Fleas are irritating pests that both indoor and outdoor cats can be infested with. They cause a cat to get itchy as the flea bites and sucks their blood, causing rashes, irritation, and sometimes loss of fur in patches.
If left for too long and too infested, the blood loss can cause weakness and even anemia, though any well taken care of cat is going to have their owner notice the flea problem long before it gets that bad.
Cats are quite good at dealing with fleas – they groom their coats and in the process, eat them! But this isn’t really a good idea since they won’t get all of the fleas and fleas can make cats ill.
So, while cats do eat fleas, it’s far better practice to use other methods to get rid of all the fleas for good.
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Do Cats Like to Eat Fleas?
Cats aren’t going to actively seek out fleas to eat – if you were to hand your cat a bowl of fleas, they would probably walk away. Fleas get eaten in the process of a cat grooming itself and biting on the fur to deal with the itching that the flea caused.
It’s entirely accidental and cats get nothing out of eating fleas. They are also too tiny for a cat to bother hunting, and even if they did, fleas move very quickly and jump a lot, so a cat would probably have a hard time.
Do Cats Hate to Eat Fleas?
Cats probably don’t even notice that they are eating fleas since they are so concerned with grooming and dealing with the itching! Cats don’t hate to eat fleas anymore than they like to eat them – they end up eating them as a by-product of grooming.
As you’ll see though, cats really shouldn’t be eating fleas because they have absolutely no nutritional benefit and can be quite harmful. So, if your cat has fleas, it will need your help to get rid of them safely.
Can Eating Fleas Kill My Cat?
The fleas themselves won’t do anything to cats, it’s the risk of the flea carrying larval tapeworms that is the problem.
Flea larvae eat tapeworm eggs, and those eggs are carried with them as they grow up. When a cat eats a flea, the egg is then passed along to the cat where it hatches in the intestinal tract, attaches to the wall, and starts to feed.
Cats don’t tend to show signs that they are infested with tapeworms until the egg segments are passed which can cause a lot of itching in the behind, and small white segments moving around on the cat, bedding, or litterbox. If the infestation is extreme, it can also cause a cat to lose weight and get sick as the tapeworm takes all its nutrients.
If you think your cat is infested with a tapeworm, you’ll have to call your vet and either bring your cat in to get checked, or the vet will recommend a deworming pill or injection. This will kill the worm, which will then be digested by your cat.
However, you’ll still have to deal with the fleas or the whole cycle could begin all over again. After all, about 50% of fleas, on average, are invested with tapeworm eggs so if your cat has a lot of fleas that they are eating, odds are good that they will also get tapeworm, adding insult to injury!
How Many Fleas Could My Cat Eat?
Your cat could eat most of any fleas that they are infected with and not really notice. They don’t provide anything (except the risk of tapeworm), so your cat could eat dozens of them and not have any issues, assuming those fleas are clean.
But fleas don’t provide any sort of nutritional benefit whatsoever, so there’s no point in adding them to your cat’s diet. And if your cat does have fleas, expecting the cat to take care of the problem itself by eating them is unrealistic and increases the risk of tapeworm, which your cat will need help to deal with.
More Efficient Ways to Get Rid of Fleas
If your cat gets fleas, there are better ways of dealing with them than having your cat groom and eat them. Your cat will never be able to get rid of them all on its own and in the meantime, the fleas can get around your house and infest other animals or even you!
The best way to deal with fleas is to start with a bath with gentle shampoo (baby shampoo) or do a thorough combing of your cat to get rid of as many fleas as possible. Then talk to your vet about methods of killing and preventing the rest of the fleas. The top three candidates most vets choose are:
- Advantage, which is safe for cats and kittens and geared specifically for fleas, though it will not kill ticks
- Frontline, which kills ticks and fleas, but can cause temporary sensitivity around the area that it is applied
- Revolution, which can kill fleas, ticks, and ear mites as well as some protection against heartworm. It’s an injection that then stays in the bloodstream, poisoning fleas that drink it.
Cats should never get flea products that are meant for dogs as the medication will be different as will the amounts, and that can make a cat very ill.
Most flea prevention products are topical and work by killing fleas that bite the skin. They should be used at least three to four months, but can also be used year-round, especially on cats that have had fleas before.
Cats should also be monitored for signs of tapeworm by looking for little white segments around their food, bedding, and litter box. If you find any, contact your vet and be ready to add deworming to the flea regimen. Fortunately, that’s usually just a pill or an injection and that’s all that is required.
Fleas are terrible pests for cats and while a cat will probably eat most of them while grooming, even that is not advisable since they can then get tapeworm!
If your cat has fleas, the best thing you can do is treat them for the fleas, do a thorough vacuum and steam clean of your home, and then use flea prevention tools to keep it from happening again.
Cats can eat fleas, but it’s really not a good idea and doesn’t do anything for cats anyway.
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.