There are many troubles your cat might face, but of all the nuisances that exist, fleas and ticks might be the worst. Fleas and ticks pose many potential health issues for your feline friend including itching, rashes, skin irritation, illness, and infections. If your cat is infested with fleas, their quality of life will drastically decrease, and you should notice how much they are suffering.

If your cat is infested, your home might be infested too. There is always the possibility of transmitting diseases to humans, and indoor cats are not immune to fleas and ticks. These pesky mites can enter your home by visiting pets, people’s clothes, and even your bags. Once fleas and ticks are in your home they will seek out your cat (and your other pets) in order to feed, live, and reproduce. Flea and tick eggs are infinitesimal, and because of their small sand-like qualities, they can fall off your cat, land on your carpet or bedding, and become an environmental hazard. It’s extremely easy for your home to be infested with fleas.

Ticks can exist in several stages including eggs, larvae, nymph, and adult. Depending on its stage the tick will feed off the cat or climb off of it for its next molting, which is how it moves on to its next developmental stage. If the tick is in its adult stage it will produce eggs which will contaminate your house. Since fleas and ticks transmit their diseases at the nymph and adult stages, the longer they are in your house the worse the infestation will get. These pests can carry and transmit Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Cat Scratch Fever, and the Plague.

Flea and tick prevention is the best way to ensure you never have to worry about an infestation. Prevention cuts down on risk, decreases your chance of exposure, and keeps your cat and home clean.

Understanding Fleas and Ticks

Lifecycle of Fleas and Ticks

Fleas have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The total life cycle of the flea is dependent on the environmental temperature and humidity in your area, and can be anywhere from weeks to months. Fleas want optimal conditions that are between 70-85°F, with 70 perfect humidity.

The Flea Life Cycle

Flea Eggs

Fleas begin their life cycle when the adult female lays eggs on the host after consuming a blood meal. Fleas need blood for reproduction, which is why they will seek out your pet. Flea eggs are small and white (smaller than a grain of sand), and are laid in your pet’s fur in bunches of around 20 at a time. A single adult female flea can lay up to 40 eggs a day.
As your pet moves about your house, the eggs will fall off and be disbursed throughout the environment. This means eggs can end up anywhere your pet has been, and they can easily become lost in carpets, rugs, bedding, and furniture. At any given time eggs represent roughly half of the entire flea population in your home.
Eggs can take from two days to two weeks to develop and hatch, and they will wait for perfect environmental conditions. If the temperature is cold or dry, the eggs can take longer; if the temperature and humidity levels are in the right spot, the eggs can mature and hatch much faster.

Flea Larvae

The larvae that emerge from the eggs are blind and light-sensitive; they develop over several weeks as they eat pre-digested blood passed from adult fleas. They will also eat organic debris in the environment.
Flea larvae can be tough to spot: they are about ¼-inch long and are translucent and legless. Larvae can make up roughly 35 percent of the total flea population in your home. If they are in favorable conditions, larvae might spin cocoons in as little as 5 days after they hatch. Within 20 days they will enter their pupae stage.

Flea Pupae

The pupae stage accounts for roughly 10 percent of the flea population in your home, and is the final stage before the emergence of the adult flea. The pupae remain protected in the cocoon for up to a week until the adult flea is ready to come out—if the environmental conditions are not optimal, the pupae may last in its cocoon for months and years.
Each cocoon has a sticky exterior coating that allows it to hide deep in carpets, rugs, and bedding to avoid being removed by sweeping or vacuuming. The cocoon protects the developing adults and ensures they are not easily killed.
The adult flea will stay within its cocoon until it finds a potential host. By using vibrations, body heat, and rising levels of carbon dioxide, the flea will wait to be triggered by the presence of your pet. Until it’s alerted for feeding, the adult flea will remain dormant in its cocoon.

Adult Fleas

An adult flea will need to begin feeding from its host within a few hours of emergence. Adult fleas will breed and lay eggs shortly after their first meals, typically after a few days. Female fleas cannot lay eggs until after their blood meal.
Fresh adult fleas have a flat, dark, small appearance. After they feed, they will grow in size and become lighter in color, taking on the “flea shape” that you might recognize. Adult fleas actually account for less than 5 percent of the total flea population in your home, and they spend most of their time living on the host, feeding, breeding, and laying eggs. After they emerge they can live anywhere from weeks to months on their host animal.

Threats Posed

Flea infestations are an obvious problem, but the diseases they carry are worse. Diseases can threaten the health and happiness of your cat, and drastically change their quality of life over time. There are many common diseases that your cat can pick up from fleas and ticks, which is why prevention is key.

  1. Cat Scratch Disease
    There is a bacterial infection called “bartonellosis” that cats can get from ingesting flea droppings. Since infected fleas shed their bacteria in their feces and drop the waste on your cat, your pet might contract this disease through any common grooming habit. The close contact between flea droppings and your cat’s skin creates a virtual breeding ground for this bacteria.While your cat might not get sick from this infection, there are many feline medical conditions that have been linked to Bartonella bacteria. Your cat could get mouth and gum disease, heart disease, and eye inflammation to name a few. Cats can carry this bacteria in their systems for over a year and potentially pass it to other fleas and cats. They can even infect humans with cat scratch disease if they scratch you with their claws.
  2. Flea Allergy Dermatitis
    Flea bites can lead to other issues since some cats are hypersensitive to flea saliva. This can cause a condition called “allergy dermatitis” which is a common cause of excess itchiness in cats.When a flea bites your cat, any substance within their saliva can enter the cat’s skin and trigger an immune response. Intense skin irritation can then spread beyond the location of the bite, which can result in hair loss around the tail, belly, and thighs. This can also lead to worsening skin infections.If your cat is experiencing flea bite allergy dermatitis, you might see or feel small bumps across their skin. This symptom will continue until the fleas are controlled, and can result in your cat’s continued discomfort.
  3. Anemia
    If fleas bite your cat in large numbers they might develop anemia. Anemia symptoms can include lethargy, weakness, rapid breathing, and even death. Anemia in cats is a serious medical condition and if you believe your cat has contracted it you should take them to your trusted local veterinarian right away.
  4. Tapeworms
    Tapeworms can be passed from fleas during one of your cat’s grooming sessions. If your cat swallowed a flea that’s infected with tapeworms they can also become infected. Tapeworms attach themselves to your cat’s intestines with hook-like mouth parts, where they continue to grow and steal nutrients.After your cat has used their litterbox you might see pieces of the worms sticking to their backside. These pieces will look like small white grains of rice and are actually tapeworm egg packets that will “move” on close inspection. As the outer casing of these packets dries out, the eggs are then released into the environment where they can be swallowed by fleas, repeating the cycle. Tapeworms don’t often cause health issues in cats, and infected cats may even be asymptomatic. However, tapeworms can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, and itchiness.

What Are Flea and Tick Preventatives for Cats?

Fleas and ticks are ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their host. Fleas and ticks survive by drawing blood, and while the initial bite is small, flea saliva can cause diseases, itching, infection, and severe allergies in cats. They can cause abscesses, loss of hair, paralysis, and even death if untreated.
Parasitic preventative medicine is available in several forms, including repellents, pesticides, and growth inhibitors. These products combat pests at different life stages, meaning your veterinarian will be able to recommend the correct product and dosage for your pet.
Flea and tick prevention works best when you understand what parasites you are targeting. Some products are only effective against a single species, commonly fleas. These might include flea baths, dips, and powders. But if they only protect against one species, your cat might require additional medications to protect them against a wide range of parasites. By using multiple products you can widen the preventative possibilities, though it can be more expensive and have its own adverse effects.
There are combination products on the market that contain multiple ingredients in order to kill different stages and species of parasites. These provide coverage for both fleas and ticks, but might also provide additional protection against mites, intestinal parasites, and heartworm.

Methods of Flea and Tick Prevention for Cats

Topical Solutions

This common form of preventive medicine is applied directly to your cat’s body, and to the affected area. Topical solutions might not be the best option in households with small children or other animals, and they can often carry a medicinal smell or cause itching and irritation. Topical treatments can also be less effective depending on your cat’s bathing frequency.

Oral Medications

Oral medications require that your cat ingest the entire tablet, meaning you’ll have to watch your cat carefully to ensure they eat the entire dose. This can be especially important if your cat doesn’t like the pill or if they are suspicious of it.
If your cat vomits after taking the oral preventative, you should call your veterinarian for re-dosing instructions. Your local vet might also need to report the reaction to the product. Feeding oral preventatives with a meal can also decrease the chance of an upset stomach and will make the medicine easier for your cat to absorb.

Natural Remedies and Preventatives

As established above, flea prevention is always preferable to investing in expensive flea treatments such as collars and topicals. You should always seek professional advice from your trusted veterinarian if any problems arise.
Looking into DIY treatments can be productive, especially since many of them are all-natural and can kill fleas and ticks. These will repel and rid your home of pests and don’t include potentially harmful chemicals.
Some natural home flea and tick preventatives include:

  • Lemon spray
  • Cedar oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Rosemary
  • Aloe vera
  • Catnip
  • Vinegar
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Chamomile

You can apply these non-toxic ingredients to your cat’s fur by diluting them with a spray bottle, but always keep an eye out for potential reactions. You can also combine essential oils and soak your cat’s collar in them to create a flea collar.

flea and tick

NexGard Combo: A Comprehensive Solution for Cats

What is NexGard Combo?

NexGard COMBO is a total protection product for cats that provides parasite defense via a topical solution that’s been specially formulated for your pets. It protects against fleas, ticks, tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and heart disease. This topical solution is easy to apply and is safe for kittens 8 weeks old or older.
This is a one-and-done monthly topical solution made specifically for cats that include a convenient applicator and makes recurring protection easy. It works on indoor and outdoor cats, and protects against both internal and external parasites. This broad-spectrum solution kills pests before they have a chance of bothering your feline friend.

Benefits of NexGard Combo for Cats

NexGard COMBO’s active ingredient, esafoxolaner, was specifically formulated for use in cats. It’s the only product on the market that offers this unique formulation, and the only product that provides broad-spectrum protection that kills tapeworms and helps prevent other diseases.
Best of all, NexGard COMBO is easy for cat owners to administer. You don’t have to worry about feeding your cat a pill they won’t swallow, and the provided applicator makes the once-a-month solution simple to apply.

 How Quickly Does Nexgard Combo Start Killing Fleas?

NexGard COMBO can start killing fleas as soon as 24 hours from application, and it kills up to 92% of the fleas infecting the host. During subsequent infestations, the treatment was over 99.5% effective throughout the month, decreasing to 95.5% effective on Day 31. After the first day of application, NexGard COMBO inhibits egg production with a consistency of 99.8%.

How Often Do You Give Nexgard Combo for Cats?

NexGard COMBO only has to be applied once per month, and it provides lasting and effective protection all month long. With its non-invasive treatment and easy application it doesn’t bother your pet, meaning that you don’t have to worry about side effects or additional treatments. It’s a very simple treatment plan that can be confidently prescribed by your local trusted veterinarian.

Implementing a Consistent Prevention Routine for Cats

Regular Checks and Maintenance

If you suspect your cat has fleas, you can do an initial spot check yourself before taking them to the veterinarian. After donning gloves, check around the base of the tail, under their armpits, and in the groin region. Look for tiny moving black dots around their skin, and use a flea comb to help you pull out the fleas to confirm. You can wipe the comb on a damp paper towel, and if the dots come away with a rusty red color your cat has a flea infestation. If you notice your cat has many tiny soil-like black dots near the surface of their skin, this could be evidence of flea poop.
Check your cat for fleas weekly if you suspect they might be infested. After using preventative care and flea treatments, use your flea comb to ensure that the infestation is going away and that the treatments are working.

Environmental Preventions for Cats

While year-round flea and tick preventative medicine is important, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your environment’s chance of contracting fleas and ticks. Since these pests can thrive in any temperature or condition, it’s important to ensure that they have no chance of entering your home.
Keep your house clean to reduce the risk of fleas. Check your pet’s fur after they’ve been outside, using a flea comb to inspect their skin and fur—by giving them a once-over you can ensure fleas and ticks aren’t brought inside. Regularly clean any area where fleas and ticks can lurk, including your pet’s bed, your couch, curtains, carpets, rugs, etc.
Maintaining your yard is another key way you can keep fleas and ticks from entering your home. Trees, brush, and grasses are popular congregation points, and by regularly mowing your lawn, raking leaves, and removing glass clippings you can ensure your exterior environment stays clear of pests.

Seasonal Considerations for Cats

Summer is the most active time for fleas and ticks, though autumn is also a troubling season depending on where you live. September, October, and November can often see an influx of fleas and ticks, though the pests are more active during warm and wet weather. This doesn’t mean you should lighten preventative measures during cooler, drier months—this might offer your pets some relief, but it’s crucial to treat your pets all summer long.
Fleas on cats and dogs can increase as much as 70 percent in the fall, compared to the spring season. Fleas and ticks have a higher chance of attaching themselves to your cats when they start to get their thicker winter coats around September, and if your cat spends any time outdoors you should always check their fur before they come inside.

What Flea and Tick Medicine Do Vets Recommend?

We recommend NexGard COMBO because of its total protection and ease of use. This veterinarian-recommended product provides flea and tick protection all month long, and can be used throughout the year to ensure that your cat never has to suffer an infestation. When you use preventative topical medications like NexGard, you ensure that your cat doesn’t have to deal with a potentially harmful disease, and you don’t have to shell out extra money for expensive treatment options.


Flea and tick prevention is immensely important. Flea and tick infestations can affect the quality of life in your entire home, and can make your pets miserable. These troublesome pests aren’t only a problem for your pets but can also become a problem for the other humans in your house. There’s no reason why you should have to suffer any of these indignities or diseases when there are many preventative options that can be suggested by your trusted local veterinarian.

Consult with Paoli Vetcare for more information on NexGard COMBO, and drastically reduce the opportunity for fleas and ticks to infest your home. Our veterinarians love chatting with pet owners about preventative measures, and we always want to do what’s best for your feline friend. Give us a call today and schedule a new client exam so that we can ensure your cat is safe, healthy, and pest-free!

Dr. Erin Downes VMD

Dr. Erin Downes graduated valedictorian from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. She and her husband, Dr. Jay Rowan are the owners of Paoli Vetcare | Main Line Vet & Animal Hospital.