Kittens are delightful: they're cute, cuddly and playful balls of fluff. But what's not so cute? Finding fleas on your adorable new kitten! Fleas can quickly cause serious health problems for kittens such as tapeworms, flea allergy dermatitis, and even anemia if the flea infestation is severe enough. Therefore, it's important to eliminate the fleas as soon as you identify the problem. But not all flea medications are safe to use on delicate young kittens. Here are some things to consider before treating fleas on a kitten.
Even newborn kittens can get fleas which are often spread from the mother cat to the kitten. However, flea control medications must not be used on very young kittens. For kittens younger than 4 weeks, groom with a flea comb, or pick fleas off with tweezers. Be sure to keep the kittens warm while you're working with them. To prevent a recurrence of the fleas, it's important to also wash the kittens' bedding, vacuum the surroundings, and treat the kittens' mother if she's living with you.
Fleas can remove enough blood to make kittens anemic, so confirm that the kittens' gums are pink. If not, contact your veterinarian right away for advice. And because fleas carry tapeworms, watch for rice-like dried tapeworm segments at the rectum or in the stool over the next several weeks.
Flea treatments for kittens fall into two broad categories:
Products that affect flea offspring are called insect growth regulators (IGRs). IGRs are very effective when you can clean up the environment and the kitten will have little exposure to fleas in the future, either from the environment or from other animals-such as our indoor cats.
Additionally, you'll need to decide if you want to use an oral or topical treatment. The age and, in some cases, the weight of your kitten will dictate which treatments you can safely use. Note that you should NEVER use a flea treatment labeled for use on dogs on your kitten as it can result in serious side effects or even be fatal to your kitten.
For kittens with biting (adult) fleas, you will likely want a product that works quickly to kill these parasites. Capstar is a popular flea product that works within 6 hours to kill 90% of fleas, and it can be used on kittens as young as 4 weeks of age and older, provided the kitten weighs at least 2 pounds. While Capstar is fast-acting and effective at killing fleas, keep in mind that the effect only lasts for 24 hours. Once the adult fleas are removed, it's important to also kill flea offspring (flea eggs and larvae) in the environment with a room spray or fogger to prevent a reinfestation.
If your kitten is at least 8 weeks of age or older, you have lots more options to treat fleas, including these topical treatments:
Once your kitten is at least 14 weeks of age or older, your kitten can use Comfortis, a prescription oral flea treatment.