Help! I Spotted a Flea on My Cat – What to Do Next

Confirm It’s a Flea

The first step is to confirm that what you saw on your cat is actually a flea. Fleas are very small insects, about the size of a pinhead, and dark brown or black in color. The key sign to identify fleas is that they jump and move very quickly through the fur. They are fast and can be hard to spot as they jump from one area to another.

Some other signs that point to a flea include:

  • Your cat is excessively scratching, licking or biting itself.
  • You see tiny dark specks in your cat’s fur that look like flea dirt (flea feces).
  • You see small insects quickly jumping off your cat’s fur.
  • Your cat has thinning hair on the rear tail, legs or belly from biting and scratching.

Take a fine-toothed comb and slowly comb through your cat’s fur near the skin to reveal fleas. Focus on the rear, belly, legs, tail, and neck. Part the fur and look closely for any signs of movement. Fleas are easier to spot on cats with light colored fur. You may need a magnifying glass to get a closer look.

If you spot any jumping insects that fit the description of fleas, then it’s likely time to take action. Don’t wait until the infestation gets out of control. Identifying fleas quickly can help you contain the problem.

Check out this guide for more tips on identifying fleas: Flea Identification Guide

Don’t Panic

Seeing a single flea on your cat does not necessarily mean there is a major infestation in your home. It’s not uncommon for pets to pick up a stray flea or two when spending time outdoors. According to Chem-free Pest and Lawn, “A flea sighting doesn’t always mean you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation” ( As fleas are difficult to spot, finding one flea likely means there are a few others present as well. However, this does not confirm a heavy infestation requiring intensive treatment.

It’s important not to panic at the first sign of fleas. An infestation involves seeing fleas frequently and cats exhibiting symptoms like scratching, skin irritation, and flea dirt. If you only notice a single flea, monitor your cat closely before assuming the worst. The key is diligent observation to determine if the flea issue worsens or remains minor.

Comb Your Cat

Using a fine-toothed flea comb is an effective way to find and remove fleas on your cat. Flea combs have tightly spaced tines that allow you to trap fleas and eggs as you comb through the fur. Make sure to use a metal flea comb, as plastic ones may not be sturdy enough.

Comb slowly and gently in the direction of hair growth to avoid pulling on knots and tangles. Work section by section, and dip the comb in soapy water periodically to dispatch any fleas you pick up. Focus on commonly infested areas like the base of the tail, belly, armpits, neck, and around the ears.1

It’s ideal to comb every few days until fleas are under control. Be patient and comb multiple times to catch newly hatched fleas. Pay attention to black specks, which may be flea dirt. Flea combs are most effective when used in conjunction with flea shampoos, sprays, collars or other treatments.2

Give a Flea Bath

One of the quickest ways to start killing fleas on your cat is to give them a bath using cat-safe anti-flea shampoo. There are many effective anti-flea shampoos on the market that use natural ingredients to safely kill fleas and their eggs on contact. Look for a flea shampoo made specifically for cats, as dog shampoos can be too harsh for cats’ sensitive skin.

Some top-rated cat flea shampoos include Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo With Precor (, Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Flea & Tick Cat Shampoo (, and Vet’s Best Waterless Flea & Tick Cat Bath ( Follow the product instructions carefully and lather your cat thoroughly, leaving the suds on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.

Flea shampooing should kill most of the fleas on your cat, but you’ll likely need to repeat the bathing weekly and combine it with other flea treatment methods for full control of an infestation.

Vacuum Regularly

Fleas thrive in carpets and soft furnishings. Vacuuming helps remove flea eggs, larvae, and adult fleas from these areas. Focus on vacuuming carpets, furniture, and your cat’s bedding and toys regularly to control the flea population.

Vacuuming can remove up to 96% of flea eggs from carpeting, according to studies conducted at Ohio State University (source). Vacuuming also picks up some larvae and adult fleas. Be sure to vacuum all carpeted areas thoroughly, as well as furniture, cracks and crevices where fleas may hide.

It’s important to vacuum your cat’s bedding, blankets, pillows, plush toys, etc. frequently. These are prime breeding grounds for fleas. Wash any items that can go in the laundry after vacuuming.

Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose and attachment tools to reach into nooks and crannies. Vacuum slowly and methodically. After vacuuming, safely dispose of the vacuum bag or contents to prevent reinfestation.

Wash Bedding

It’s important to wash your cat’s bedding and any fabric items they sleep on regularly to help get rid of fleas. Washing the bedding in hot water will kill both adult fleas and eggs.

According to the Barnegat Animal Clinic, you should wash all of your pet’s bedding for a long cycle in hot water. This includes anything your cat likes to sleep or lie on like beds, blankets, pillows, etc (Source).

Popular Mechanics also recommends washing sheets, pillow cases, rugs, and dog beds in hot water to effectively kill any fleas. However, don’t put the items back on the bed or floor immediately after washing as any remaining fleas may transfer back (Source).

Use Flea Treatments

One of the most effective ways to get rid of fleas on cats is to use flea treatments. There are two main types of flea treatments for cats – topical and oral.

Topical flea treatments are liquids or creams that are applied to the skin on the back of the cat’s neck. Some popular topical flea treatments for cats include Revolution, Advantage II, Cheristin, and Frontline Plus. These treatments kill adult fleas and also contain ingredients that prevent any eggs or larvae from developing into mature fleas. They provide long-lasting protection, often for a month or more.

Oral flea medications come in chewable tablet form and are given by mouth. They enter the cat’s bloodstream and kill fleas when they bite. Some effective oral flea preventatives include Capstar, Credelio, Nexgard. These begin working very quickly, within hours, to start killing fleas.

When using flea treatments, it’s important to carefully follow label instructions. Never use dog flea products on cats. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best flea control method for your specific cat.

Treat Your Home

Fleas can live in carpets, bedding, furniture, and other areas of your home. Treating your home helps kill adult fleas and prevent eggs and larvae from developing into adults. There are several effective options for treating your home:

  • Flea sprays containing insect growth regulators (IGRs) like methoprene or pyriproxyfen will kill adult fleas and prevent eggs/larvae from maturing. Spray carpets, furniture, pet beds, and other fabric surfaces. Allow to dry before letting pets back in the area.
  • Flea powder with boric acid or diatomaceous earth will kill fleas by desiccating them. Apply a fine layer to carpets and allow it to sit overnight before vacuuming up. Repeat weekly for 3-4 weeks.
  • Foggers or flea bombs can cover large areas quickly. However, they contain harsh chemicals and require the home to be vacated for several hours after use. Follow directions carefully.

Be sure to treat all areas of the home where your cat spends time and fleas could be harboring. Getting rid of fleas in your home is a key part of preventing re-infestation once your cat is treated.

Monitor Your Cat

It’s essential to continue monitoring your cat closely in the days and weeks after initial flea treatment. Keep combing your cat’s fur with a fine-tooth flea comb to remove any remaining adult fleas or eggs.

Look for signs that fleas still remain, like your cat excessively scratching or evidence of flea dirt. Flea dirt is the dried digested blood fleas excrete that looks like tiny black specks. You can check for it by combing your cat over a damp white paper towel and seeing if any black specks show up.

It can take up to 8 weeks or longer for fleas to be fully gone after starting treatment, so persistence is key (Source). Keep using flea prevention products as directed and thoroughly clean the home. With diligence, you can get rid of fleas and prevent future infestations.

Prevent Reinfestation

Preventing future flea infestations is crucial after treating your cat and home. Here are some tips to stop fleas from returning:

  • Use monthly flea prevention products like flea collars, oral tablets, or topical treatments. These will repel and kill fleas before they can lay eggs.
  • Treat your yard with sprays containing insect growth regulators, which prevent flea eggs and larvae from developing into adults.
  • Keep your grass mowed short and remove any brush or debris where fleas can breed.
  • Vacuum and wash your cat’s bedding regularly.
  • Bathe and comb your cat frequently to remove any newly emerged fleas.
  • Check for fleas daily so you can treat quickly if needed.

With diligence about prevention, you can avoid future flea infestations and keep your cat comfortable and itch-free.

Scroll to Top