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How to Identify Flea Eggs on Cats

The constant scratching of an itchy cat is a sure way for both you and the cat to have a sleepless night. Fleas are among the most common causes of itchiness for cats, and these pesky parasites can infest both your cat and your home. Identifying fleas and their eggs is important for effective flea treatment — you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. Here, you’ll learn what flea eggs look like on cats and what to do if you find them.

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Identifying flea eggs on cats

Flea eggs are tiny (under 0.5 mm), oval, off-white specks that resemble a small grain of rice. Although the adult female flea deposits her eggs directly on the cat, the flea eggs usually fall off the cat's body and into the environment, where they will hatch within two weeks. In the environment, these tiny eggs are very difficult to spot with the naked eye, but you may see them in your cat's bed or favorite resting areas. A female flea can lay as many as 50 eggs per day.

Technically, flea eggs can be found anywhere on a cat’s body. While the fleas themselves are often found on the rump or belly of cats, your cat’s grooming habits might quickly remove flea eggs from these spots. Looking behind your cat’s ears and around their neck may be your best bet at seeing the actual eggs on your cat before they fall off. When you’re looking for eggs on your cat, you’ll want to check at the base of the fur. You’re more likely to see flea eggs with an advanced infestation rather than a cat that only has a couple of live fleas on them. Remember that most eggs will fall off and hatch in the environment.

Life cycle of a flea

You’re more likely to find live fleas or flea dirt (flea poop) on your cat than actual flea eggs. Fleas are dark-colored, wingless insects that are laterally compressed (look like they’ve been squished from the sides) and have long legs. Flea dirt looks like coffee grounds at the base of the fur. Because the fleas feed on blood, the dirt will dissolve red if wet on a paper towel.

How to check for flea eggs on your cat

Rather than searching for only flea eggs to identify a flea infestation, you'll have more success if you look for fleas or flea dirt in addition to the eggs. These instructions will help you identify a flea infestation on your cat.

  1. Check your cat over for skin injuries first. Because of the intense itchiness, your cat may have scratches and other self-inflicted wounds that you’ll want to avoid. If your cat has wounds, veterinary attention is recommended.
  2. Part the fur and look at the base. You may see live fleas scurrying about, dark specks that are flea dirt, or uniform off-white specks that are flea eggs.
  3. Run a flea comb through your cat’s fur. You may see live fleas, flea dirt, or flea eggs on the comb.
  4. If you get dark specks on the comb, put these on a wet paper towel and see if they turn reddish. If so, this is flea dirt, and your cat has fleas.
  5. If you get white specks on the comb, you’ll want to distinguish between dandruff and flea eggs. Flea eggs are uniform in size and shape. If the white specks aren’t uniform, are flaky, and aren’t ovular, then you’re looking at dandruff.

What to do if you find flea eggs on your cat

A flea infestation can quickly get out of hand, so it’s best to take immediate action. You’ll need to utilize a multi-pronged approach to manage fleas on your cat and in the environment. If your cat appears to have a skin infection or is excessively itchy, make sure to seek veterinary attention for treatment. Signs of a skin infection include redness, itchiness, pustules or red bumps, and hair loss.

Treat your cat for fleas

Adult fleas feed on your cat’s blood and deposit eggs that will fall off and hatch in the environment. First, let's focus on treating their food source — your cat.

  • Treat your cat at home with veterinarian-recommended flea medications. These come in topical and oral forms. Some are designed to rapidly kill live fleas and others with efficacy for one to three months. Your veterinarian may recommend a combination of medications. You can use a flea comb to remove fleas, dirt, and debris.
  • Treat other animals in the home.
  • Keep your pet inside and on regular flea-preventative medications to prevent re-infestation.
  • Consider speaking with your veterinarian about treating tapeworms, which are carried by fleas and easily transmitted to cats when the cat swallows a flea during grooming.
  • Do not use permethrin on your cat. Permethrin is toxic to cats. While permethrin is not toxic to dogs, permethrin can get on your cat if the cat rubs against your dog before the medication dries on the dog. It's also a common accident for pet parents to administer preventive to the wrong pet.
  • In order to beak the flea life cycle, treatment is needed for all pets in the home for 3 months consistently.

Although bathing your cat isn't necessary as part of flea treatment, some pet parents may want to wash the fleas, eggs, and flea dirt off their pet. If you choose to bathe your cat (and they tolerate it), make sure to use a cat-safe shampoo. You can use a flea dirt to assist. You'll need to make sure your cat is dry before applying flea treatments.

Treat the environment for fleas

Around 90% of a flea’s life cycle takes place in the environment, with over 50% of the total flea burden being eggs at any given time. The only life stage that routinely stays on your cat is the adult stage. In order to control a flea infestation, you’ll need to address the younger life stages in the environment.

  • Wash all bedding and blankets in hot water with detergent to kill eggs and other early life stages.
  • Vacuum carpets thoroughly and then dispose of the vacuum bag. Alternatively, empty the vacuum into a trash bag and dispose of the trash.
  • Consider treating your home environment with a flea spray or fogger, but consult with your veterinarian first to ensure you are choosing pet-safe parasite control methods.

Preventing flea infestations

The best protection your cat has against fleas is prevention. These preventative measures keep the fleas from biting and your cat from itching:

  • Use vet-recommended flea and tick preventative medication on your cat and other pets year-round in areas with fleas.
  • If you have a cat with flea allergy dermatitis, follow your vet’s recommendations to prevent flare-ups. This may include more frequent preventative administration or other steps.
  • Wash pet bedding and vacuum carpets frequently.
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Consider treating your yard for fleas if outdoor access is a concern.

Keep in mind that most pet insurance plans don't include flea and tick prevention in regular plans. Preventative or wellness add-on plans may include tick and parasite prevention. Carefully review the terms of your pet insurance plan to see if flea treatment is covered in the event of an active infestation.

Finding fleas, flea dirt, and/or flea eggs is the best way to diagnose this parasite infestation, and it's the first step to getting your pet effective treatment. Remember — over half of a parasite infestation is eggs in the environment, so don't overlook this first life stage. If you have any concerns about fleas or flea treatment for your cat, consult with your cat's veterinarian.


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