Most cats will experience at least one case of fleas in the course of their lives. And outdoor cats are almost certain to get them, especially in the spring and summer. Though fleas can be extremely uncomfortable, a few simple steps on your part can turn them from major pest to minor annoyance.
Like humans with allergies, different cats respond in different ways to fleas. Most cats react by licking, scratching and biting themselves excessively, especially along the back and around the base of the tail. Some are actually allergic to the flea's saliva, and for those poor cats, a single fleabite can cause a violent skin reaction. A few cats get fleas but show no signs of irritation.
It is, however, easy to find out if your cat has fleas. A quick check of your cat's fur will reveal the brownish-black fleas moving through your kitten's hair, or for dark specks of material (flea dirt) in her coat. Combing and brushing your cat will turn up those little black specks, and even a few live fleas that quickly jump back onto their defenseless host.
Flea combs are a good start - they can reduce your cat's discomfort, but can't catch every flea. Your best defense against fleas is your vet, who can recommend a suitable de-fleaing agent and an effective flea-eradication program. If you buy flea powders or sprays from a pet shop, check that they are suitable for use on kittens, and seek out the medications that have the least side effects. Always follow the directions carefully. And remember to treat other pets in the household, as well.
If you do find that your cat has fleas, you must treat her environment as well -- fleas spend most of their life away from their host rather than on their host. Remove all of the kitten's bedding and wash it well, along with the box or basket itself. Dusting powder in the blanket or box will help enormously.
Don't forget to vacuum thoroughly around the carpets, baseboards and furniture. Also, use a pet-safe insecticidal powder or spray, but keep in mind that most of these products are not suitable for use directly on your cat.
Just by keeping an eye on your cat and taking action quickly, you can make sure your cat's exposure to fleas is limited to days, rather than itchy, uncomfortable weeks or even months.