Cat Care Lifestyle

Help! My Cat Has Fleas!

February 18, 2018

Dear fellow flea haters!

I never thought I would ever write a post about flea treatment from a personal perspective, but here we are. When I found out my cat Kingsley had fleas, I nearly lost. My. Sh*t! He wasn’t even excessively scratching, he just happened to be on my lap as I was rummaging through his fur. And that’s when I noticed it…the dark black flecks of the infamous flea dirt commonly found on the lower back. For those of you who have been blessed without ever knowing what that is, it’s the excrement of fleas and is a tell tale sign that your pet has fleas or has had fleas.

The way I can truly tell it’s flea dirt is that I put it on a white piece of paper and broke it apart with my nail. If there’s red material (blood) smeared on the paper, that’s confirmation it’s flea dirt. But you think to yourself, my cats are indoor cats! How is this possible? This only goes to show that indoor cats are NOT immune to fleas. You can track fleas in and they can be brought in through another pet that goes outside or if your cats hang out by a first floor screen door or window.

So what did I do to get rid of it? Here was my approach:

Homeopathy is OK for some ailments but when it comes to fleas, that just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m balls to the wall aggressive because if you ask anyone who knows me, I’m almost OCD about cleanliness. I need a sure thing and I need it to happen ASAP.

So my recipe consists of:

1. Flea Prevention: I like Revolution as a flea killer and a flea preventive (topical) for kittens older than 8 weeks of age. There are other flea preventives  that I will discuss in a separate post, but this is my preference.

2. Dewormer: I use either Profender or Drontal for kittens older than 8 weeks of age. Both are deworming medications that treat tapeworms (rice like worms that are the end product of infected flea ingestion).

3. Instant living Flea Killer: I use Capstar only in the cases where I have a severe flea infestation. It works to kill live fleas and it works immediately, but it doesn’t prevent fleas from returning. In my particular case, there was no need for it as I did not see live fleas on Kingsley, just flea dirt.

Note: All of these can be obtained by your veterinarian.  Please do not get over the counter flea preventives because I’ve seen some of them cause muscle tremors and skin conditions after application. Plus, they just don’t work that well. If you’re going to tackle this the right way, pick up the right medication from your vet and if you can, get a consultation with them. You’ll save money in the long run, trust me.

After I took a moment to breathe and let the shock wear off, these were the nitty gritty steps I took to clear the fleas:

1. Get rid of your cat. Just kidding – we love them.  But for now, stick your flea infested cat in a small room with tile/hardwood flooring that is easy to clean. Keep a litter box and water bowl in there. In my case, I used the bathroom. If you have multiple cats, they should all go in there because chances are, if one has the fleas, then the other likely does as well.

2. Apply Revolution topically between the shoulder blades. (See red arrow.)

Revolution is my tried and true flea preventive for cats. You can speak to your vet about what other flea preventive options you may want to consider. Please note that the most common (though still not very common) side effect of Revolution is local hair loss in the area where it’s applied. I kept the cats in the bathroom for about 36 hours (I even fed them there) because that’s how long it takes for 98% of the the fleas to die with Revolution.

3. Clean anything the cats might have had contact with, which in my home is pretty much everything other than the ceilings. I didn’t use a flea defogger because the infestation wasn’t that severe and I generally don’t think it’s necessary unless you have recurrent flea infestations despite flea prevention and incessant cleaning.

4. At around 36-48 hours after Revolution administration I gave Kingsley a pseudo bath using just a clean towel, running it under warm water, adding soap and then rubbing it through his fur. I was able to find and take off 3-4 dead flea remnants after I gently rinsed him off with the cloth. Consider using a flea comb at this point to see if you’re still finding fleas or flea dirt. I rinsed and dried him off really well and felt comfortable releasing him and his brother (who never had evidence of fleas) into the rest of the home once I didn’t see fleas/flea dirt on either of them. Mind you, you don’t need to bathe with a “flea shampoo” as long as you have a good flea preventive on board.

5. I subsequently cleaned out my bathroom. Everything made out of cloth went right into the wash, and every hard surface was thoroughly vacuumed and wiped down.

6. At hour 48 (2 days after the application of Revolution), I applied a deworming medication (to both) empirically to get rid of any suspected tapeworms they may have acquired. I applied Profender at the nape of the neck. You can administer an oral medication, Feline Drontal, as an alternative to Profender if you’re worried about too many topical medications or if you’re worried about the residue left on the coat (especially with children around), but I find topical meds easier to administer than oral pills in cats. If you’re going to give an oral deworming pill, you can have this performed at the same time as the Revolution dose administration. A word of caution: these pills can be large and sometimes a pain to give.

With Profender, some may argue that you can apply it right after the Revolution in a different location but still in the same vicinity. I like to play it safe and administer it 48 hours after the Revolution. If you want to skip this step overall, you can, but keep a close eye out for worms in the stool.

Just a note—every medication comes with side effects. Every time you use a medication, you take a risk. It’s a small risk, but there’s always a risk. Make sure your kitty is old enough for these medications and make sure that you give oral deworming medication with or after a little bit of food.

It’s been about 4 hours since I released Kingsley (a full 52 hours from the time of the Revolution administration) and I am exhausted. Between washing, cleaning the home, picking up the medications, I am wiped. And I bet you are too just reading this post. But on the positive, I looked through Kingsley’s coat again and NO flea dirt! Theresa – 1; Fleas – 0.

You can consider reapplying Revolution in 2-4 weeks just to be on the safe side.  In severe cases of flea infestations, I will recommend to owners that they redose every 2 weeks for a total of 3 doses (it’s typically a monthly thing) and clean the environment every time they redose. And that should do the trick.

Flea treatment can be a huge pain to deal with, but nothing is more rewarding than sitting in the comfort of your own home, knowing that your cats aren’t infested with parasites, and your home is clean. Hopefully you won’t have to experience this nor ever read this article again, but if you do, I hope that this guide makes for a more tolerable and expedited flea free experience.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Dr. Theresa Loo

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks! What would you recommend for senior or immune-compromised cats? My 18-yr old kitty Pilsen has chronic renal failure and I’m worried about the Revolution taxing his kidneys, especially since there’s a warning on the website about not using it on sick or underweight cats. Is it ok to use on him, or should I look to more homeopathic sprays like Wondercide?

    • Reply
      Dr. Theresa Loo
      February 26, 2018 at 12:22 am

      Hey Emily! First off, thanks for asking and that’s a great question! Secondly, send my love to Pilsen – what a little trooper! Although I have not seen any adverse effects of Revolution on older geriatric, underweight cats, I think if you really wanted to play it safe, you could try homeopathic sprays (though I’m not sure how effective they would be). My other cat who passed from lymphoma had concurrent kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and when she obtained fleas at the age of 15 years old, I put her on Revolution (at the age of 15 years old) and she did well with 3 doses of Revolution every 2 weeks. Her flea problem was moderately bad. She did extremely well on Revolution and though I cannot make any guarantees, from my experience, Revolution is not contraindicated in cats with renal disease. I have yet to have a renal failure/disease pet do poorly on revolution (*knock on wood*).

      There is also Bravecto (which is actually my more preferred flea preventive because I like the efficacy of it and I like how it’s once every 3 months vs once a month). I choose Revolution when I have a bad flea problem and I like Bravecto as a maintenance (don’t come back-type) flea preventive. You can try a single dose and if you do not like the results, Merck (the manufacturer) has a guarantee of refunding your money through your veterinarian. However, it’s not indicated for cats with neurological conditions. We talked about that episode that Pilsen had before which seems to have resolved? It’s hard to say if it was neurological or what, but I think we aim not to go with Bravecto on account of that.

      Are fleas a big issue in your home? Does he actively have fleas? Or are you looking for just a flea preventive to give every now and then? If fleas are not that bad, consider Revolution as needed or something homeopathic regularly.

  • Reply
    Diann
    November 2, 2018 at 3:52 am

    Hi Dr Loo,
    For a flea invested home I would highly recommend Flea Busters (Southern California). My former caregiver brought in fleas on her clothing. They had unknowingly moved into the former home of hoarder that had a flea-on-rats infestation. Vector Control helped rid the home of rats. Unfortunately, my therapy dog, Grady, who had never had fleas was in bad shape within the three days it took me to find Flea Busters. They use a non-toxic spray that is safe around children, pets, and people with asthma like me. My Vet took great care of Grady so our story had a happy ending.

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