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December 7, 2022 |0 min read

Can Your Indoor Cat Catch Fleas?

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

As the most frequently encountered external parasite that cats come into contact with, an infestation of fleas is certainly not a pleasant experience for the cat or the cat owner. Adult fleas move very fast, can jump onto other animals or surfaces quickly, and can lay up to 50 eggs per day, causing a rapid influx of more fleas to reproduce in hardly any time at all. 

Not only are fleas itchy and irritating for cats, but they can also pose a real threat to their health by passing along other conditions like flea allergy dermatitis, hemoparasites, tapeworms, and more. A large infestation of fleas can even cause anemia for your pet, caused by the tiny parasites constantly feeding on the host animal's blood.

It's no wonder that flea prevention is such a heavily recommended practice by veterinarians. Certainly, no cat owner would want their feline friend to suffer through a flea infestation! But as a cat parent, you may wonder, “Can an indoor cat get fleas?”. Read on to learn how indoor cats can come into contact with fleas, what to do if your cat has them, and how to prevent future infestations.

How to Tell If Your Indoor Cat Has Fleas

If you are unsure whether your indoor cat might have fleas, there are a few telltale signs to watch out for. They include:

  • Scratching and biting at the skin — Flea bites will cause your cat to become itchy, and a sudden increase or frequency of your cat scratching or biting at their skin can be a major sign of a potential flea infestation.
  • Red and irritated spots or bumps on the skin — Some cats may experience flea allergy dermatitis, which is a sensitivity to flea bites that can lead to extreme itching and skin infections.
  • Hair loss due to excessive grooming — If your cat is suddenly scratching and biting at their skin and fur more frequently, this can cause patches of their fur to come out.
  • Flea dirt — "Flea dirt" is a common term used to describe the tiny black specks found in a host animal's fur when there is a flea infestation present. These little specks are the fecal waste of adult fleas.
  • Tapeworms — Your cat can get tapeworms from swallowing infected fleas from grooming themselves if they have fleas in their fur. You might notice tapeworms in your cat's stool, or small white sacs (about the size of a grain of rice) around their anus.
  • Pale gums, fatigue, or rapid muscle loss — These signs could all point to possible anemia, which can occur if a large infestation of fleas is feeding on your cat's blood. Seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Tiny red-brown or black insects in the fur — These insects present in your cat's fur are adult fleas. They can move very quickly and sometimes are only visible when parting the fur at the nape of the neck or the base of the tail.

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How Would an Indoor Cat Catch Fleas?

It may seem like an indoor cat wouldn't have an opportunity to come into contact with fleas. However, there are more scenarios than you might think for fleas to find their way into your home and get onto your cat.

Here are a few of the most common ways that fleas end up on your indoor cat:

1. Other Animals Bring Fleas Inside

Perhaps the most prevalent way that indoor cats get fleas is from other animals in your household. Especially for homes that have both cats and dogs, fleas can easily latch on to dogs when they are outside, bringing them into the home when the dog returns indoors. Bringing home a new animal, whether they were a shelter or stray animal, poses another way that fleas might get inside your living space. Those fleas can then jump onto your cat and further spread throughout your home.  

2. People's Clothing or Other Objects Bring Fleas Inside

If a person has been near an animal or in an area that is infested with fleas, the fleas can hitch a ride on items like clothing, shoes, and bags and wind up inside your home. Bringing in secondhand items like rugs, couches, pet beds, etc., that are hosting fleas will also allow them to spread in your home if they are not properly cleaned before bringing them inside.

3. Fleas Get to Your Cat from Other Locations

Although you may not let your cat outside to roam freely, there are still times when you need to take your cat elsewhere and away from home. You might be visiting the vet's office or the groomer's, or maybe you're traveling and either taking your cat with you or taking them to stay in a boarding facility or with a pet sitter for a little while. Regardless of where or how brief the trip away from home is, there is always a chance that your cat can come into contact with another animal that exposes them to fleas.

How to Get Rid of Your Indoor Cat's Fleas

In order to get rid of fleas, you have to meticulously treat both your cat and your home at the same time to kill adult fleas and stop new eggs from hatching.

Here's how to knock out an ongoing flea infestation:

  1. Sanitize surfaces — Properly clean all pet bedding, blankets, and rugs, thoroughly sweep and mop floors and baseboards, and vacuum any carpet. This will help eliminate any existing flea eggs, larvae, and adults on these surfaces. Continue this routine regularly until the flea infestation has been resolved.
  2. Flea treatment — Give your pet(s) a flea bath and comb through their fur with a fine-toothed flea comb. Visit your veterinarian to discuss what type of flea prevention method is best for your pet's age and weight. Be sure to treat all of the pets in your home, as an active flea infestation can spread quickly.
  3. Treat your home for fleas — Use a pest control product formulated for fleas both inside and outside your home, especially if you have a yard. While you're already treating the fleas that have found their way onto your pet(s) and inside your home, you also need to prevent more of them from getting in from outside.
  4. Follow-up treatments — Often, not all of the adult fleas, eggs, and larvae will be eliminated during the first round of treatment to your pet(s) and home. Following up later with at least two more treatments up to 10 days after the initial treatment will help catch any fleas that were missed during the first round.

How to Protect Your Cat from Fleas

Knowing how tedious and time-consuming dealing with fleas can be, you'll see just how important it is to protect your animals from future flea infestations.

You can help prevent your cat from coming into contact with fleas by being conscious of their exposure to other animals or objects that may be carrying fleas. Limit or restrict outdoor access if you have not already, and maintain a regular schedule of ongoing flea prevention treatments for your cat. And if you are about to adopt an outdoor cat or dog, keep them quarantined to prevent the spread of cat fleas.

It's also a good practice to brush your cat's fur regularly and check its skin and fur for any signs of fleas (such as flea bites, flea dirt, or even a flea egg) or other insects and parasites. If you notice something out of the ordinary, you can contact your vet right away to seek out the appropriate treatment for your cat as soon as possible.  

Do Indoor Cats Need Flea Prevention?

Year-round flea prevention is advisable to keep your cat as healthy as possible. The best course of action is to speak with your veterinarian for recommendations on the best type of flea prevention for your cat's health. Flea prevention methods are available as spot treatments, collars, sprays, and pills. Your vet can help guide you on the appropriate product for your cat's age, weight, and particular needs.

Summary

Although it might seem unlikely that an indoor cat could come into contact with fleas without going outside, there are more ways than you might guess that these tiny parasites can wind up entering your home and infesting your cat. In order to keep your cat healthy and free of these unwelcome critters, check your cat often for signs of fleas, and speak to your veterinarian about the right flea prevention for year-round protection for your cat. But aside from fleas, you should also keep your indoor cats safe from predators as a way of keeping your cat healthy.

 


Sources:

  1. "Fleas and Ticks: Facts About Fleas." My Pet. https://www.mypet.com/fleas-and-ticks/facts-about-fleas.aspx
  2. "5 Ways Indoor Cats Can Get Fleas." Pet MD.https://www.petmd.com/cat/5-ways-indoor-cats-can-get-fleas
  3. "What Do Fleas Look Like in Cats: 10 Signs Your Cat Has Fleas." Chewy. https://be.chewy.com/9-signs-your-cat-has-fleas/
  4. "Can My Indoor Cat Get Fleas?" Petable.https://petable.care/2021/04/14/can-indoor-cat-get-fleas/
  5. "Getting Rid of Fleas." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/fleas/getting_rid.html
  6. "5 Top Health Issues Caused by Fleas." Pretty Litter. https://www.prettylitter.com/blog/5-top-health-issues-caused-by-fleas

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!