How to Tell If Your Cat Has Fleas

How to tell if your cat has fleas

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If you have an outdoor cat, chances are you’ll have an issue with fleas at some point or another. We all like to think that we’d know if something was up with our furry friends, but would we really? Without knowing the telltale signs of fleas, it can be tricky for cat owners to spot when their pet is affected. All the while, the cat is suffering from uncomfortable itching and your home is at risk of infestation. Fortunately, fleas are easy to spot if you observe your cat’s behavior carefully and know what to look out for.

Here are some telltale signs that your cat has the dreaded fleas.

  1. Constant scratching and grooming
  2. Bald patches
  3. Scabs and Bumps
  4. Dark specks in the fur
  5. Agitated or restless behavior

1. Constant scratching and grooming

The most obvious sign of fleas is scratching, and your cat may exhibit a flurry of furious scratching for seemingly no reason. This is because flea bites make the skin extremely itchy. Some cats will even bite their skin to get some relief. You may also notice that your cat has started grooming excessively. This is just another way to try and ease the itching sensation. If your cat is grooming the area around their back legs and tail more than usual, this is a red flag that fleas are at the root of their behavior. 

2. Bald patches may indicate that your cat has fleas

If fleas go untreated, your cat may scratch and groom himself to the point where he loses patches of fur. Common areas for flea-related hair loss include the neck, legs and around the tail. 

3. Scabs and Bumps

When a flea bites, this causes redness and inflammation in your cat’s skin. This is because cat skin reacts to the chemicals in flea saliva. When your cat scratches, bites or grooms the bites, this can break the skin and cause bleeding or oozing. Over time, this leads to little bumps or scabs on their skin that you can feel when you pet them. 

4. Dark specks in the fur could be a sign of fleas on your cat

When your cat has fleas, you may notice dark brown specks on their fur or on the brush if you groom them. These specks may look like dirt, but they are actually flea droppings. If you’re unsure if what you see are flea droppings, try wetting them with a little water. If fleas are the culprit, they will turn red. This is because they are made up of digested blood from your cat. 

5. Agitated or restless behavior

Cats with fleas often shake, dash around madly or rub their bodies on the floor or furniture. They may also just be generally cranky and bad-tempered. This is because the itching sensation from the flea bites is making them miserable and agitated. Some types of restless behaviour are actually attempts to escape from or ease their discomfort. 

The bottom line

If you’re seeing signs that your cat has fleas, these should never be ignored. Flea infestations in cats cause unnecessary discomfort and can even lead to anaemia if your cat is old, sick or has a very large number of bites. Fortunately, fleas are easy to get rid of using topical flea treatments. However, you may also need to treat your home if your furnishings and carpets have become infested. Prevention is better than cure, and many owners choose to regularly apply flea treatments, whether they see signs of fleas or not.