How to Check Cat for Fleas

Checking a cat for fleas is relatively easy and quick to do. Getting rid of fleas requires more time and effort if you find your cat does have fleas.

When to Check for Fleas

You can check for fleas while doing your regular cat brushing. By checking during a routine brushing, you will be able to spot fleas early on before your cat starts showing some of the signs of a flea infestation. You should also check your cat for fleas if you notice any typical flea symptoms.

Signs Your Cat May Have Fleas

Cats with fleas usually show some symptoms. If you start noticing some of these signs, you should check your cat for fleas or consult your vet if you are not comfortable inspecting your cat.

  • You notice red, inflamed bumps or scabs on your cat’s skin
  • Tiny specks in the fur that look like dirt (known as “flea dirt”)
  • Scratching a lot
  • Chewing at their fur
  • Grooming incessantly
  • Licking fur so much it creates a bald spot
  • Shaking their head frequently
cat being checked for fleas

What You Need to Check Your Cat for Fleas

If you don’t have a comb, you can look through their fur with your hands. A comb will help put out “flea dirt” easier.

  • Cat Comb (or flea comb if you have one)
  • Light or White Towel
  • Treats

How to Check Your Cat for Fleas

Checking for fleas shouldn’t take much time. You just need to look for some of the signs of fleas in your cat’s coat.

Steps for Checking a Cat for Fleas

  1. Put a light-colored towel down on a firm surface, then place your cat on it
  2. Comb through your cat’s fur, looking for flea dirt, inflammation or redness of their skin, and scabs
    • Use the end of the comb with the more narrow tines
    • Flea bites will be irritating to their skin and may cause minor bleeding which will scab up
  3. If you notice any of these signs of fleas, your cat likely has fleas and needs a bath to remove them from your cat’s body
    • You will also likely need to treat your house, human furniture or beds your cat sleeps on, cat beds, cat trees, or anywhere else your cat is in contact with
  4. Check the towel for fleas dirt or fleas
  5. You can do a flea bath yourself or contact your vet or a professional groomer
    • Regardless of who bathes your cat, you should consult your vet to get annual flea treatment (whether it be liquid or a collar) to prevent your cat from getting fleas again
    • Outdoor cats are more apt to get fleas and should have routine flea protection
  6. Give your cat treats when you are done

Helpful Tips For Checking for Fleas

  • Using a metal cat comb will make it easier to see any flea dirt
  • Wipe a wet paper towel over any black specks, and if it turns red, it is flea dirt
  • Comb or check the lightest fur on your cat (if possible)
  • The best place to check for fleas is around your cat’s neck, head, and hindquarters
  • Consult your vet for treatment, which is based on your cat’s age and weight

Do’s & Don’t’s When Looking for Fleas

Below are some tips for looking for fleas on your cat. Additional information is included in the how to check for fleas on your cat FAQ section.

  • Use the finer side of a cat comb
  • If your cat is multi-colored, check in the lighter fur area, as it will be easier to see flea dirt
  • Verify flea dirt with a wet paper towel
  • Use only cat flea products on your cat (there is different products for dogs)
  • Consult your vet for appropriate flea treatment options and doses for your cat
  • Don’t comb too hard (gently combing through your cat’s fur is sufficient)
  • Don’t use dog flea products on cats
  • Don’t self medicate your cat (contact your vet for the appropriate dosage)

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if your cat has fleas?

Cats will show many signs depending on their infestation level. Common flea symptoms are excessive scratching, biting at their fur, shaking their head, and over-grooming.

Can an indoor cat get fleas?

Yes, indoor-only cats can get fleas. Fleas are very contagious, so an indoor cat could get fleas if they come in contact with them. Indoor cats are at less risk for fleas.

Can you see cat fleas with the human eye?

Fleas are extremely small but can be seen with the human eye. Fleas are 2-4mm long and look like little brown ovals.

Is there a flea spray for cats?

There are flea sprays for cats. You should check with your vet to recommend the best one for your cat.

What is the easiest way to check for fleas?

The easiest way to check for fleas is to comb through your cat’s fur with a comb to check for flea dirt.

Can I put baking soda on my cat for fleas?

Putting baking soda on your cat will not get rid of fleas or deter them. Although some sites indicate this is a remedy, it will not kill adult fleas. At best, it might kill the eggs by drying them out, but it is not an effective flea solution.

What can I put on a cat to repel fleas?

The best option is to consult your vet. A routine flea product prescribed by your vet is the best solution. Although you may find natural solutions online, you need to consider whether they will kill not only the fleas but also flea larvae and flea eggs and repel fleas in the future.