How To Tell If Your Cat Has Fleas

Fleas. Just the word makes any pet owner shudder. The pesky bloodsuckers are one of the most irritating pests out there. Even indoor kitties occasionally suffer when one of those meanies makes it inside (usually on the bottom of a shoe or on a pant leg). Concerned your kitty may have picked up some fleas? Here are the telltale signs.

Does My Cat Have Fleas?

Behavioral Signs of Flea Infestation in Cats

Scratching or Biting the Skin – If your kitty suddenly whips around and starts chewing on her skin or scratching like a maniac out of the blue, it could be because she’s getting bitten by fleas.

Excessive Grooming – Cats who have fleas often become obsessive groomers. The licking helps soothe the itchiness. If you notice your cat suddenly seems to be grooming like crazy, better check for fleas.

Avoiding Certain Rooms/Areas – Fleas like to hang out in carpeted areas in the home, or areas where there is grass outdoors. Cats are smart enough to simply avoid areas where there are more biting pests. For example, if your cat sleeps in your carpeted bedroom every night, and you notice lately she has been avoiding the bedroom altogether, she could be just trying to avoid fleas.

Agitated Personality – Fleas are uncomfortable, plain and simple. A cat suffering from flea infestation will likely be agitated, on edge, or restless. Any time you notice personality changes in your cat, it can be a sign something is amiss. We all get cranky when we don’t feel well!

a tortie cat grooming herself

Physical Signs Your Cat Has Fleas

Hair Loss – Uh oh! All of the scratching, chewing, and grooming from irritation can also cause bald spots. If your cat suddenly develops bald patches, this can also be a sign of flea infestation.

Lesions or Scabs – Some cats are severely allergic to fleas. Very sensitive cats will react to flea saliva and bites by developing skin lesions or bumpy scabs. These skin issues can also develop from excessive scratching. If your cat develops a skin condition, it’s always a good idea to visit the vet!

Anemia – Since fleas feed by drinking blood (so rude!), severely infested cats can become anemic. Signs of anemia include muscle loss, pale gums, and lethargy. Kittens, senior cats, and cats with pre-existing health conditions are especially prone to flea-related anemia, so if your cat falls into any of those categories, it is important to act quickly.

a vet performing an exam on a cat

Other Flea Symptoms

Fleas are teensy weensy little bugs, so sometimes you might not actually find the fleas themselves. They also move extremely quickly, so if you blink you miss them. They are clumsy criminals though, and leave behind a ton of evidence. Here’s what to look for:

Black Specs on your Cat’s Skin/Coat – This is kind of gross, but that’s flea poop. It’s also referred to as “flea dirt”, but either way it’s not a good thing to find on your furbaby. If you find black “dirt” on your cat, and you want to be sure it’s from fleas, put it on a white paper towel and drip a little water on it. If it turns reddish, it’s blood and almost certainly the result of fleas.

Black Specs or Red Marks on your Cat’s Bedding – Finding flea dirt or blood where your cat likes to sleep or hang out is a definite warning sign that fleas have been biting.

Worms – Ingesting fleas can give a cat worms. Worms are much easier to see and identify than fleas. Check your kitty’s bum and/or their poo for little white worms. If your cat has worms, you need to visit the vet.

If your cat has any of the signs discussed above, it’s a good idea to do a flea check. Comb through your cat’s fur in areas fleas like to hide. Fleas like to hang out around your kitty’s face (they particularly like the ears and cheeks), her belly, armpits, and groin. If your cat is a longhair, you may need the help of a special flea comb. These combs are designed with closely packed teeth to grab itty bitty fleas. Keep a dish with some warm soapy water handy. If you find any fleas, you can toss them into the soapy death trap if you move quickly. If you find some, it’s definitely time for some flea treatment.

Here’s to hoping you never have to deal with fleas! 

itchy cat scratching his ear