Why Are Fleas Dangerous To Young Kittens?
Fleas are a serious health risk – they cause skin irritation and allergies. Plus, they can also serve as vectors and transmit certain diseases. The dangers of fleas are even more accented in young kittens.
Namely, as you know, cat fleas feed on blood. Therefore, heavy infestations in young kittens are likely to result in anemia. In severe cases, the anemia can be fatal. Flea allergy dermatitis is irritating and can result in severe secondary skin infections.
Another flea-related hazard that is amplified in young kittens is tapeworms. Fleas are an intermediate host for the most intestinal tapeworm in pets (Dipylidium caninum). Tapeworms in kittens can cause stunt growth.
How To Remove Fleas From Young Kittens?
To remove fleas from young kittens, grab a comb or pair of tweezers and start plucking the insects, flea by flea. Manual removal of fleas can be a challenge, but in young kittens, it is the only safe option (most anti-flea products for cats are not safe for kittens).
To make the process simpler, we will break it down into several steps.
Step 1: Bathe The Kitten
The first step toward flea removal is bathing the kitten. This helps mechanically flush some of the fleas. However, frequent bathing is not recommended as it can damage the kitten’s skin.
Here are some ground rules for safe bathing:
- Never bathe your kitten more than twice per week (this bathing frequency is for emergency situations only – if the baths are not medically indicated, they should be even less frequent)
- Keep the bathing sessions short and ensure the kitten is well-dried and warm afterward (kittens cannot regulate their body temperatures efficiently and get cold easily)
- Use a gentle shampoo or dish soap for the bath. Never bathe your kitten with an anti-flea shampoo, as most products are formulated for kittens over 12 weeks of age.
Step 2: Use A Comb/Tweezers
Once the kitten is bathed and some of the fleas are removed, it is time for the hard part – manual removal of the remaining fleas. The general rule of thumb is to use a comb. However, if the comb is too big for the kitten, you can use a pair of blunt tweezers instead.
Here are two tips to make the combing more efficient:
- Dip the comb in natural vegetable oil or Vaseline before each stroke. This will make the fleas stick to the comb and prevent escape.
- After each stroke, soak the comb in a bowl with water. However, if using pure water, the fleas might jump out of the bowl. Therefore it is better to use alcohol or a mixture of water and dish soap (just do not forget to clean the comb with water before the next stroke).
Step 3: Start Flea Prevention
This step applies only to older kittens – usually over 8-10 weeks of age and/or over 1.5-2 pounds (depending on the exact product). We recommend talking to your trusted veterinarian before deciding on which anti-flea prevention to use.
The modern pet market offers many flea preventives for cats and kittens – from spot-on treatments and collars to shampoos and oral tablets/chews. Each option has its pros and cons.
Tip: Remember, even strictly indoor kittens need flea preventives. Just because your kitten does not go out, it does not mean that fleas cannot find their way inside. Additionally, based on where you live, your kitten might need year-round prevention.
How To Manage The Flea Infestation In Young Kittens?
Getting rid of the fleas on the kitten is important, but it is not enough – you need to treat the kitten’s siblings and the mother (if still living together) and the house (environment).
Treating The Siblings & Mother
Unless you are raising an adopted stray kitten, chances are you will also have its siblings and mother under your care. In such cases, you need to treat them as well.
For the siblings, stick to the above-explained routine. For the mother, you can use regular anti-flea products. However, it is still advisable to consult your vet.
Treating The Environment
Treating the environment can also be challenging and requires continuous effort and repetitive washing, vacuuming, and steam cleaning.
In some cases, it might be necessary to hire professional exterminators (keep in mind that you will have to relocate yourself and the kittens until it is safe to return to the treated house).
Note: It is important to treat all kittens, the mother, and the environment on the same day. Otherwise, you are creating a time gap and allowing new fleas to re-infest the kitten.
What Not To Use For Fleas In Young Kittens?
Commercially available flea treatments are unsafe for young kittens (less than 6 to 8 weeks old). In addition to regular flea medicines, there are other treatments that are dangerous to kittens. Those include:
- Permethrin-Based Products: Permethrin is often found in powders made for flea control in pets. However, it is very toxic to felines. Intoxications can occur upon ingestion (during grooming) and through the skin when the powder gets absorbed.
- Flea Treatments For Puppies/Dogs: Anti-flea medicines formulated for canines are hazardous for felines. The active ingredients in dog flea meds are toxic to cats/kittens. In young kittens, such toxicities can be lethal.
- Essential Oils: Felines do not metabolize essential oils as dogs and humans do. Therefore, many common essential oils are toxic to cats, even if used diluted.
Note: Permethrin-based products (usually powders), flea treatments formulated for puppies/dogs, and essential oils are dangerous for cats of all ages, not just young kittens.
Lastly, we suggest avoiding natural anti-flea remedies like apple cider vinegar, lemon, or diatomaceous earth. Natural remedies may not directly harm kittens, but they are unreliable.