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Does your cat have fleas? Although these parasites can be extremely annoying, don’t worry if your kitty has picked up a cat flea infestation. Many types of flea medication available on the market work to kill the fleas and prevent reinfestation, eliminating the parasites for good.
But if it’s your first time using flea treatment, you might be confused about how the medication works. One of the most common questions is about where the fleas go! Do they fall off after treatment and enter your environment? Or does the medication you administer to your furry friend kill the fleas?
In this article, I answer these questions and other flea treatment must-knows for any new pet parents. Fleas are common in cats, so properly treating and preventing the infection is crucial. This is likely not the only flea outbreak you’ll have to deal with as a pet mom, so you’d best start learning everything there is to know sooner rather than later!
Do Fleas Fall off Cats After Treatment or Die?
I remember the first time my cat contracted fleas. I did all the sensible things – I took my cat to the vet and picked up a flea treatment the very same day. But when I came to use the treatment later that afternoon, I realized I didn’t know what had happened to the fleas.
This information was crucial for me in deciding where to administer the medication. If fleas die from the drugs, I could administer the treatment anywhere. But if the fleas jump off the pet and into the environment… well, I certainly don’t want this happening inside my home! Should I administer the drugs outside? Do I need to keep my cat out of my bedroom? What happens to those pesky fleas?
Since my first flea experience many years ago, I have become much wiser. I can confidently say fleas do not fall off cats after treatment. When you apply flea medication, the chemicals kill all the adult fleas currently living in your kitty’s coat within around 24 hours.
These dead and harmless fleas then fall off the skin and can easily be vacuumed up. Alternatively, I like to brush the dead fleas out of my cat’s fur. If you decide to brush the fleas out, make sure you use a flea comb. Even the best brush for long-haired cats won’t be fine-toothed enough to catch these tiny parasites – a flea comb is a must!
To summarize everything I’ve just covered, here is a step-by-step guide on how flea treatment works:
- Administering Treatment: Your first step is to administer treatment. Most are topical treatments in which a chemical is applied at the base of the neck. The chemical is toxic to fleas and will slowly cause them to die.
- Medication Spreads: The flea treatment is transported through the fatty layer that lines your cat’s skin until the chemical is all over the body. It can take up to one day for the treatment to reach all body parts, from the nose to the tip of the tail.
- Fleas Are Killed: As the medication spreads, more and more adult fleas are killed. These dead fleas sit close to the surface of the skin and gradually work their way to the surface. Alternatively, brush the dead fleas away using a flew comb.
With this all said, there is still a catch! While flea treatment does kill fleas, it only kills the fleas currently on your furry friend. Astonishingly, only 5% of fleas live on hosts – the remaining 95% live in the environment. Therefore, fleas are likely lurking in your carpets, soft furnishings, and pet beds. These must be eliminated to prevent reinfection.
How Long Do Fleas Die After Treatment?
The time taken for the treatment to kill the fleas depends on the type of medication in question. Most products – including flea collars for cats, topical solutions, and spot-on patches – effectively kill all adult fleas in your kitty’s coat within 24 hours.
The exception is flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks. Kitten-friendly treatment is at a much lower dose and may take longer to work. Flea shampoos also don’t kill fleas as effectively but are a great way to help keep flea populations to a minimum in between monthly treatments.
However, this doesn’t mean all fleas will be gone after treatment. My cat still has fleas after treatment consistently! There are two main reasons for this:
- Within the 24-hour window in which the flea medication works, adult fleas can lay eggs in your cat’s fur. Most flea treatments only kill adult fleas, meaning these eggs survive. The eggs hatch into larvae within one to ten days (depending on environmental conditions). Eventually, they mature into adult fleas and reinfect your kitty!
- Fleas don’t fall off cats after treatment, but their eggs do! Anywhere where your cat spends much time can quickly become a “flea hotspot.” Treatment only kills adults in your cat’s fur, meaning the environmental fleas can jump straight back on your cat and cause a re-infestation once they’ve hatched and matured.
How Can I Get Rid of Fleas in My Home?
Killing the fleas in your cat’s fur is relatively easy; simply apply flea medication, and any adult fleas will die within 24 hours. It will take a couple of rounds of treatment to eliminate the fleas left behind as eggs, but three consecutive treatments over three months should do the job.
A much harder factor in controlling flea infestations is eradicating the fleas in your home. By the time you notice your cat scratching its ears until they bleed, there are probably already thousands of flea larvae lurking in your home! They’ll be hiding in soft furnishings, bedding, blankets, and carpets, ready to hatch into adults and infect your cat.
So, how can you get rid of fleas in your home? Below are some top tips – you’ll want to do these alongside administering flea treatment to eradicate the nasty parasites for good:
- Thoroughly vacuum all rugs and carpets in your home, paying particular attention to any areas your furry friend loves to nap
- Wash all pet bedding and blankets every week on a high-temperature washing cycle
- Remove and wash all bedsheets from rooms your cat has access, also washing at a high temperature to kill any fleas that are present
- Use an approved household flea spray and apply it around your home, especially in shaded corners and under furniture (where fleas most like to hide)
- Keep the humidity level in your home to below 75% using a dehumidifier
- Set your home thermostat to below 70°F as this is the bottom of the optimal temperature range in which fleas thrive
How Do I Know if the Fleas Are Gone?
One way to know fleas are gone is a lack of common symptoms of flea infections. Some of the common signs include:
- Excessive scratching and biting at the skin
- Self-grooming more than usual
- Black specks in your cat’s fur or bedding
- Tiredness and fatigue due to anemia
- Cat so hyper all of a sudden
- Skin irritation and visible flea bites
- Cat losing hair around eyes, lower back, and tail
If you noticed these symptoms initially, but they have since all subsided, there is a good chance you’ve eradicated the fleas – congratulations! However, it is possible that your cat keeps scratching but doesn’t have fleas, so we need another way to check for fleas in your feline’s fur coat.
Thankfully, I’ve just the solution. All you need is a white sheet or pillowcase and a flea comb. Once you have got your equipment ready, follow the steps below:
- Secure Your Kitty: Your first step is to find your cat and put them on top of the white sheet or pillowcase. You can have this on a table or drape it across your lap, whichever situation your cat is most calm. Make sure your cat is relaxed before you go on to the next step.
- Comb The Fur: Starting at your cat’s head, take the flea comb and pull it through the fur. Gradually work your cat down the body, paying particular attention to the back of the neck, the base of the tail, and the inside of the legs – these are fleas’ favorite places to hide.
- Examine the Comb: The teeth of a flea comb are positioned tightly together so as to catch any fleas and eggs. Examine the comb and see if you can spot any signs of either. Adult fleas will look like black specs, whereas the eggs are white.
- Shake the Comb: Gently shake the dirt from the comb over the white towel or pillow case as you work down the body to look for flea feces. To identify flea feces, sprinkle a little water on the towel. Any debris that belongs to fleas will turn reddish-brown with an orange ring.
If you notice adult fleas, flea eggs, or flea feces, you’re probably still dealing with an infection. The good news is that if there are no other symptoms, you’re likely nearing the end. Keep repeating this process until you don’t find anything out of the ordinary – at this point, your kitty is finally flea-free!
Why Does My Cat Still Have Fleas After Treatment?
Anyone finding fleas after treatment likely needs to wait a little longer. As I mentioned, most flea treatments target adult fleas. Because of the flea lifecycle (egg to larvae to adult), fleas can continue to emerge after treatment. It usually takes around three months to eradicate a cat flea infestation completely.
Another reason you’re still finding fleas on your cat is due to neglect of the environment. Killing the fleas on your cat’s fur is only half the equation! You need to use the home cleaning methods listed above to remove any unhatched eggs and larvae from your home before they jump back on your cat.
But what if you’re still struggling with the infestation despite frequently applying flea medication, bathing your cat, and keeping your home clean? This does occasionally happen, usually due to one of the following reasons:
- You’re using the wrong flea treatment for your cats. For example, a flea treatment intended for dogs or a cat-friendly option for the wrong life stage.
- The fleas have developed resistance to the treatment you’re using. This is more likely with common flea treatments or any medications you’ve misused.
- You’re not using the flea medication as intended. Always check the instructions and speak to your veterinarian for further advice.
- Your cat is contracting fleas from outside the home, such as from the yard or stray animals. Keep your yard clean, and consider keeping your cat inside.
- You’re not treating all of your pets. All cats, dogs, rabbits, and other warm-blooded animals must be treated for fleas, even if they don’t show symptoms.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
To summarize, fleas don’t fall or jump off cats after treatment. The medication used contains a chemical that kills fleas. Within 24 hours, this chemical spreads all over the body and kills all adult fleas in your cat’s fur coat. You can brush these out using a flea comb or wait until they fall out on their own accord and vacuum up the remnants.
Nevertheless, there will still be fleas in your home! These pesky parasites don’t fall off onto surfaces, but their eggs do. Each flea lays around 50 eggs daily, so their eggs can quickly end up everywhere. The eggs hatch into larvae before maturing into adults and jumping back into your cat’s fur coat.
Due to this lifecycle, it can be challenging to eradicate a flea infestation. For the best chances of success, apply flea treatment every month for three months. Bathe and brush your cat between doses to help remove any remaining eggs. Remember not to neglect your home either! Regular vacuuming and hot washes can go a long way in keeping these nasty parasites at bay.