As the spring approaches, cat owners must begin to be wary of fleas. Like any other insect or parasite (a flea is technically both) that is capable of infestation, fleas can particularly be a hassle to both a cat and its owner. To a full-grown cat, a flea can be a nuisance. To a kitten, a flea can be deadly.
CC Image courtesy of BruceTurner on Flickr
Just as humans pay close attention to newborn children, cat owners should pay the same mind to kittens. Think of the common cold, for an adult it isn’t a huge deal. For an infant a cold can be far more severe. That is why infants are constantly monitored with frequent doctor visits early in their lives. It is crucial to keep a close eye on their health. This same consideration should be given to kittens. They are developing creatures that simply are not equipped to take on the world on their own yet.
If your kittens were to get fleas they could be facing some serious health issues. That is why early detection and eradication of fleas is of the utmost importance. If left undetected, fleas could end up killing a kitten. The most notable health issue that kittens with fleas face is anemia. Fleas feed on the kitten’s blood, and the small size of the kitten allows anemia to set in much quicker. A kitten has less blood than a full-grown cat. It also lacks the strong immune system to properly defend itself. An indicator of anemia in kittens is gum color. If a kitten’s gums are pale, it is likely that the kitten has anemia. Get the kitten to a vet immediately.
Fleas can also lead to a more aggressive form of anemia known as Hemobartonella. Essentially this form of anemia infects red blood cells with a parasite, and the red blood cells fall apart inside the kitten’s body. Sometimes, the parasites will cause the body to recognize its own red blood cells as foreign, leading to the body attacking them. All of this will cause illness in a kitten, and possibly even death.
Kittens are very susceptible to anemia from fleas, and can even die from it.
Not only can fleas be the cause of anemia, but they will also cause the kitten much discomfort by irritating the skin and causing itching. If the kitten scratches itself or licks the area where fleas are present, it is very possible for the kitten to ingest fleas. Fleas have been known to feed on the eggs of tapeworms. By ingesting the fleas, the kitten could be ingesting a tapeworm. This will lead to even more health issues for the kitten.
Diligence against fleas is paramount. Not all flea treatments are usable for kittens. They could potentially even be harmful to a kitten. Think about it, you wouldn’t give an infant the same medication that you would give an adult, right? Cats and kittens are no different. If you kitten does have fleas, thoroughness is crucial. Give the kitten a warm bath using a mild shampoo. Work up a thick lather and rinse the kitten. Use a flea comb to find any fleas that you may have missed. Wash any blankets or toys the kitten came in contact with. If possible, throw them out if they won’t be missed. Vacuum any ground surface the kitten was in contact with. When you are all done with this, repeat the process as often as necessary. Your kitten is depending on you, so you must do what is necessary. It is also recommended that you consult a Veterinarian to find out the appropriate age to apply Frontline (an over-the-counter flea repellant) to your kitten. This will help guard against future infestations.
Ultimately fleas can be annoying to everyone and deadly for kittens. If you own a kitten, do your part to protect them from fleas. If your kitten or cat already has fleas, don’t sweat; just repeat the flea removal process as many times as you need to until the fleas are gone. It may be tedious and boring, but remember that your kitten is depending on you.