Flea dirt is found not only in a cat's fur, but it falls out onto floors and furniture and will end up on clothing. The cat's bedding will accumulate flea dirt. Whenever flea dirt is found, begin an eradication program as soon as possible.
Flea dirt is a definitive way to tell if a cat's itching is from fleas or from another condition. Find flea dirt on a cat by parting the fur and looking for black, peppery-looking dots. Flea dirt is flea feces. A collection of flea dirt in a specific spot on the cat often signals a place where an adult flea resides.
Since fleas eat a cat's blood, their feces contain blood residue. Comb out some flea dirt and place it on a moistened paper towel. If it softens and makes reddish or brown spots, it is flea dirt and not just regular dirt specks.
If a cat has easily visible flea dirt, it has a heavy infestation of fleas. Cats often lick fleas out of their fur and swallow them as they groom themselves. Fleas carry harmful pathogens which can make cats sick. Fleas carry the larvae of the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm, and ingesting carrier fleas is a way cats contract the debilitating worm.
Some cats develop an allergy to flea saliva and may have extreme itching and even skin sores.
Spring is the season when flea activity begins outdoors. Cats that have been flea-free indoors all winter should be protected with a preventative medication so they will stay that way. Fleas breed continually throughout warm weather. They jump onto animals outdoors and are carried indoors. In cold climate winters, fleas are dormant outdoors, but if they have been carried into the house, they will continue to multiply all year.
Begin treating cats for fleas in early spring. Continue on a recommended schedule for as long as you see active fleas or flea dirt on the cat.
One of the most effective ways to get flea dirt out of cat's fur is to use a special flea comb. It has fine teeth spaced very closely together. Keep a wet paper towel close by, and wipe the flea comb across it to remove the flea dirt from the comb. Dispose of the paper towel immediately after use.
Flea shampoo will kill fleas and may dissolve the flea dirt. Remove as much flea dirt as possible by combing before wetting the fur.
Vacuum the house regularly to get rid of as many fleas and flea eggs as possible. Some cats even like to be vacuumed and will allow a gentle cleaning.
A veterinarian is the best source for flea control information.
Follow all instructions and label directions when using flea shampoo or flea preventive products. These products contain chemicals that are neurotoxins that immobilize and kill the fleas. Young kittens may be poisoned by these chemicals. Children should not use them. Rubber gloves, clothing, and utensils used when applying flea treatments should not be used around fish or other animals.