When someone fears their cat has fleas, I’m generally the one who is summoned to investigate. Fleas, after all, are not always visible. Unless the infection is severe, you will not see fleas leaping about like they’re at a circus, and you may not even notice any signs like itching. Alternatively, the symptoms might be general, such as hair loss, which could also be caused by contact allergies, and so on.
Checking for fleas, on the other hand, isn’t rocket science. It’s simple to check for yourself, and all you need is one piece of basic equipment.
The Flea Comb comes into play.
A flea comb is a tiny two-sided comb with very fine teeth. However, research on the issue has indicated that the flea comb is often misunderstood. After all, it’s a comb, so you might be excused for believing the goal is to comb your cat. According to one report, the comb’s function was to “remove all the superfluous hair on your cat so that the fleas become visible.”
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What a Great Comb! – They are an awesome brand made in America. Their combs look like they have quality behind them. This one may have been a fluke though. As a professional cat groomer, this comb will last long.
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Solid Product – Very nice to use, picks up loads of fleas and keeps them caught in between the two prongs until you can dispose of them really well.
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Brilliant little comb – Nice small comb, easy to use. The longer tines are perfect for your cats . The other side works well but because their hair is dense, being labs they have an undercoat, several of the tines bent shortly after purchase.
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Best Flea Comb – This is the best flea comb of all the flea combs you have ever tried. This grabs the fleas and keeps them long enough for you to swipe the fleas into a bowl of dawn dish detergent.
That doesn’t seem like a good moment. It would also be ineffective. Because you eliminated superfluous hair, fleas would not be visible.
You see, attempting to disclose fleas with a comb, or better yet, attempting to eliminate them by combing them away, is not a reliable approach. This is due to the fact that, believe it or not:
Fleas Do Not Live on Cats (or Dogs)
Fleas do not make a home in your cat’s hair and wait to be detected and removed by you. No. They go on, eat, and then get off. They dwell in your home, you say? (and in the yard). Fleas, on the other hand, prefer cats, dogs, and other fuzzy creatures to people. However, if your domestic flea infestation grows severe enough, they will jump on you as well. This implies that you must keep fleas at bay so that they do not develop a major home infestation!
Purpose of a Flea Comb
The purpose of the flea comb is not to reveal fleas. It is to reveal flea dirt. Flea dirt is a nice way of saying “flea poop.” Flea poop looks like tiny bits of dirt. It is actually tiny bits of partially digested blood. Fleas, while feasting on your cat’s blood happily deposit large quantities of their waste on your cat’s skin, leaving crucial evidence behind before jumping off until they are ready for their next meal.
So, the primary purpose of a flea comb is to comb through the strands of hair, separating them enough to actually reveal or even comb away some of these black flecks. The black flecks are evidence of fleas and let you know you need to do something to keep the fleas off your cat. Many people still try to comb away fleas, and while it is quite possible to reveal some live fleas this way, it’s not going to stop the other fleas, living somewhere in your house, possibly even in the carpet, furniture, or bedding, from jumping on your cat when you’re done. The video below shows how to use a flea comb to check your cat for fleas.
As you can see on the video, you should use a white towel, place it under your cat, to catch any flea dirt, which will show up better against the white. To make sure that the little flecks you are seeing are flea dirt and not just regular dirt, you can use a wet Q-tip to rub them. If they are flea droppings they will reconstitute to the host’s, that is your cat’s, blood, and turn red or rust-red.
The doc in the video uses a fancy metal comb but you can also use a plastic lice comb, the same kind you use to check your kid’s hair for nits (God forbid). A white plastic one has an advantage in that the flea dirt will show up easily against the white comb, itself. These types of combs are double-sided, with one side having finer teeth than the other. Use the finest side.
The flea dirt will look like flecks of black paper, or they may look like little comma-shapes or long coils. You may not need a flea comb at all. Here is a photo of flea dirt revealed a thorough brushing, which you could achieve with everyone’s favorite de-shedding tool, the Furminator.
There are many products to help you control fleas on your cat. Regardless of how safe you think these products are, however, you must realize that killing or removing fleas from your cat; or removing eggs or stopping them from hatching, may likely be only a temporary fix. The fleas live in the environment, both in your yard and, once your cat has brought them in, in your house. And, although fleas do lay eggs on their host, these eggs drop off to the ground to undergo several life stages before they become adults. So, these eggs will be left behind in the environment, and these become pupae that emerge later as new adult fleas, ready to feast on your feline buddy.
In truth, a good shampooing will get rid of fleas or any eggs present on a cat, but this won’t stop them from bothering her later. So, you have to control fleas in the environment or use a product that will work continually to keep fleas from biting your pet.
Keep in mind that products that claim to safely kill fleas on contact only work when directly sprayed on a flea. Once these products have dried, and a flea jumps on your cat, the remaining residue will not affect the flea. So, in order for such products to work, you have to be lucky enough to catch a flea in the act, and this explains why they take so many repeated applications if they ever work at all.
Once you check your cat for fleas and discover evidence of them, it is best to ask your veterinarian for advice on how to deal with them. There are many good monthly topical products as well as products to stop flea larvae. You can also get household products based such as Indorex, based on permethrin, piperonyl butoxide, and pyriproxyfen, to control fleas around the house. However, if you want to avoid chemicals and go for something completely natural and safe for both you and your pets, diatomaceous earth is a good choice. You can spread it around the yard and the house, including the carpet. It will kill any soft-bodied insects and you can even sprinkle it in voids, under cabinets, in attics, and basements to control roaches, ants, and other insects. Keep in mind, however, that you must use food-grade diatomaceous earth like the product I linked above, not the kind used in swimming pools, and that it will kill the beneficial insects as well as the harmful ones, so be judicial in your application.