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How to Tell if Your Cat Has Fleas – 10 Telltale Signs

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: January 31, 2022 - Author: Mayurii Rajvanshi
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: April 28, 2021  
Author:  Mayurii Rajvanshi
How to Tell if Your Cat Has Fleas

Fleas on Cats! The very mention of it makes all of us feel gross. But if you're not sure how do you know? Well, we've got you covered as we're going to give you all the telltale signs so you will know how to tell if your cat has fleas.

These tiny pests are more than just a nuisance. They are the menace capable of causing serious harm to your fur baby. Flea infestation is the uninvited guests that can ruin springtime for you and your kitty. 

So, how do you tell if there are fleas on your cats? What can you do about it? We will be discussing the 10 signs of flea infestation on your cat’s body. Meanwhile, if you are wondering which is the best flea treatment, we recommend Cheristin for Cats Topical Flea Prevention

It is fast-acting, safe for your cat, long-lasting, easy to apply, and non-greasy. The brand even claims it has a low environmental impact.

Fleas on Cats: The 10 Big Signs

So, you're wondering if there are fleas on your cat? How do you say for certain? Check out these 10 signs of cat flea infestation which will educate you how to tell if your cat has fleas.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 1: Intense and Frantic Scratching or Biting

Is your cat scratching intensely? Every time you look at her, she is scratching or biting here and there? 

It is true that cats groom themselves. You will often catch your cat licking herself or scratching the spot behind its ears rather adorably. But if your kitty has been scratching madly lately, something is up. And most probably, it’s cat fleas! 

Flea bites on cats make your furry feline’s skin and fur to feel very itchy. This happens due to the saliva of the cat fleas getting injected in your cat’s skin when the flea bites it. Your cat might be allergic to it and as a result, your adorable fur ball will be left with intense scratching. 

Be cautious it can last up to several days. Even a single cat flea bite can give cats intense itching. You need to do something about it soon or your cat might lose hair from specific spots. This can cause spot balding. 

Still, confused if it is regular scratching or flea-caused itching? Keep an eye on your cat to see if the onset of scratching is sudden. Is the kitty using its paws or chewing the skin rather frantically, trying to get rid of the itchy sensation?

Well, you do know now, it could well be fleas on your cats!

Fleas on Cats - Sign 2: Excessive Grooming and Hair Loss

Not every cat reacts to cat flea bites with intense scratching or biting. They can be pretty subtle about it. As subtle as to make you think your kitty is just grooming itself. But before you know, it will start losing hair and you will end up wondering what the hell went wrong!

Cats with hypersensitivity to antigens found in the flea saliva get miserably itchy. They will keep grooming themselves in an attempt to do away with the itch. And what’s the subtlest form of grooming? Licking!

Your little bundle of joy can lick its fur to the extent that the hair starts coming out. The hair can definitely grow but the rate of loss is faster than the time taken to regrow new hair. If your cat has been grooming itself obsessively, something is wrong. And more often than not, it will be a sign of fleas on your cat.

Just in case if you are wondering, your cat can be losing hair due to other reasons too. Though less frequent, some cats over groom when they are stressed and anxious. It is an attempt to reassure themselves.  

Endocrine disorders, infections, and nerve pain are some other reasons behind excessive grooming.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 3: Avoiding Certain Parts of Your Home

Pay close attention to your kitty’s lazing spots in your home. Does it seem to avoid some specific parts of your home? The ones that are warm and carpeted?

If this is something your cat has been doing for a while, get alert. It's one sign for fleas on cats and something is wrong. And that something is flea infestation. Your cat is trying to avoid them!

Fleas thrive in warm environments. They live on porous surfaces. This is why you will find a fleas on cat infestation on your carpet and not hardwood floors and tiles. No, you don’t need to throw the entire carpet out.

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Thoroughly vacuum your floors and deep clean your house. There are several store-bought as well as homemade natural remedies for your carpets and rugs. Disinfect your cat bedding as well. That is the most favorite spot for cat fleas.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 4: Agitation, Edginess, and Restlessness

Imagine having bugs living on your body. Not just that- they bite and irritate you too! You sure would get irritated. Won’t you? The same happens when fleas live on cats. Flea infestation causes serious behavioral changes in cats. 

Your sweet as angel cat might suddenly become a wild angry kitty. You extend your arm to pet her but end up with pretty wild scratches. This agitation, restlessness, and edginess are due to the frustration caused by flea bites on your cat.

Other behavioral changes include constant growling, running across the room hysterically, obsessively rubbing their body on the floor, and shaking or bumping their head. The fleas are driving it crazy. Blame the fleas on the cat, not your kitty!

Fleas on Cats - Sign 5: Red Skin Lesions or Scab-Like Bumps

We just talked about how cats can be hypersensitive to the antigens found in the flea saliva. Some cats are onto the next level of hypersensitivity. They are so allergic to cat flea bites that their skin becomes red and swollen. 

If your cat has inflamed skin, it is a tell-tale sign of fleas on your cat - one of the classic cat flea symptoms. Your kitty’s skin will have lesions, usually on the neck, face, and back. These are the spots where fleas usually hide. Do not let your cat chew on them as the lesions would ooze, aggravating the condition further. 

This can quickly turn into flea allergy dermatitis and you sure don’t want your cat to deal with that! Severe dermatitis cases can be fatal. Fleas drain your cat’s blood to the extent that they become dangerously anemic.


Fleas on Cats - Sign 6: Muscle Loss and Pale Gums

This one is a doozy. When your cat has pale gums, the last thing you would doubt is flea infestation. Pale gums indicate your fur baby is anemic. Just as we talked about in the previous point, fleas can cause anemia. 

It is definitely shocking. Looking at the size of a flea versus cat, nobody would think that this teeny-tiny organism can be this much of a menace. Fleas can drink blood up to 15 times their body weight. Now think what they are capable of doing when they are just a handful!

Anemia can also lead to muscle loss.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 7: Lack of Energy/Lethargy

Is your kitty showing a lack of interest in playing? Do you miss how it would race up to you at the supper time? All your cardboard boxes are waiting to be cat-handled but your cat isn’t interested at all!

Lack of interest in playing could be due to lethargy caused by anemia. Your cat doesn’t have energy left to play around. Intense itching and scratching tire your kitty out. And rest of the energy is drained by the blood-sucking parasites. 

Flea induced anemia is more common in kittens and senior cats. Make sure you are giving your kitty a healthy balanced diet, along with treatment for flea infections.

Fleas on Cat - Sign 8: Tiny Pepper-Like Specks on Your Cat’s Fur - Flea Dirt

If none of the previosu cat flea symptoms have helped then there's one obvious why how to tell if your cat has fleas.

Of course, cat fleas themselves will leave their mark. Those tiny organisms live in swarms and together produce a lot of waste. This flea waste shows up in the form of dark brown specks.

It is a flea poop. You will notice the flea poop more while combing your cat’s hair. 

Check the comb or brush for the flea dirt specks. They are more prominent in rump and neck areas, especially behind the ears where the ears meet the skull.. Check between the shoulders too. You can even place these dark brown specks on a white paper towel. 

Spray a bit of water and you will see the specks turning red. That- right there- is your kitty’s digested blood these horrible little pests drank.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 9: Red Spots in Your Cat’s Bedding Fabric

Have you been cleaning your cat’s bedding lately and found red spots? Or Dark brown-ish dandruff?

This is cat flea dirt that fell off your kitty’s fur. It is dark brown most of the time. But when your cat’s warm body rubs against them or they soak up moisture, those dark brown specks turn red. Caught red-handed just got more meaning to it!

This also shows you how important it is to clean your cat’s bedding frequently. If possible, try placing it in the sun for a few hours once a week. Sunlight helps sanitize.

Fleas on Cats - Sign 10: Pinhead-Sized Black or Reddish-Brown Insects Crawling on Your Cat’s Fur

This is the most obvious sign of fleas on cats infestation. The flea itself! Fleas are tiny creatures crawling inside your kitty’s fur. They can be black in color or reddish-brown. Please do note that it isn’t easy to spot fleas in case of a mild infestation. 

But that doesn’t mean you should take it lightly. Heavy infestation shows through live fleas crawling as well as flea eggs. The most common body parts, where you can spot fleas, are the neck, tail, hind legs, and lower back. 

Part your furry feline’s hair to see its skin. You will spot fleas on cats therein. The absence of visible fleas isn’t indicative of your kitty being flea-free. Fleas go throw four life stages- eggs, larva, pupa, and adult. 

Maybe you are searching for adult fleas on cats but they are right now in the larva stage. Maybe they are in other developmental stages and waiting on your carpet or your cat’s bed or cat cave. When your kitty comes in contact with them, these tiny pests will invade its fur. 

This is the reason why you need to have a constant plan in action to prevent flea attacks. There is no 100% guarantee that your cat won’t get fleas in the future. Sanitizing, cleaning, and disinfecting are your best defenses.

How to Best Treat Fleas on Cats

So, you weren't sure how to tell if your cat has fleas. But, you learnt the signs, you checked your cat and found multiple pieces of evidence of flea infestation. What should be your next step to battle fleas on cats? Give it a bath first or clean your home before that? 

Relax. It isn’t rocket science. You won’t need to burn a hole in your pocket too! Following the three-step process will keep your kitty free from fleas.

Keep your cat on a monthly cat flea-prevention program

Your furry friend depends on you for its safety. Fleas on cats can cause a number of health problems. If left unchecked, they can cause fatal illnesses. You can begin with keeping your cat on a monthly flea-prevention program. 

There are different types of such programs available. You choose from sprays, oral solutions, tablets, collars, and topical solutions. Please do not rely on dog flea control programs. They can jeopardize your cat’s health and cause serious issues. 


Whatever monthly cat flea-prevention program you choose should be explicitly marked safe for cats. Oral flea medications can be given to your kitty on a monthly basis. They work on their bodies in a way that the cat’s blood becomes toxic for fleas- without harming the cat itself. 

Next, you have topical solutions like Cheristin. You will need to apply this solution on one spot of your cat. Preferably somewhere your kitty cannot reach up and lick it off. I apply it right behind my cat’s neck, between the shoulder blades. However hard she tries, she can’t take her tongue there 🙂

Topical solutions act fast and their effect lasts up to a month. You can also get your furry friend a cat flea prevention collar. Such collars contain a flea preventative in them. These collars can last up to several months. 

If you need something instant, cat flea sprays are great. Spray it directly on your kitty’s fur. Depending upon the brand, cat flea sprays can be effective for longer than a month. Make sure you read the label thoroughly before applying the spray.

Never spray directly on your cat’s head, face, and eyes. Instead, spray it on your disposable gloves or washcloth. Gently massage it into your furry friend’s hair. Make sure none of it enters your cat’s eyes and mouth.

Treating your home and yard with cat flea-control sprays and powders that contain an insect growth regulator

So, you took care of the fleas on cat infestation on your cat’s body. But what about your home? You need to rid each and every corner of your home or else the bad news is going to return. 

The best approach, in this case, is to interrupt the flea cycle. For this, you can use flea-control sprays and powders that will inhibit the growth of fleas. These sprays kill all forms of fleas- egg, larva, adult- everyone. 

Spray them on your carpet, throw rugs, beneath furniture, cabinets, cushions, curtains- just anywhere you suspect fleas on cats could be living. Spray on the spots your cat frequents and make sure you pay special attention under your bed. 

Fleas could be living right under there! You can use a flea trap as well. But remember they do not kill the flea infestation completely. You will have to use it along with other methods. 

Aerosol sprays are the best for carpets and pet bedding. Make sure it has an insect growth regulator (IGR). These aerosol sprays have super fast-acting insecticides carefully combined with slow-release IGR.

This combination is necessary to prevent a fleas on cat infestation for long durations. Both the larvae and eggs won’t be able to breed. You will need to spray these once a month.

With treatment and home cleaning, you can eradicate fleas on cats from both your pet and your home

Is there a way to prevent a fleas on cats infestation without having to spray all the chemicals around your house? 

Yes, there is. It is a bit tedious but hey, where there is will, there’s gotta be a way too! You can use natural home treatments to keep your home clean and prevent flea infestation. 

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a great option to ward off fleas. It is natural and is considered an effective preventive option. DE is made up of ‘diatoms’- a single-cell living organism. Skeletons of these organisms are made of silica. They fossilize in the sedimentary deposits of rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

This is how DE is formed and mined. But how does it help with flea infestations?

DE has diatom fossils that have a natural affinity for the lipid layer of fleas. DE penetrates their outer layer, scratches them, and absorbs their fats and oils. This eventually dries out these nasty parasites. Wonderful! Isn’t it?

But there is a small catch. DE can kill adult fleas but is ineffective on flea eggs. So, don’t expect DE to be the ultimate knight in shining armor.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Cats

We discussed all possible methods to kill fleas on cats and their eggs. Right from sprays to natural remedies. But which one would I prefer over others?

I gravitate towards Cheristin for Cats Topical Flea Prevention. It kills fleas on cats as well as their eggs and larvae. It is made specifically for cats and starts acting within 30 minutes. The brand claims a single dose lasts up to 6 weeks. 

Several pet parents have given positive feedback for the round tip applicator that makes applying the solution easy. Buyers liked that the topical solution is quick-drying and non-greasy. 

The best part I love about it is that the brand says Cheristin topical flea-prevention solution has a low environmental impact. The active ingredient in it has, in fact, been rewarded in 2008 for a low environmental impact on the agricultural industry.

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About the author

Mayurii Rajvanshi takes pride in being a content ninja, who is an avid animal lover. She has fostered numerous cats and developed in-depth knowledge of feline facts so she can write about cat health and cat care to help dispel myths with authentic information. Her aim is to encourage responsible pet parenting and cat adoption.