Fleas are pesky little critters that can sneak into your feline friend’s lives. Whether you have a cat that likes to explore the outdoors or a cat that loves to snuggle with their canine friend, a flea can easily make their way onto your cat’s body and cause trouble. Though many cat owners have turned to use essential oils instead of prescription flea treatments, are essential oils any safer?
While we understand the desire to use natural products on your feline friend, there are many risks that come along with using essential oils in cats. In this article, we’ll discuss the safe options for natural flea prevention in cats, and discuss the dangers of using essential oils for fleas on cats in replacement of prescription flea treatments.
Do Essential Oils for Fleas Work on Cats?
Fleas are tiny ectoparasites that thrive off the warm blood of their hosts. Since fleas don’t have specific requirements when it comes to their host preferences, virtually any warm-blooded creature can become a flea’s new home. This means that once your feline friend brings a flea into your environment, they can bite you as well.
Fleas will often find a hiding spot on your cat’s body and survive by biting the skin and ingesting their blood in tiny increments.
These flea bites can result in agitation when they move across the skin, severe skin irritation and itching, anemia, and even flea-borne disease that is transmitted through their bites. With so much risk involved with their presence, it’s important to try your best to prevent these tiny critters from making your cat their home.
How Do I Know If My Cat Has Fleas?
Aside from seeing a flea crawling across your cat’s skin, there are a few signs that point to your cat having fleas. Some of the most common signs of fleas in cats include:
- Excessive scratching
- Shaking their head
- Red or irritated skin
- Hair loss
- Chewing at their skin
- Flea dirt on their fur (black specks that look like dirt)
The Dangers of Fleas in Cats
Fleas are not only a nuisance that can cause discomfort for your cat, but they can also carry some serious risk that can impact your feline friend’s health. Though fleas are most known for causing itching and irritation, there is a long list of complications that are possible once a flea makes their way into your cat’s fur.
Itching: The itching that fleas cause can actually result in serious harm to your cat. Since the only defense against these critters is scratching and biting at their fur, your cat can cause great harm to their skin. Cats don’t understand when they need to stop itching to prevent sores and irritation, so they will continue to scratch no matter the harm it causes.
Skin infections: Cats will often scratch and bite their fur to the point of causing sores or serious skin irritation. Since they likely continue to irritate these sores, cats will often experience skin infections as a result. Some skin infections can become so severe that medical attention is needed.
Intestinal parasites: Aside from their ability to irritate your cat’s skin, fleas can also cause intestinal parasites. The parasite known as the tapeworm is actually acquired through the flea and can infect your cat once they’ve ingested an infected flea. This zoonotic parasite can cause GI upset for your furry friend, and with it being zoonotic, you are at risk of this parasite as well.
Flea-borne disease: Fleas can be a vector for multiple diseases that can make your cat extremely ill. Fleas can carry Haemobartonellosis, Babesia, Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, and Ehrlichia. Not only can these diseases impact our cats, but many of them can be transmitted to humans as well.
Anemia: Since fleas like to suck the blood of our furry friends, this can result in anemia. Since anemia is described as an inadequate number of red blood cells circulating in the blood, this means it can cause some serious and life-threatening symptoms. Anemia can cause respiratory distress, pale gums, weakness, collapse, and even death in serious cases.
If you fear that your cat is suffering from any of the complications above, it’s best to contact your vet as soon as possible.
The Dangers of Essential Oils on Cats
With how popular essential oils have become in the wellness industry, it’s no wonder so many pet owners are curious about their use in cats.
Since essential oils have been used for pest control in humans, many cat owners have begun to use these oils in an attempt to prevent fleas in cats. Though some scents have been proven to deter crawling critters, the dangers of these essential oils far outweigh the potential benefits in cats.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the ASPCA, and Hills; essential oils can be extremely toxic to our feline companions. Even more so than dogs, our cats are extremely sensitive to potent scents and oils in their environment or on their skin.
Our part-time writer Amber, a Licensed Vet Tech who works in emergency medicine, reports seeing multiple cases of toxicity from essential oil use in cats. Some of the most common symptoms she sees include:
- Excessive drooling
- Severe skin irritation and burns
- Respiratory distress
- Disorientation and unsteady gait
- Slowed heart rate
- Liver damage
Though many believe this can only happen when a cat is exposed to a potent dose of essential oil, that’s simply not the case. Some cats have experienced severe respiratory distress just by being in a room with aerosolized essential oils, even with oils that are considered high quality.
The thought of using essential oils on a cat’s skin to prevent fleas is quite frightening due to the potential of serious toxicity. Having a scent on your cat’s skin can be extremely overpowering and uncomfortable for them, as well as the danger of having the essential oil absorb into their skin and make its way into their system.
Though there are multiple pet blogs online that encourage the use of essential oils in pets, we urge you to take the word of well known and accredited veterinary organizations instead. If you are looking for natural flea prevention for your cat that is actually harm-free, we’ll list a couple of our favorites below!
Safe & Natural Flea Prevention for Cats
Just because essential oil use is out of the question for your feline companion does not mean your only choice is a prescribed option. There are many natural flea prevention products on the market, and we’ve listed some of our favorite ones below to help you in your search!
Arava Natural Flea & Tick Prevention: This collar uses the idea of prevention with essential oils but without all the risk. This collar is infused with natural scents that are known to repel fleas and ticks. It is extremely popular among pet owners that have cats that spend a lot of time outdoors.
Beloved Pets Natural Flea & Tick Prevention: This is another natural flea and tick collar that uses natural scents to help deter crawling critters from hitching a ride on your cat. This collar has a light scent that doesn’t bother your cat but has enough power to repel fleas and ticks for up to 6 months.
How to Get Rid of Fleas Quickly & Safely in Cats
Though the options above are wonderful ways to prevent fleas in cats, sometimes you need to rid your cat of their current fleas in order for the products to do their job in the future. Though there are multiple shampoos and other products on the market that claim to kill fleas quickly, these products are often loaded with harmful chemicals.
One of the easiest and safest ways to rid your cat of fleas is by giving them a bath in dawn dish soap. Dawn dish soap will kill all the living adult fleas on your cat, giving you a clean slate to begin the use of your natural flea prevention.
Though dawn dish soap is safe for use on cats and kittens, it can dry out their skin if it’s used too often. Be sure to keep a close eye on your cat and monitor them for any skin irritation in the following days just in case.
Though fleas are pesky critters that can cause our cats harm, it doesn’t mean we need to attack the problem with harsh chemicals or dangerous essential oils for fleas on cats. Be sure to review the tips we’ve listed above, and you can protect your cat from fleas in a safe and natural way!
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Tuesday 16th of November 2021
Hello - thank you for your article on essential oils being safe for cats...I have to disagree with your article however. Please know that I am a doctor and tell clients all the time to stop putting essential oils directly on their skin or to stop inhaling them via a diffuser (especially in a close environment like a car). essential oils cross the blood brain barrier: they are hexane rings just like turpentine is and bypass this important mechanism. However this is when these are put directly on the skin. Consider if you will 5 drops of an essential oil being added to a 2 oz spray bottle that has a few drops of a liquid soap to emulsify the oil in the water. This gives all the benefit without the danger: spraying a few sprays of this onto the cat's fur, then vigorously rubbing the fur to spread all around. As you can imagine, this is not actually touching the cat's skin so it is not being absorbed, and if all of the 3 sprays or so was actually absorbed (which would be impossible) this is a greatly diluted amount. The smell penetrates the hair to repel the fleas from wanting to take up residence in the cat. I guarantee you that any vet who has seen toxicity in a cat with essential oils had some daft owner putting them directly on their skin, say like Revolution. If you are not happy with that suggestion, how about suggesting that an owner apply essential oils to their own collar? Of course there is no click-through option for this. It would be nice to see your article revised to include these safe nuances for use in a cat as there are many many people searching for alternatives to soresto and revolution.