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Do inside cats need flea/tick prevention and control?


If your cat is 100% an inside cat, but you want to take her outside on nice days for an hour or so, do you really need flea and tick medication/preventative?


The short answer is yes, you really do. And while I don’t want to sound like a wise guy, it doesn’t sound like your “100% indoor” cat is really 100% indoors. This is a common description of “indoor” cats though. Often “indoor” cats spend some limited time outdoors.


Even if your indoor cat never goes outdoors, it is not a bad idea to implement a flea, heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention program. This is not just my opinion, but that of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). The parasite control recommendations from the CAPC website state the following: “the use of year-round heartworm and broad spectrum flea, heartworm and intestinal parasite medications, as well as appropriate flea and/or tick products, is the foundation of an effective parasite control program for your cat”.


In addition, you may want to get the opinion of your local veterinarian. He or she can perform a risk assessment on your cat and tailor a parasite prevention program based on local parasite prevalence and lifestyle factors.


Fleas are the most common external parasite found on cats (and dogs too, as they can share fleas). Fleas are ubiquitous in nature, particularly during the warm-weather months. Fleas can be brought in to a household by “hitching a ride” on other pets that go outdoors. Even a very short stint outdoors can result in an infestation in an unprotected pet. Once indoors, fleas can become a year-round problem. The adult flea spends its entire life on an unprotected pet and survives by feeding on blood. Some cats can be highly allergic to the bite of the flea. The adult can live on a cat for over 100 days, but only 1 or 2 days off the host. This adult stage in the life cycle makes up less than 5 percent of total population however. In just 30 days under ideal conditions, 10 female fleas can multiply to 250,000 life stages! The adult female flea on the pet lays eggs which fall off into the environment. One female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. Larvae hatch out from the eggs and consequently the pupae (the persistent, cocoon stage). So you can see that protection is essential. This frightening situation can be managed by treating and preventing fleas on your pet.


Another important consideration when discussing fleas is the fact that they are an intermediate host of the cat tapeworm and can infect your pet if ingested. By their fastidious grooming nature, cats are prone to ingesting fleas and consequently developing a subsequent tapeworm infestation. These are the little worm segments that you may have seen in feces or on the fur around the rectum that look like rice (or if dried, sesame seeds). Tapeworms shed their segments periodically and their eggs can be very difficult to find on a fecal examination, so they can be difficult to diagnose. They can cause your pet to have difficulty maintaining their weight, cause a lackluster hair coat and intermittent diarrhea. To help prevent fleas and tapeworms, consider talking to your veterinarian about the best approach to preventing fleas, as well as the other parasites that may be prevalent where you live.


Dr. Revoir’s veterinary opinion should only be used as an educational guide and in no way should be substituted for licensed veterinary care. Your veterinarian should be consulted in all health matters involving your pet.

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