas and alleviate itchiness.

Avoid dog flea treatments, as they contain permethrin which is an insecticide that is toxic to cats [3].

The majority of the flea population are eggs (95%) [7]. This means killing fleas requires an intensive strategy that can destroy fleas at all life stages [7].

Check out my guide on cat flea collars for more helpful information on that treatment.


Treating the environment to get rid of fleas

Your best chance of success to kill fleas is to treat your home, as well as your cat.

Using a vacuum has a high success rate in destroying the flea population.

Vacuuming kills 96% of adult fleas, and 100% of younger fleas, one study found [2]. The mechanical aspect of vacuuming destroys the outer cuticle layer of fleas, dehydrating them [2].  This also appears to have efficacy in destroying eggs and pupae [2].

Whilst the fleas are most likely dead, it is a good idea to dispose of the vacuum bag routinely after use [1]. 

Fleas live among dusty areas, and around organic food matter [4].  Make sure you dust routinely. 

Wash, wipe, clean your couch, vacuum and do everything you can. A bucket of warm soapy water (with some dish soap) and thorough detail cleaning should be done weekly around any contact surface. Detail all parts of furniture in the house. 

Wash your bedding, and vacuum the mattress [9].  Steam clean your carpet to remove residual eggs [9].

If you have any pet bedding, place it in the wash on the hottest setting [10].  Do this once a week and let it dry in direct sunlight [10].

If your cat’s going outdoors frequently, it can also help to trim the yard grass as fleas grow here.


Treatment with vet-approved therapy to get rid of fleas on your cat

An effective flea treatment strategy

Vet-approved insecticides may be useful in controlling fleas, however, they may develop resistance [2]. 

This means that repeated reliance on insecticides alone is not a viable strategy in flea control [2].  Changing products may improve your chances of controlling the flea population [4].

Flea shampoos and powders that are not vet-approved don’t appear to have much effect and may be unpleasant for your cat [5].

Oral therapies that are vet-approved can help control the flea population via the adult flea feeding on your pet [8].  This also appears to regulate the number of adult fleas in the environment [8]. Many treatments are fast-acting and get fleas under control swiftly if combined with house cleaning.

Use a veterinarian-approved house flea spray as an extra measure [10].

What about natural remedies for flea control?

Some owners may seek out natural alternative remedies to treat cat fleas around the house.

The problem is a cat may experience toxicity symptoms towards many natural products, including essential oils. This is because a cat has different physiology than a human, and less able to tolerate different chemicals found in a wide range of natural products.

I wrote a helpful guide to home remedies for fleas over here.

If you want to use home remedies for fleas, check in with a veterinarian before treating your house and cat.


Conclusion: How to Get Rid of Cat Fleas

In this post, I covered the basics of how to get rid of fleas on cats.

Getting rid of fleas on cats requires a multi-pronged approach. A flea exists as an egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Female adult fleas lay up to 5,000 eggs in a lifetime, which continues to proliferate the flea population even if the adult fleas are killed.

There are many signs of a flea infestation. If your cat has flea bites on the skin or scratches profusely you may have a problem. If flea dirt (flea remains) or flea eggs come off with a flea comb, your cat has fleas. Humans may also experience the signs of flea infestation with red marks on their ankles.

The first step in controlling fleas is to maintain a clean home. This starts by regularly vacuuming carpets and other surfaces. Vacuum treatment helps to kill the adult flea population. Further detailed cleaning of furniture and bedding also helps tackle fleas. This controls all life cycle stages of the flea population.

Vet-approved products such as oral therapy, flea sprays, and flea collars designed for cats (do not use products designed for dogs) further help prevent flea infestation. Insecticides have limited efficacy due to fleas developing resistance over time.  Replace these products often to keep fleas under control.

Natural remedies to get rid of fleas on your cat may harm your pet. Check with your veterinarian for more guidance with home treatment for fleas.

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Check out some of our latest posts here.

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