5 Signs Your Cat Might Have Fleas

May 7th 2016

Fleas can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience, but catching the infestation early makes it easier to eradicate them. Look for signs of anemia and itching, and confirm your suspicions by checking for the fleas themselves. Once you know your cat has them, work with your veterinarian to safely eliminate them.

Excessive Grooming

Cats are naturally clean creatures, but if you notice your cat going overboard, it's probably a sign that something is wrong. Flea bites are irritating and uncomfortable, so your cat may attempt to simply groom them off. Chewing or scratching at the itchy bites is also a common symptom, especially if your cat seems to do it suddenly or more dramatically than a normal itch.

Hair Loss

Even if you do not notice your cat grooming or scratching excessively, unexplained patches of hair loss can be a sign of fleas. This is often caused by the cat engaging in those excessive grooming behaviors when you are not around or by an allergic reaction to the bites.

Head Shaking

Fleas often congregate around cats' ears, where the cat can't reach them so easily. The itchy bites may cause your cat to shake its head frequently out of irritation. Head shaking can also be a sign of ear infection or other illnesses, so it is a good idea to take any cat exhibiting this symptom to the vet.

Pale Gums

Cats are small enough that even a few fleas can cause significant blood loss, leading to anemia. Although this does not have many visible symptoms, pale gums are one of the most obvious. Your cat also may seem to lack energy and interest in its surroundings.

Flea Dirt

Flea dirt is the term for the residue fleas leave behind after digesting blood. It looks like small brownish specks and may be visible in your cat's coat. For dark-colored cats, you may have to shake it loose using a brush or simply running your hands through your cat's coat. To make sure it is flea dirt, shake it onto a white piece of paper then sprinkle water on it. Because it is mostly blood, it should spread out and become reddish in color. Since your cat may groom it out of the fur, check your cat's favorite sleeping spots as well.

Spotting the Fleas

This is the most reliable way to check for infestation. Although you may be able to see them just by looking, smaller infestations may be more hidden. Try using a flea comb to pull them out of your cat's coat. Be sure to check your cat's ears and armpits, as these are favorite hiding spots for fleas.


Cats are notorious for getting into things they shouldn't, and sometimes that includes a colony of fleas. Unfortunately, cats can also be quite standoffish, which can make it hard to recognize an infestation in the early stages. Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that your cat may be carrying fleas.

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