Fleas are unpleasant, parasitic blood-suckers that cause great discomfort to those they bite, not to mention the fact that they can also transmit diseases. People looking for a flea-free pet often consider a hairless cat like the Sphynx a good choice. Are they right? Do fleas avoid hairless cats or can a Sphynx get fleas?
Yes! Fleas can infest Sphynx and other hairless cats. Fleas feed on blood, not fur. Being hairless doesn’t guard against fleas, meaning the Sphynx is as susceptible to these parasites as any cat. When hairless cats do get fleas, there’s nowhere for them to hide!
There are plenty of things you can do to eliminate fleas and deter them from returning. We explain all you need to know to banish these unpleasant parasites from your cat and home.
What are fleas?
Fleas are parasitic insects that survive by feeding on blood from hosts such as cats, dogs, and humans. They are usually about a tenth of an inch (2.5 mm) long and can be light or dark brown in color, depending on if they have just eaten or not. They have powerful legs and it is estimated they can jump a distance of 50 times their body length – that’s up to 5 inches (125 mm).
How Sphynx cats get fleas
Sphynx cats can get fleas. The simple fact is fleas don’t discriminate between hairless cats and their furrier relations. All they care about is an ample blood supply. You may wonder how your Sphynx caught fleas in the first place, especially if it’s an indoor cat. Here are a few ways:
- Fleas can jump indoors from outside through open doors, windows, and screens. So if a passing cat sheds fleas on your lawn it is possible for them to make their way into your home and infect your unsuspecting indoor Sphynx.
- It is possible for human visitors to be carrying fleas that disembark in your home and then leap onto your cat as soon as the opportunity arises.
- If you have a visitor with a dog that has fleas, they could jump off and wait to take up residence on your cat. Fleas aren’t fussy, any dog, cat or even human will do when it comes to food.
- Fleas in the pupae stage can lay dormant for months and are triggered to hatch by the movement or heat of a suitable host. If you have recently treated your cat for fleas there may still be pupae in your carpets ready to hatch and reinfest. Also, if you move into a new home it’s possible for pupae to be laying in wait in the soft furnishings.
- Rodents carry fleas and if one enters your home it can leave some behind.
How to recognize if a Sphynx cat has fleas
The first sign that your Sphynx cat has fleas is incessant scratching. Itchiness occurs at the site of the bite and the more a cat scratches, the more irritated and inflamed their skin can become.
When a flea latches onto a cat, it releases saliva into the wound to thin the blood in order to make it flow more freely. This saliva is a foreign body to your cat’s immune system so histamine is released which results in a swollen, itchy bump.
How to remove fleas from a Sphynx
It’s quite easy to spot fleas on hairless cats as they stand out quite well against their bare skin. Here are the best ways to tackle these parasites:
- You can pick fleas off (if you are fast enough to catch them) and crush them in a tissue. They are quite tough so you may need to use the backs of your thumbnails.
- As Sphynx, like all hairless cats, are bathed regularly it’s easy to give your cat a bath to remove fleas. Use a cat-safe flea shampoo to make sure you remove all larvae and any eggs. Your vet is the best person to discuss this with.
How to Prevent future fleas on your Sphynx
There are several ways to prevent fleas from infesting a cat, hairless or otherwise but the best way to treat fleas on a Sphynx or other hairless cat is by seeking and following the advice of a qualified veterinarian.
Common treatments are:
- Spot-on treatment that’s applied once a month. As hairless cats can have quite sensitive skin, make sure you only use this type of treatment as recommended and supplied by your vet. Never risk buying this online or from a store. A vet will sell safe treatments and will know the correct dosage for your cat’s size.
- Flea collars – only those recommended by your vet.
- Oral flea prevention pills prescribed by your vet.
A word of warning regarding the use of essential oils as a flea treatment
I am concerned to see essential oils recommended on other sites as a safe alternative to flea treatments. Many essential oils are thought to be toxic to cats, even when diluted. Before you follow the advice of anyone stating certain essential oils are safe to use on cats, please check that person’s authority, expertise, and credentials to give such advice. I have found it impossible to find a guarantee that any essential oil is 100% safe to use on cats, which is enough for me to never chance using it on any of mine. It just isn’t worth the risk.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) warns against the use of essential oils to treat cat fleas.
Treating your home to eliminate fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae
Once you have cleansed your cat of fleas be sure to cleanse your home to prevent their return. Here are some tips to follow:
- Wash your cat’s bedding and soft toys thoroughly.
- Wash any cushion covers, blankets, and other bedding your cat may have slept on.
- Carefully sweep and then mop all hard floors with cat-safe disinfectant.
- Steam any curtains your cat may have come into contact with (especially those that touch the floor.)
- Give your carpets a thorough vacuum clean and spray the edges with a flea spray recommended by your vet. Follow the instructions carefully and keep your cat away from the area as you do this.
- Vacuum beneath all of your furniture and under the cushions of armchairs and couches.
Why go to so much trouble to clean?
If you keep your cat regularly treated with topical flea treatment it is unlikely to be reinfested. However, you could still be at risk from pupae. Here’s how:
The Life Cycle of a Flea
1. Female adult flea lays eggs
A female flea feeds from the blood of a host which triggers her to lay eggs.
2. Egg hatching
Larvae hatch from the eggs after a couple of days and feed on the feces of adult fleas as this contains pre-digested blood.
3. Pupae stage
After about 2 weeks, the larvae spin a cocoon around themselves which protects them as they develop into adult fleas. This is also known as the pupae stage. The adult flea will only emerge under the right conditions and can remain dormant for months if necessary. The usual trigger for emergence is when they sense that a suitable host is within reach.
4. Adult flea emerges
Once the pupae detect a suitable host is within reach, the adult flea emerges and the life cycle repeats.
The verdict on fleas and hairless cats
Fleas aren’t fussy about fur – any cat is fair game. If your cat gets fleas, it is not a reflection on the cleanliness of your home. Follow the steps above to rid your cat and home of these unwelcome parasites and hopefully, they’ll stay away.
If the knowledge that Sphynx cats can get fleas does not deter you from buying one, will our article 15 Reasons Not to Get a Sphynx be able to?