Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Can cats carry bed bugs, and if they can, how do you get rid of them on the cat? The place where I’m staying has bed bugs and I have three cats.
Siouxsie: Well, Jammie, bed bugs sure are a drag, and they’re the just about single biggest pain-in-the-tail pest of modern life in the U.S. But the good news is that no, your cats will not carry or spread bed bugs.
Thomas: Bed bugs generally don’t live on their hosts. They hide in cracks and crevices and come out at night to feed. Once they’ve eaten their fill, they hop off again and go about their nasty business elsewhere.
Dahlia: And given the choice, bed bugs will feed on humans before they’ll feed on cats, dogs or other animals. You humans have a lot less hair, so you’re easier to bite!
Siouxsie: If your cats are itchy, take them to the vet to make sure they don’t have other parasites like fleas.
Thomas: Because cats don’t carry bed bugs like they do fleas or ticks, you can’t keep them off your cat with flea treatments.
Dahlia: The only way to get rid of a bed bug infestation is to de-clutter, wash the heck out of all your (and your cats’) bedding and clothes, and bring in exterminators to treat your home.
Siouxsie: The ecologically safest way to get rid of bed bugs is heat treatment. Exterminators bring in special machines that raise the temperature of your house to well over 120 degrees F and keep the temperature that high for a set amount of time.
Thomas: One of Mama’s good friends got bed bugs in her apartment, and the property management company had the heat treatment done. She hasn’t seen a bed bug since then — and it’s been a few months now. (Heat treatment is not a DIY project! The Bedbugger.com forums contain a few horror stories about people who’ve destroyed their belongings and sometimes even burned their houses down by trying to heat-treat their own homes.)
Dahlia: You can read more about the various treatments for bed bugs here. They also have some advice for DIY treatments you can use to keep the nasty little things at bay.
Siouxsie: A couple of years ago, we responded to a reader who asked about how cat-safe the various bed bug treatments are. If you’re interested, you can read that column here.
Thomas: So rest assured, your cats are not a bed bug vector, and nobody should blame your cats if the bugs spread!
Dahlia: We hope you and your housemates can get your bed bug situation sorted out and that everybody is less itchy and creeped out as a result.