Fleas are one of the most common feline parasites, but that doesn’t stop them from being incredibly annoying! They’re one of the main enemies of pet parents. And if your cat has fleas, you want nothing more than to eliminate these pesky parasites from your furry friend and your household.
Unfortunately, eliminating a cat flea infestation is easier said than done. My cat still has fleas after treatment consistently – fleas lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime, and completely eradicating fleas is challenging. It can seem like the flea infestation is never going to end!
If this is an issue you’re currently facing, know you’re not alone; thousands of cat moms are in the same position. Thankfully, you’re in the right place. Here I run through eight possible reasons why your kitty still has fleas after treatment and the steps you can take to eradicate the fleas for good!
Why Does My Cat Still Have Fleas After Treatment?
If you still see fleas in your cat’s coat after treatment, you might be concerned that the medication isn’t working. While this could be the case (usually due to misusing the medicine or choosing the wrong treatment), it’s more likely that the treatment is working – it just appears as if it is not.
This paradox occurs because flea treatments only kill fleas that are currently on your cat’s coat. If your kitty continues to pick fleas up from other animals or its environment, it will appear as if the treatment isn’t working. In reality, these are new fleas infesting your cat over and over again!
Here is a closer look at where your furry friend could get these fleas from and how to resolve a home infestation as quickly as possible.
1. Overlooking Flea Hotspots
Many owners assume that fleas only live in their cats’ coats, but up to 95% of fleas actually live inside the environment on carpets and furniture. Each adult flea can lay thousands of eggs in its lifetime, often within these surfaces. The eggs and immature fleas can live here for many months, meaning your kitty gets reinfested with fleas as quickly as it’s treated.
There is no real limitation on where fleas can survive in the home, but pay particular attention to the areas where your cat spends most of its time. These will quickly become “flea hotspots” as the larvae that hatch don’t travel far. They will wait patiently until your unassuming cat returns to its favorite spot, at which point they jump into their fur coat. And then the cycle continues!
As such, one of the best ways to make your home flea-free is to clean these hotspots thoroughly. Wash your cat’s bed and blankets regularly at a high temperature and vacuum areas your cat most likes to lounge. The more eggs and flea larvae you remove, the lower the chances of reinfection.
2. Infrequent Flea Treatments
Most flea treatments on the market only kill adult fleas. This means that any flea eggs or larvae can survive treatment. They’ll then mature into adult fleas, lay more eggs, and your cat’s coat will be covered in fleas again before you know it!
Therefore, another reason your cat still has fleas could be because you’re not applying treatment frequently enough. Female fleas can lay their eggs within one day of landing on the host, so you must administer treatment regularly! Flea treatments should only be applied once per month, but you can keep adult fleas at bay in between treatments with regular flea baths.
If you know you are forgetful or busy, consider purchasing flea collars for cats. These collars emit a toxic gas that repels fleas and is an excellent preventative method. Put one on after you next administer flea treatment, and it should help to keep new adult fleas at bay.
3. Not Controlling Temperature & Humidity
One of the primary sources of flea infestations is cats picking up fleas from their environment. I’ve already highlighted how important it is to regularly clean “flea hotspots,” but other environmental changes can also help to keep these pesky parasites at bay.
An easy environmental factor to control is temperature. Fleas can survive at temperatures between 55°F and 95°F. Keeping your home temperature outside this range is an effective way to eradicate any remaining fleas from the environment, but it might be a little uncomfortable for you! A better option is to keep your home below the optimal range of 70°F to 85°F to reduce their survival rate.
Humidity is also crucial, with optimal moisture ranging from 75% to 92%. Lowering the humidity in your home significantly reduces the survival rate of fleas in the environment. You can use a dehumidifier to help reach below this range and make it harder for fleas to thrive in your home.
4. Using the Wrong Flea Treatment
Many flea treatments are available on the market, and choosing incorrectly might make it only partially successful. Below are some factors that can help you select the right option for your kitty. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice:
- Life Stage: Different flea treatments have different age limitations, so use one specifically for your cat’s current stage of life. For example, flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks might not be strong enough to rid severe infestations in adult cats.
- Location: Fleas can develop resistance to certain types of medication. This largely depends on where you live; resistance is only an issue in certain areas. Your vet can advise on resistance to flea preventatives within the local area.
- Coat Length: Just as you won’t use a brush for long-haired cats on short-haired breeds, you shouldn’t use flea treatments intended for specific coat lengths on another. For example, topical treatments might be less effective on long-haired cats as it is harder to get to the skin. In these cases, an oral treatment might be more successful.
- Health History: Some flea treatments don’t mix well with other medications or aren’t suitable for cats with certain medical conditions. This can interfere with the medicine can reduce its efficacy. Talk to your vet to discover the best choices for your kitty.
5. Reinfestations from Other Pets
Fleas can quickly jump between pets and reinfect one another. And I’m not just talking about cats here; fleas can jump between species. Birds, rabbits, mice, dogs, and most other warm-blooded pets can all carry these horrible parasites. Fleas aren’t fussy in the slightest!
If you fail to treat your other animals, the flea infestation will remain in your home. The fleas then continue to pass from one animal to another! Therefore, ensure you treat all your pets with flea medication, even if it’s only your cat scratching its ears until they bleed. Make sure you use flea treatment specific for each type of pet though – cat treatment shouldn’t be used on dogs, for example.
You should also ensure you’re cleaning and washing the favorite areas of all your pets. Like your cat’s favorite lounging spots, these zones can become flea hotspots and make infections spread faster. Regularly wash all your pets’ bedding and maintain good household cleanliness to eliminate as many fleas from the environment as possible.
6. Fleas from Outside the Home
Of course, fleas aren’t only lurking in your home environment – they’re also hiding in the outside world. If you have an indoor-only cat, these fleas are of no concern. However, outdoor cats can easily pick up fleas from the yard after their initial treatment and bring them back into your home. You should consider making changes to your yard to make it a less hospitable place for fleas.
First and foremost, keep your yard clean to deter other animals (who might be carrying fleas) from entering. Fleas also like to live and hide in moist debris, such as fallen leaves, so regular raking helps to keep fleas at bay. Besides, your garden will be a much nicer place to be.
You can also try to limit the number of shaded areas by removing weeds, trimming bushes, and keeping your lawn mowed. Fleas don’t survive well in bright light, so this can reduce their survival rates. If these natural remedies aren’t working, you might consider using a flea control spray for lawns. Always use this flea killer in a clean backyard for the best results.
7. Improper Use of Flea Treatment
Are you cleaning your home environment, keeping your yard tidy, and regularly applying the proper flea treatment on all your pets, only to find fleas still? If so, check that you are using your chosen flea treatment correctly.
Flea medications all work slightly differently, so you must follow the usage guidelines exactly. Failure to do so could mean the drug isn’t effective. Many people wonder, “Do fleas fall off cats after treatment,” and the answer is no… if the treatment is used correctly. Improper use can mean fleas retreat to other pets, carpets, and soft furnishings, making reinfection more likely.
Moreover, improper use of flea treatment increases the tolerance of the chemicals used to kill fleas. This eventually results in resistance to certain medications. The more you misuse a medicine, the more likely this is to happen. This can lead to significant and uncontrollable flea outbreaks that are better off avoided.
8. Scratching for Another Reason
Does your cat still have fleas despite following all my advice? Well, it could be that your kitty doesn’t actually have fleas after all! What are you basing their flea diagnosis on? If it’s scratching alone, this is a symptom of many other conditions, not just fleas!
Whenever my cat keeps scratching but doesn’t have fleas, I call my vet to help get to the bottom of it. Only your vet can confirm the diagnosis, so if nothing soothes your cat’s itching, consider that something else may be wrong. Most of the time, scratching is caused by flea infestations, but it can also be a sign of skin irritation, allergies, or other parasitic infections like mites.
Thankfully, none of these conditions are severe and can usually be treated promptly. However, consider booking an urgent appointment if your cat’s symptoms worsen. When your cat is breathing heavy and seems lethargic, is refusing to eat or drink anything, or is exhibiting behavioral changes, these are all signs that something bigger could be responsible.
What is the Best Way to Resolve a Flea Infestation?
As you have learned, there are many reasons why your cat might still have fleas after treatment. But one question remains: how can you get rid of these fleas and finally eliminate these pesky parasites?
Here is a quick bullet point list of everything you need to do for successful eradication:
- Treat all pets in your household with flea medication every four weeks
- Consider bathing your cat between flea treatments to wash out adult fleas
- Vacuum your carpets regularly, especially the “flea hotspot” areas
- Wash the bedding of all your pets at high temperatures at least once per week
- Make sure you choose the best flea treatment for your cat (ask your vet for advice)
- Always read the instruction leaflet and follow the treatment guidelines exactly
- Keep your backyard clean and reduce the number of shaded spots
- Consider using a flea lawn control spray if you think fleas are coming from here
- Use flea preventative medication even once the initial infestation has been cleared
- Keep the temperature in your home below 70°F by using air conditioning units
- Purchase a dehumidifier and ensure humidity in your home is below 75%
- Contact your vet to ensure there is no other cause of excessive scratching
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
If your cat still has fleas after treatment, know you’re not alone! Flea infestations can be tough to eliminate, especially if you live in a multi-pet household. However, understanding more about the flea lifecycle and why some fleas survive treatment can help reduce the risk of reinfection.
Keep this page handy and go through all the bullet points above to resolve your flea infection as quickly as possible. And remember – never hesitate to start treatment. Adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs daily, so the quicker you get to work, the better!