Login Sign in
Login Sign in

Join thousands of pet parents and get vet-approved guidance, product reviews, exclusive deals, and more!

Fleas on Cats: How to Identify and Treat Them

Cat scratching because of the fleas on cats
Skip To

Fleas are those little blood-sucking bugs everyone tries hard to avoid. They’ve been around for 60 million years and have been found on prehistoric mammals—so it doesn’t seem like they’re going away any time soon. 

It turns out our feline friends are just as susceptible to a flea infestation as all those animals that came before. But how do you identify fleas on cats? And what should you do if you find them?

Read on to learn the telltale signs of fleas on cats, plus get helpful tips on how to get rid of these pesky pests.

Fleas on Cats: What Do They Look Like?

Close up of fleas on a cat

Fleas are very small dark brown bugs that are 1.5 to 4 mm in length. From side to side, flea bodies are very compact and flat. Fleas do not have wings but they do have an incredible ability to jump. Often, these bugs move so fast and are so small that they are hard to find. 

Using a fine-toothed comb (or a flea comb) across the body of your cat would be the best way to attempt to find live fleas. You’ll see the small bugs for a brief moment before they jump away! The most common way you’ll know if your cat has fleas is flea dirt.

Flea Dirt on Cats

Fleas suck up the blood of your cat. Then, when they poop, it comes out as a brown-black color. Flea dirt is essentially flea poop! You may find some brown-black specks on your cat’s skin. If you find flea dirt, use a fine-toothed comb and collect some of the specks with your cat’s fur. Place this debris on a wet paper towel. If the specks create brown-red smears, it is flea dirt. This is a sign that your cat has fleas. 

Flea Eggs on Cats

Flea eggs are white and less than 1 mm long! Because they are so small, it is very challenging to see them. If you have a way of zooming in, you may find flea eggs on cats on individual strands of fur. However, most of the eggs are never found because they are so small and cats lick and groom themselves a lot. All in all, flea eggs are very challenging to see.

Flea Bites on Cats

You cannot see flea bites with the naked eye. However, you can see whether fleas create itchiness and inflammation in your cat’s skin. This is known as dermatitis. Some cats are actually allergic to flea saliva. Even one flea bite can cause an allergic reaction in a sensitive cat’s skin. If you see redness on your cat’s skin and your cat appears itchy or uncomfortable, it could be a sign of fleas. 

Other Signs of Fleas on Cats

Inspecting cats fur for fleas

Even if you don’t see physical evidence of fleas on your cat, that doesn’t mean they aren’t present. Here are some other signs that your cat could have fleas.


As mentioned earlier, flea bites can cause dermatitis, an allergic reaction that causes itching and redness on a cat’s skin. The most common symptoms are many tiny crusts on the skin all around your cat’s neck and shoulders, and possibly near the base of the tail. Other symptoms can include red skin, fur loss, obvious itchiness, or crust. Dermatitis tends to affect the skin around the neck, shoulders, or base of the tail the most.

Excessive Itching

Many cats hide that they are itchy, but when they are really itchy, pet parents tend to take notice. Cats love to groom and lick, but you may see your cat very suddenly turn their head and begin feverishly biting and licking at their back or other areas. When you pet your cat, they may begin to lick, scratch, or thump their back leg as if to scratch. 

Fur Loss

Itching can cause loss of fur, so you may find clumps of fur from your cat laying on the ground.

Flea Dirt in the Home 

In the environment, it is very hard to see fleas. The most common places fleas live on are pet beds and high-traffic areas. Wherever you or your pets go the most in your home, that’s where fleas gravitate toward. Look for flea dirt on pet bedding and areas where your cat spends most of their time.

Human Symptoms

Pet parents may also experience symptoms of fleas! Small red bumps, especially on your legs and feet, as well as itchiness may be signs of flea bites. Once the fleas are gone, these symptoms typically go away quickly. But if you notice flea symptoms on your own body, it’s a good idea to inspect your cat. Flea infestations can spread quickly. 

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats

Cat getting flea prevention treatment from a vet

Treating fleas on cats requires a multistep approach. Follow these steps to kill fleas on cats and get rid of them in your environment.

Use a Flea Treatment That Kills and Prevents

The most important way of getting rid of fleas on cats is to give them a flea treatment that is also a preventive (i.e., stops fleas from jumping on your cat). There are many excellent flea prevention products on the market that also kill live fleas. Your veterinarian can recommend specific brands. For example, Credelio CAT is a tiny, tasty tablet that treats and prevents flea and tick infestations in cats and kittens (8 weeks of age or older and 2 pounds or greater). It starts killing fleas within six hours.

Credelio Cat packaging

Be very cautious that you do not accidentally buy flea preventives meant for dogs—this is deadly in cats. 

Flea baths for cats are not generally recommended. Most cats do not like baths, but more importantly, flea baths will only kill the fleas currently on your cat. They do not prevent fleas from jumping right back on minutes later. 

Treat Other Pets 

You must treat all other pets in your home for fleas as well. This includes dogs, rabbits, and other cats. If one of your cats has fleas, all your pets have fleas. You cannot get rid of fleas unless you treat ALL pets. However, fish, reptiles (e.g., snakes and lizards) and amphibians (e.g., frogs) do not need treatment.

Clean and Treat Your Home

Environmental clean-up and treatment are key to getting rid of fleas on cats. All bedding that your cat has access to must be thoroughly washed in hot water and dried on high heat. Daily thorough vacuuming of all carpet as well as the nooks and crannies of fabric furniture and wood floors may decrease the number of fleas (just don’t forget to empty the vacuum container right away!). 

Realistically, calling a pest control company to treat your house for fleas is the absolute best way to keep your cat and your home environment flea free. You and your kitty will need to leave the house for a few hours while they use chemicals to kill fleas.

How to Prevent Fleas on Cats

The most important step you can take to prevent fleas is to use a veterinary-approved flea control product every month. Talk to your veterinary clinic or hospital about products they recommend. 

Flea medications come in a variety of forms, including:

Oral medication. There are flea control medications you can give your cat by mouth, but some pet parents find this difficult to do. However, certain medications may be designed with an appealing smell and flavor for easier administration. For example, Credelio Cat is made with vanilla and yeast flavor to appeal to even picky cats.

Credelio Cat packaging

Liquid medication. There are liquids that go onto the skin of your cat. You should apply topical flea medicine on the back of your cat’s neck to keep them from licking it. The liquid will absorb over a few hours, protecting the whole body. 

Collars. Cat flea collars are generally not recommended, as they only prevent fleas a short distance from the collar. This means your cat could have fleas biting their tail and back legs even when wearing a flea collar.

Preventing fleas includes keeping your cats indoors. However, many pet parents give their cat some fresh air on a harness or in a catio. If you do let your cat outdoors, be sure to keep up on the flea prevention.

Don’t allow your cat to interact with wildlife or other outdoor animals. Cats can catch fleas and many other parasites through contact with these animals.