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Fleas can make the life of any cat miserable. Just one bite to a pet that is allergic to fleas can result in agony from constant rubbing and scratching of irritated skin. Also called "pruritus," this unpleasant itching can become so intense that pets will actually scratch until the skin bleeds. Here's what you need to know to help banish this fearsome foe from your pet's life.
The Flea Cycle
Fleas spend most of their lifetime off the pet. They go through a life cycle that includes egg and cocoon stages. While adult fleas are relatively easy to kill with insecticides, the egg and cocoon stages are very resistant.
The entire life cycle of the flea (from egg to larva, from larva to cocoon, from cocoon to adult) can vary from 14 days during warm, moist weather, to several weeks or months under extremes of climatic conditions.
The adult flea must dine on your pet's blood to survive. Fleas can jump from 16 to 36 inches. For their size, this is like a human jumping over the Washington Monument! Successful flea control must be directed at both the pet and its environment. And always coordinate treatments to break the life cycle of the flea.
Flea Bite Allergies
Fleas can cause a condition known as allergic dermatitis. Because some cats are allergic to flea saliva, a single flea bite causes the animal to chew and scratch the area where the flea has bitten. This can cause redness, sores and hair loss. One or two fleas on an allergic animal may trigger the same response as a hundred flea bites.
Some pets need medication to control the scratching and chewing until a flea control program can be started. Animals with severe allergic dermatitis may require intermittent use of prescription medications during those periods when fleas are most active: during hot and humid months. Remember, use of these medications is not a substitute for a flea control program.
Medical Problems Associated with Fleas
Flea bites can lead to further health issues. Here are just a few:
Flea Prevention & Control
In recent years, some extremely effective flea prevention products have been introduced. These work by either preventing fleas from reproducing or preventing fleas from biting.
Below is a list of the commonly used flea control methods and when used faithfully as directed, most pet owners report dramatic improvements in their pets' condition.
A Timeline for Success
For a thorough assault on fleas, try this sample schedule for a flea control and prevention program:
Be Safe and Take Precautions
When treating a flea problem, it's essential to be mindful of your pet's safety. Follow these flea-fighting golden rules:
There's no question that fleas present a challenge to pet owners everywhere, but with a thorough control and prevention plan, your cat's life can be flea free.
is a freelance writer and editor on subjects ranging from cat care to feline fun.