There aren’t many things cuter than a kitten, but imagine your shock when playing with your new furry friend and finding fleas.
These little bloodsucking insects can cause major problems for kittens and need to be removed. There are treatment options available, and we explain how to safely remove fleas from kittens.
How Did My Kitten Get Fleas?
Fleas can make a new home on your kitten in many ways, even in indoor cats! The mother may have fleas, the kitten may have picked them up outside or sand tracked indoors can even contain fleas. As soon as you notice there are fleas either in the house or on a pet, don’t delay in taking action.
If you don’t see fleas on the animal but notice small, rice-like deposits on the stool, these are tapeworm segments caused by the fleas. Your pet will still need to be treated even if you don’t see fleas hopping around.
The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Nothing
A flea infestation can cause anemia in kittens. Check to ensure the gums are pink since this condition can be deadly, and bring your kitten to the vet immediately if you notice a discoloration. They can also cause excessive scratching, skin irritation and overall discomfort.
Kittens are especially delicate, and some treatments are not safe. Some can even cause death, so make sure to follow the advice of your veterinarian, the instructions included with the medications (if any) and our tips below. Never use medication designed for dogs or adult cats as these could be deadly for your kitten.
Flea infestations can also wreak havoc on your home and its inhabitants. I have encountered a flea infestation once before when I moved into a new home and they loved to bite me more than the animals! That situation required treating the animals, all surfaces in the home and using foggers to treat the entire house while it was empty. This is very inconvenient and something you want to avoid if possible.
If you are removing fleas from a newborn kitten, treat the mother and manually remove the fleas from the kitten. They are small so there isn’t a large area to cover, and you should be able to remove them with your fingers or tweezers easily. Because of their age and fragility, it is not recommended to apply any type of detergent or medication on a newborn kitten.
What You Will Need
Gather a few items before treating your kitten. You will need a mild dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn, a flea comb, tweezers, petroleum jelly, two towels, double-sided tape and a cup of very hot water or soapy water. If you have another person available to help, that’s even better.
Run a bath of warm water in the sink. Standing at the sink avoids having to bend over and gives you better control of the kitten. Ensure the water is not too hot or too cold. Immerse the kitten up to the neck and make sure all fur is wet. Remove the cat from the bath and place on a towel to apply the detergent. Gently massage the detergent all over the kitten and be careful when applying to the top of the head and face to avoid the eyes.
Fleas will run for the driest area of the kitten, so it is not unusual to see them swarm to the head and facial area. If you can grab these fleas, drop them into the cup of hot water you prepared or stick them on the double-sided tape before rinsing the kitten.
If the kitten hasn’t clawed you to pieces or fled the scene yet, submerge the cat up to the neck in the water again to rinse off the detergent. Place the kitten on a clean towel to dry.
After the Bath
This is where the scavenger hunt begins! While the fur is still wet, go over the kitten with the flea comb or pick off fleas using tweezers or your fingers. Drop them in the hot water or place them on the sticky tape as you find them. You can also apply the jelly on the teeth of the comb to keep the fleas adhered or dab a small amount on fleas as you spot them. This will make it harder for them to run or hop away.
You’re Not Done Yet!
Place the dry kitten in an area free from fleas and grab a plastic bag or trash bag. Gather up all bedding and fabric the kitten may have come in contact with and wash in hot water. Vacuum any areas that the kitten has come in contact with, and treat any other kittens (or the mother if present and also carrying fleas). It’s important to clean the environment as well as the animals; otherwise the fleas will be a persistent problem.
What About Flea Medicine for Kittens?
There are medications readily available to treat the mother or adult cat. Medications for kittens are determined by age and can be deadly, so it is important to check with your vet before applying anything. Newborns need manual flea removal, but kittens over 4 weeks of age may be treated with Capstar (there is a minimum weight requirement). This application kills the adult fleas but not their offspring. Other medications list 8 weeks of age as a minimum and may also kill the offspring, but as always check with your vet before applying. Natural, homeopathic or essential oil treatments may also harm your kitten, so avoid using these.
Fleas are pesky, tiny insects and multiple washings and cleanings may be necessary. Even after the initial treatment of your kitten and home, you may still see a few sneaking around. Kill or remove them as soon as you see them, and keep checking your kitten to make sure they don’t try to move back in and get comfy again. As the kitten gets older you will be able to switch to topical treatments but until then, stay vigilant and treat on the spot.
Photos: nicsuzor (top), kaelin.fe/Flickr
- Paris Revoir, DVM: Do inside cats need flea/tick prevention?
- Lorie Huston, DVM: Indoor vs. outdoor cats
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): Safe solutions for flea control