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Fleas are the most common parasite in cats. These pesky little creatures live in your cat’s coat and feed on their blood. The bites they leave behind are extremely itchy and have the potential to transmit other infections between cats, including intestinal worms.
Most cats contract fleas at least once in their life and they’re pretty easy to treat. But when a kitten has fleas, treatment can be more challenging. Small kittens are vulnerable and delicate, and most flea medications are unsuitable for them. The cut-off tends to be around three months of age. So, what is the best flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks?
In this article, I answer this question and all your other flea-related concerns. When can you give a kitten a flea bath? Can you get rid of fleas on kittens naturally? And which treatments are safe for young and delicate kittens? Let’s find out!
What Age Should Kittens Have Flea Treatment?
We have to be careful with what products we use on kittens. Unlike adult cats, kittens are still very delicate and vulnerable. Using full-strength adult treatment on such a small feline can cause several problems. They might exacerbate the issue and cause further skin irritation, or the dosage might be too high for their small bodies to handle. This could cause even more complications.
When it comes to flea treatments, most are only suitable for kittens over the age of 12 weeks. You will also find some that are suitable for cats as young as 8 weeks old. This is great news for the majority of pet parents; as most kittens leave their mom no younger than 8 weeks of age, most of us will be able to find a regular flea treatment to use on the latest addition to the family.
However, if you are a breeder or have taken your cat younger than 8 weeks old home, things are harder. Thankfully, there is a way around this! Instead of going by age, you can judge the suitability of the medication on your cat’s weight. For example, most flea treatments can be used on kittens younger than 8 weeks if they weigh over 2lbs.
Weight is actually a much better indicator to follow than age. All kittens grow at a slightly different pace, and two kittens that are the same age can be completely different weights. For example, say there is an 8 week old cat weighing under 2 pounds and a 6 week old cat weighing over 2 pounds. You’re safer using the treatment on the cat that weighs more but is only 6 weeks old.
If your kitten doesn’t pass the weight or the age restrictions, you won’t be able to use a topical flea medication on them. Instead, you’ll have to get rid of fleas on kittens naturally.
What are the Best Flea Treatments for Kittens?
The best flea treatment for kittens depends on their age and weight. If you can use flea medication safely, this will be the most effective solution. However, kittens younger than 8 weeks or weighing under 2lbs require different treatments, such as combing or flea baths. Here is a look at these options in more detail.
1. Flea Combs
Flea combs can be used on kittens as young as 2 weeks. In fact, this flea treatment is the safest option as it doesn’t require you to apply any products to their delicate skin. This removes the risk of skin irritation or other side effects completely.
You can pick up a flea comb from most pet stores. To use simply brush your kitten with it twice each day. Any adult fleas lurking in your kitten’s coat will get trapped in the teeth of the comb. You can then wash these off the comb. This is similar to how adult cats can help to limit flea infections from getting out of control by grooming, a skill that young kittens haven’t quite mastered yet themselves.
For a flea comb to be successful, you need to be consistent. Flea eggs are teeny tiny measuring only 0.5mm wide and won’t get picked up by the flea comb. This means you have to keep brushing to remove the fleas as they hatch and before they have a chance to lay any more eggs on your poor little kitten. Eventually, they’ll all be removed.
2. Flea Baths
Another possible flea treatment for kittens is a flea bath. This is another pretty safe option for young and delicate kittens. However, avoid using flea shampoo as you would with adult cats. Most are too harsh on the skin and shouldn’t be used on cats under the age of 12 weeks.
Still, bathing your kitten is a good way to practice good hygiene, mimic self-grooming, and rid them of fleas. There are a few rules and limitations you need to be aware of though when bathing cats at such a young age:
- Never bathe kittens more than twice per week, even if they have fleas. Doing so can dry out their skin and cause irritation.
- Ensure you dry your kitten immediately after their bath as otherwise, they’ll get too cold. Kittens have a pretty tough time regulating their body temperature, so this is crucial!
- Check the temperature of the bathwater on the back of your wrist. It should be warm but not too hot or it can burn your kitten’s skin.
- If you use shampoo, make sure it is specifically intended for use on kittens. Wash it off thoroughly so they don’t accidentally ingest any when self-grooming either.
3. Topical Medication
If your kitten is 8 weeks or older, you will be able to start applying topical flea treatments to help fight off the parasitic infection. These treatments do have medication in so aren’t suitable for extremely young kittens. However, they are the most effective option on this list. If your kitten is old enough, I suggest giving topical treatments a try.
The reason topical flea treatments are so effective is that they have a dual-action. Firstly, they help kill any fleas that are present on your kitten’s coat. But secondly, they also help to prevent new fleas from jumping onto your kitten and making the parasitic infection worse.
You usually apply the topical treatment between your kitten’s shoulder blades. Your kitten won’t be able to reach this spot and so shouldn’t ingest any of the medication. Once applied, the medication can kill and repel fleas for up to a month.
Tips for Choosing Flea Treatment for Kittens
If you do decide to use a topical flea medication, you can’t just pick any old one off the shelf! Even kittens aged 12 weeks or more are still more delicate than adults. Choose the wrong product and it could cause them more harm. So, here are my top tips on choosing a kitten-friendly option.
1. Kitten-Approved Products
This should be obvious, but only use a flea treatment that is intended for use on kittens. As I said earlier, most medications are for cats age 8 weeks or older. You might be able to find a few suitable for kittens that are 6 weeks old but pay attention to the weight limits as well.
It is important to stick to these age and weight limits as these products haven’t been tested on cats that are 4 weeks old or younger. The could have adverse side effects that no one is aware of. If in doubt, consult your vet for advice.
2. No Essential Oils
There are several natural flea treatments on the market that claim to effectively eliminate these pesky parasites. Many people assume these are safe for kittens as they contain essential oils rather than drugs. Essential oils are toxic to fleas, so these products are effective in killing them off. But sadly most essential oils are also toxic to cats!
Accidental poisoning can be extremely dangerous in cats. Depending on how much of the toxic substance is ingested, it can cause cats to go into a coma or even pass away. Because kittens are so tiny, their bodies can handle even less of these products than most felines. Any flea treatments with essential oils are a huge no-no!
3. Avoid Permethrin
Permethrin is found in many flea treatments and is also used to treat ticks. It is super effective in killing these creatures and repels them to prevent infections from returning. It also repels all other kinds of insects including mites and mosquitos.
However, permethrin is toxic extremely toxic to cats of any age, with kittens experiencing particularly adverse effects. Any flea treatments containing this ingredient are intended for dogs only, on which the medication can be used entirely safely. This is why it is so important to read the labels of any products first before you potentially harm your little kitten.
Why Do I Need to Use a Flea Treatment on Kittens?
We all know that fleas are pesky parasites that are best avoided. They cause itching and discomfort, besides potentially passing on other infections to our furry friends. But when kittens contract fleas it’s even worse!
People often ask “Can fleas kill a kitten?” and if left untreated the answer is sadly yes!
Fleas are extremely dangerous for young cats and kittens. Because they are still learning to groom themselves, they don’t really remove any of the fleas on their own. This means flea infections in kittens usually get far more out of control than they do in adult cats who have healthy self-grooming habits. This leads to more bites and more itching.
Fleas don’t just bite cats for the sake of it though – they bite them to feed on their blood. This is what the fleas feed off to survive. But kittens are small and don’t have much blood in their systems. As such, a severe flea infection can cause kittens to lose too much blood and they can develop anemia.
Anemia is a condition where blood oxygen levels are too low. Oxygen is usually carried by red blood cells, but because the fleas are drinking their blood there aren’t enough of these red blood cells present. This means your kitten’s muscles, brain, and all areas of their body aren’t necessarily getting the oxygen they need to survive and can become life-threatening without a blood transfusion.
Not all kittens with fleas will develop anemia, especially if you use some of the flea treatments for kittens mentioned above. However, you should call your vet immediately if your kitten is showing signs of the condition. Here are the symptoms of anemia you should look out for:
- Lethargy: Kittens sleep at night and throughout the day, and actually sleep much more than adult cats. But if your kitten is weak and sleepy, it could be down to anemia. The lack of oxygen makes them super tired and weak.
- Pale Gums: Kittens with anemia have fewer red blood cells than they should have which can make their gums look much paler than usual. In some cases, the lack of oxygen can even make their gums turn white.
- Irregular Heartbeat: Anemic kittens won’t be able to get enough oxygen to the heart muscle. This can affect its function and cause their heartbeat to become irregular. Ironically, this then makes it harder for the blood your cat does have to be pumped around the body.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
If your kitten has fleas, you need to get them treated promptly. At the first sight of the little black bugs, excessive scratching, and skin irritation you should step into action. Even if your cat has scabs on its neck but no fleas, don’t rule the parasite out too quickly. It is possible you just don’t spot the fleas and it really isn’t worth taking a risk.
Generally, only kittens aged 8-12 weeks or older can be treated using a kitten-friendly topical flea treatment. However, flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks is possible! You’ll have to stick with bi-daily brushing and bathing kittens any younger than this. With your help, your little furry friend will be flea-free in no time.