Cat Care | Fleas and Ticks
Ticks are small spider-like acarids and fleas are insects. However, these two creatures share one thing in common: they are both harmful parasites that feed on your dog’s blood and can cause harmful discomfort and serious health issues. It can be hard to notice fleas on pets, and their bites can cause irritation, itching, red lesions, hair loss, and sometimes ulcers in dogs with flea allergies.
Severe flea infestations can cause anemia, with puppies being especially susceptible. Fleas can also transmit several diseases, like tapeworms. Ticks are carriers of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rock Mountain spotted fever, which can also be transmitted to humans.
Adult fleas are wingless insects, usually smaller than the size of a sesame seed, who feed on the blood of animals. Their large hind legs give them a powerful jumping ability. Hanging on to your cat’s fur, their needle-like mouth pierces the skin to suck up blood.
Fleas can mate with females and lay up to 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs drop to the ground, and 2 days later, larvae will begin to hatch. The larvae will hide in dark places, and after a week of feeding on crumbs, flakes of skin and droppings, will spin cocoons to become pupae. The cycle continues when, as soon as a week or so later, the pupae develop into adult fleas. As soon as 12 days later, the cycle can begin all over again.
Ticks are wingless creatures that feed exclusively on the blood of other animals. They have evolved to sense heat, carbon dioxide, and other stimulation to allow them to locate a food source. Once found, they crawl on and attach their mouthparts to begin sucking blood.
You should do regular checks for ticks on your cat, especially if they have been outside in areas where there is wood or tall grass. A thorough combing within 4-6 hours of exposure can prevent ticks from attaching themselves to your cat. Should you locate a tick, it should be removed immediately, as the longer it stays attached, the greater the chance of diseases spreading to your cat. Do not touch ticks, use gloves and tweezers to carefully grasp the exposed section of the tick’s body. Gently pull until the tick releases, then wrap the tick in tissue and flush it down the toilet. Do not pop, crush or burn the tick, as these actions increase the chance of spreading diseases.
Controlling Ticks and Fleas
Prevention is the best form of control when it comes to fleas and ticks. Luckily, advancements in insect control have made eliminating fleas and ticks much easier than ever before. Available for both cats and dogs, new insecticides and insect growth regulators in topical or oral applications not only eliminate these pests, but work long-term to ensure no future infestations. This happens by killing the bugs before they can reproduce or by preventing the eggs from having a normal growth cycle.
As always, ask your vet about the proper product to use on your pet, some of the same medications or products used on fleas can also be used to control ticks.
Daily vacuuming in high-traffic areas and washing your pets bedding can also go a long way.
When You Find A Parasite
Despite your best efforts, if you find a tick or flea has jumped on your cat, you will have to use a product to kill the insect. These include:
- Topical Treatments
- Oral or Injectable medication
Ask your vet for advice about which products to use and remember, it is perfectly normal to see fleas or ticks alive after applying treatment. Many believe the product isn’t working, however, the bugs must absorb the product before it becomes effective, which may take a few hours or days.
- There are about 3,000 different flea species, but the cat flea is the most common to be found on dogs and cats.
- Adult fleas can jump 600 times and hour. Each jump is the equivalent of a person clearing a 50-story building.
- The record jump for a flea is 33cm.
- In just 30 days, 25 adult female fleas can product about 250,000 fleas.
- A female tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs.
- Ticks need blood to progress into the next stage of their life.
- Some ticks can live for more than a year without a meal.
- In very rare cases, toxins released by ticks can cause pet paralysis.