Itchy and scratchy - Does my cat have fleas?

If you are wondering if that itch your cat is scratching is just allergies, or a sign that puss has a flea infestation, here are some questions to ask.  

Are these flea bites?

Flea bites are small raised bumps on the animal's skin. It can be hard to identify flea bites under the skin, but you can usually see your cat over grooming in that site. In some cases, cats will over groom to the point of creating bald spots, if they suffer from flea allergic dermatitis. This is common on the back of the legs or base of the tail, where fleas often congregate.

Flea bites on humans also very small, and have a single raised centre "bite". The bite tends to be smaller than other common bug bites such as mosquito bites, and more centred than spider bites.

Are these fleas?

If you can see some small black dots in your cat's fur, it can be hard to tell if they are fleas or just dirt from playing outside. If there is a group of black dirt that stays in place, but is in a small group of pieces between 1-3mm you may be looking at flea poop (which is primarily dried blood). This happens when a flea sucks on an animal's blood in one location for a long period of time. The dirt tends to be more concentrated in a 5mm diameter if it's flea poop, compared to normal dirt. This dirt either falls off where the cat is sleeping or sitting, or is cleaned when the animal grooms itself.

The fleas tend to be very active and can be hard to spot. The colour ranges from red-brown to black and range in size depending on the age of the flea.

Is my cat acting weird?

Sometimes the most obvious sign of a flea infestation is a change in your cat's behaviour. The irritation can cause the cat to lose sleep, behave more actively and urinate inappropriately. If you cat seems to be chasing around all of the sudden and seems more irritable and unsettled, it can be worth investigating if they may have fleas. 

If you suspect your cat has fleas, it's worth heading in to your local vet clinic like Warnbro Veterinary Hospital to get a firm diagnosis and to pick up a suitable treatment. These treatments tend to act quickly and your cat could be free of fleas with 24-48 hours.