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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat has some fleas but is getting better. The ones that are left are biting her on the lower back. Now she bites out a little fur and the skin under fur is wet and pink and continues to itch it. I don’t know what to do or how to treat it. Any recommendations would be appreciated! Thanks!

Cat scratching an itch, CC-BY-ND Janet 59 via Flickr

Fleas can cause an allergic reaction that continues long after the pests are gone. Photo CC-BY-ND Janet 59

~ Cassie

Siouxsie: Fleas are nasty little things, Cassie, and a lot of cats have reactions like your kitty is going through. I’m getting itchy just thinking about it! *grumble*

Thomas: What your cat is experiencing sounds like what vets refer to as flea allergy dermatitis.

Bella: You see, fleas have lots of proteins in their saliva that can cause a severe itching reaction. Some kitties are more sensitive than others to these proteins, and it sounds like your cat is one of those especially sensitive ones.

Siouxsie: The only way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to get rid of every single flea in your house, because even one bite can cause the itching and chewing and skin pain.

Thomas: First, you have to make sure every pet in your home is on good flea control, and the best method so far is those liquids that you put on the back of your kitty’s neck.

Bella: But you can’t just use any old thing you find at the grocery store. We know the good brands of flea goop aren’t cheap (Mama uses Vectra on us, by the way), but the good goop is really the only way to kill fleas and keep them from reproducing.

Siouxsie: The other thing you have to do is clean the heck out of your house. Flea eggs can live in pets’ bedding, in your furniture, and in carpets and throw rugs. If you have hardwood floors with cracks between planks, eggs can even get in there.

Thomas: We wrote about how to get rid of a flea invasion a couple of years back. You’ll find some good tips in this column.

Bella: Ridding your home of fleas is a very labor-intensive process, but it’s worth the effort. Mama’s had to do it before, and she hopes she never has to do it again!

Siouxsie: Sometimes all this itching and biting leads to secondary bacterial or yeast infections, so we definitely recommend that you bring your cat to the vet. If your kitty does have an infection, your vet can prescribe medication to treat it.

Thomas: One more thing: Some cats are so hypersensitive to flea saliva that vets may even prescribe an antihistamine or prednisone to treat the discomfort caused by the allergy.

Bella: Now, we’re not big on pills and potions for every single thing, but flea allergy dermatitis is very painful and uncomfortable — and if it continues long enough, a cat may even start neurotically chewing and biting on the affected area even though the allergy or infection is no longer there.

Siouxsie: The only way to prevent future episodes of allergic reactions is to be consistent in using flea control and nip any infestations in the bud.

Thomas: If your cat goes outside, it’s pretty much impossible to keep fleas under control, so if she is an indoor-outdoor cat, you might want to think about turning her into an indoor-only cat.

Bella: It can be done, and we’ve got some advice on how to help your kitty live a happy indoor-only life.

Siouxsie: Do you other readers have some tips on how to help Cassie control fleas in her home?

Thomas: Do you have experience with flea allergies in your cats? What did you do to help your kitty feel better?

Bella: What about bringing an outdoor cat indoors? Have you done it? What’s worked for you? Share your stories in the comments, and together we can all help Cassie help her cat!