Kittens are adorable little bundles of fur. But that fur can easily harbour fleas, which can lead to serious health issues.
While fleas on adult cats are relatively simple to treat, fleas on kittens can be trickier.
Find out how to get rid of fleas on kittens and how to prevent your pretty kitty becoming an easy target.
1. Treat your kitten for fleas
Generally speaking, flea treatments are unsuitable for very young kittens under the age of eight weeks old. Make sure you know what flea prevention tactics you can deploy to keep your kitten flea-free depending on their age.
How to get rid of fleas on new-born kittens – under eight weeks old
One of the easiest ways to keep kittens clear of fleas is to ensure their home is a flea-free zone. But, in the event of fleas, here are some ways to keep fleas away from your new-born bundle of fluff until they’re eight weeks of age.
- Use a flea comb - Flea combs are designed to pick out tiny fleas from fur. The fine-toothed combs help you to identify and manually remove fleas. Brush your kitten over a white surface, so you can easily identify the fleas, which will appear as small, dark brown critters. Pay attention to the kitten’s belly and armpits and the base of their tail where fleas like to hide.
- If you spot black specks, similar to pepper, at the base of the fur it’s likely to be flea faeces, known as ‘flea dirt’. Even if you don’t spot the fleas, this is a clear sign that you have an infestation on your hands.
- A flea comb will only remove fleas present at that time, and as flea eggs, larvae and pupae hang around in the environment, you’ll need to keep combing your kitten regularly to pick up any new fleas as they develop.
- Bath your kitten - Fleas aren’t so keen on water as they are on your kitten. Bathing your kitten in warm water with vet-recommended soap can help flush out the fleas taking refuge in their fur.
- Your kitten might not be so keen on being bathed either, and, just like a flea comb, soapy water will only remove fleas that are on the fur there and then and won’t help to prevent re-infestation. You may need to bath your kitten regularly or combine bathing with using a flea comb. If you do bath your kitten it is important to ensure they remain warm and are dried carefully and thoroughly after the bath.
If you do spot fleas or flea dirt on your kitten, it’s a good idea to notify your vet. They may be able to recommend a treatment that can be used on very young kittens.
- Flea spray - Some flea sprays can be used on young kittens. Always check the packaging and speak to your vet if you are unsure.
How to get rid of fleas on older kittens – over eight weeks old
Many flea treatments available are suitable for older kittens aged 8 to 12 weeks.
There is such a vast array of flea treatments to choose from – tablets, spot-ons and collars – that it can be difficult to know which to choose. Although powders and shampoos can help remove fleas they don’t have a residual effect and do not prevent them from re-infestation. It’s a good idea to pick a flea control product which has a monthly action or longer.
Spot-on products usually offer monthly protection. They are a popular treatment among pet owners because they’re easily applied to the back of the kitten’s (or cat’s) neck. Different active ingredients in the products will treat a flea infestation differently. Some spot-ons will interrupt the flea life cycle simply by killing adult fleas, while others will target larvae too.
Advantage for cats is a monthly spot-on which can be used on kittens from the age of eight weeks and older. It works by spreading throughout the skin and fur to kill fleas through contact1 within 24 hours. And because the bloodthirsty critters don’t have to bite your kitten, it reduces possible skin irritation from itchy flea bites.
2. Treat other animals in the household
Although kittens will generally stay indoors at least until they’ve completed their first course of vaccinations, usually at 12 weeks old, they can still easily catch fleas from living in the household.
If you have other pets, it’s important to ensure they’re also treated for fleas, so they don’t pass them onto your kitten.
Often, the kitten’s mother can pass fleas to her babies, so don’t forget to treat the mother too. There are some products suitable for use on pregnant and nursing cats, but it’s best to check with your vet first before use.
3. Get rid of fleas in the home
If a flea has snuck into your home and fed on one of your pets, that’s all they need to begin laying eggs rapidly.
The fleas you find on your pets are just five per cent of a home infestation. Flea eggs, larvae and pupae make up the other 95 per cent and are adept at hiding in carpets, furniture and cracks in floorboards and walls.
The environmental flea life stages can lay dormant in the home waiting to hatch until the conditions are right when they will re-infest your home and your kitten. When you have a flea problem, you’ll need to clean your home thoroughly and continue the process until you’re sure you’ve managed to disrupt the flea life cycle to stop them from developing.
- Vacuum every day - You’ll need to vacuum the carpets and floors every day to help remove eggs and larvae and bring those buried deep to the surface.
- Use a household flea spray - Once you’ve vacuumed, spray your floors with a veterinary recommended household flea treatment, to kill off any eggs and larvae that have been brought to the surface. Sprays can also help you to treat nooks and crannies, and other hard-to-reach areas, such as under furniture.
- Wash bedding, curtains and fabrics - Put bedding, curtains and cushion covers on a hot wash to kills off any life stages of the flea that may be hiding there.
Read our guide to getting rid of fleas in the home for more tips.
1. Mehlhorn et al. Parasitol Res (2001) 87:198-207, information is regarding mode of action and is not intended to imply parasites can be completely stopped from biting.