Protecting your cat against external parasites is essential for their health and quality of life. Unfortunately, because cats are fastidious in nature and live predominantly indoors only, their parasite prevention is often overlooked—leaving them vulnerable to the misery and danger of blood-sucking fleas and ticks. 

If you’re not actively protecting your cat year-round with veterinary-recommended flea and tick preventives, you may be compromising their comfort, safety, and health. Check out these reasons for year-round parasite prevention from your feline-loving friends at Just Cats Clinic.

Indoor-only does not equal immunity for cats and parasites

An indoor-only lifestyle is the best choice for your cat’s safety and longevity, but cannot completely protect your cat against jumping fleas and crawling ticks. These sneaky parasites can travel indoors on human clothing, bags, or shoes, or hitch a ride on indoor-outdoor pets. And, once they’ve entered your home, they’ll quickly seek out their next blood meal—your unprotected cat. 

If you don’t use a parasite preventive to eliminate or repel fleas, these biting bugs can begin reproducing, and can quickly multiply from a few adults to a full-scale infestation. Ticks can take a full blood meal and transmit harmful bacteria through their bite.

Flea-related health risks for cats

Fleas are tiny wingless creatures that move with almost imperceptible speed and agility, which  makes them quick to spread and hard to identify. Their ability to reproduce and bring disease and misery to your cat is equally fast. Flea bites can also lead to health problems, including:

  • Tapeworms 
  • Feline infectious anemia (i.e., Mycoplasma haemofelis)
  • Cat scratch disease 
  • Flea allergy — Hypersensitive cats can experience intense discomfort and inflammation from a single flea bite and may inflict self-harm, including bite wounds that may become infected.

Flea infestations are especially dangerous for kittens, because their small blood volume can be easily depleted by repeated flea-feeding.

Tick-borne health risks for cats

Ticks are spider-like insects that dwell in tall grasses and wooded areas and wait for warm-blooded prey. Unlike fleas that bite, feed, and leave the pet, ticks gorge themselves after the bite, and take an entire blood meal before detaching. This extended feeding time increases the disease risk. Fortunately, cats are not susceptible to Lyme disease that ticks cause, but are vulnerable to the following tick-borne conditions:

  • Feline infectious anemia
  • Babesiosis
  • Tularemia
  • Cytauxzoonosis
  • Ehrlichiosis 

These tick-borne diseases can cause anemia, fever, jaundice, swollen lymph nodes, and neurological side effects.

Protecting your cat from parasites

Although cats are skilled self-groomers and remove many pests through routine self-care, that does not protect them from harmful disease. Fortunately, many safe and effective veterinary preventives are designed specifically for cats. To safeguard your feline from fleas and ticks, follow these recommendations:

  • Select the right product — Our expert team can make customized suggestions based on your cat’s lifestyle. Options, which include chewable tablets, topical applications, and collars, can provide one to three months of protection. Ensure the prevention product you choose is labeled for cat use, as canine preventives and flea shampoos may contain permethrin or other cat-toxic ingredients.
  • Use as directed — Give or apply the preventive to your pet as directed, and at the right frequency (i.e., every 30 or 90 days) year-round, to ensure efficacy and safety. Specific directions may include feeding a chewable table with a meal, or applying topicals to the back of the neck where your cat can’t lick off the product. 
  • Treat all pets in the home — Leaving a single pet unprotected—including small mammals such as ferrets and rabbits—can expose your cat to fleas. Ask your small mammal veterinarian about safe preventives for non-feline pets.

Treating your cat for parasites

Parasite infestations are frustrating for many cat owners. However, with persistence and vigilance, eradication is possible. If your cat currently has external parasites, you’ll need to follow our recommendations to address your cat and the environment.

  • Fleas — If your cat displays hypersensitivity (i.e., missing hair, sores, bite wounds), contact Just Cats Clinic for an appointment. Then, take the following actions:
    • Use a flea comb daily to remove flea debris and eggs from pets.
    • Wash all pet bedding weekly in hot soapy water.
    • Vacuum daily to remove flea eggs.
    • Stay vigilant to break the entire flea life cycle—female fleas can lay up to 40 eggs per day, which hatch in two to five days. 

For severe infestations, professional-grade treatments may be necessary. Contact a pest management service about pet-safe flea control options.

  • Ticks — If you find a tick on your cat, take the proper precautions and remove the pest immediately, following these steps:
    • Do not use your fingers, or try to burn off the tick.
    • Use tweezers and grasp the tick’s head—avoiding the skin—and then pull in a straight direction.
    • Flush the tick down the toilet or drown in isopropyl alcohol.
    • Wash your hands after to prevent disease transmission.

Limit tick exposure by eliminating leaf litter from your yard and keeping grass and weeds trimmed. Perform a “tick-check” on yourself and your pets after returning inside from outdoor activities.

Send feline parasites packing with a prevention plan

When it comes to fleas and ticks, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. With consistent administration of an easy-to-give chew or topical medication, you can avoid the headache and health hazards of a full-blown parasite problem. For additional advice and customized product recommendations for your cat, contact Just Cats Clinic.