Indoor Cats Can in Fact Get Fleas; Here's How to Handle It

I was minding my own business reading in bed when something caught my eye. I saw a tiny, black insect dart across my bed and immediately flew into a panic. "Not again!" I muttered under my breath. Frantically, I began checking out my five cats to confirm the worst: my indoor-only cats had fleas. Having lived with cats my entire life, I have only dealt with these pesky bugs one other time — when I rescued my kitties off the street in college.

Scratching my head in frustration (and possibly infestation?), I knew my babies had a long road of vet visits, flea collars, and medication ahead of them. After talking with my husband and eyeing up my 7-year-old black lab, I figured the dog must've tracked them into the house somehow. However, according to a vet, there are plenty of other ways your indoor cats can get fleas. Read ahead to learn how to get rid of these bugs and prevent fleas from feasting on your indoor kitties for good.

How Can Indoor Cats Get Fleas?

While dogs can accidentally bring fleas into a household after a walk, there are unfortunately many more inconspicuous ways these pets can make their way into your home. "Both adult fleas and flea eggs can fall off of other pets, clothes, or shoes and survive in carpets and in between floorboards," Dr. Zay Satchu, Bond Vet's cofounder and chief veterinary officer, told POPSUGAR. "In apartment buildings, fleas are usually carried by dogs and can hop onto your kitty, even if they don't ever leave your unit. For example, if you are walking on carpet [outside of your home] where the flea eggs dropped, you then carry the eggs into your apartment, where they hatch and the mature fleas catch a ride (and a snack) from kitty."

What Are Some Symptoms That Cats Exhibit When They Have Fleas?

Cats are notorious for hiding the fact they're not feeling well from their owners. Aside from the flea I found, I genuinely had no idea that these bugs were getting a little too comfortable in my home. However, if you start to see more cuts on their skin — particularly around their ears — or constant scratching, give them a quick examination at home. "Signs that your cat may have fleas include excessive scratching or biting at their skin, excessive grooming, redness of the skin, or scabbing," Dr. Satchu said. "Depending on the severity of the infestation, you may also be able to see fleas."

How Should You Treat a Flea Infestation?

"I recommend visiting a vet if you suspect fleas," Dr. Satchu said, noting that fleas can lead to more medical issues for your kitty. "This is because fleas can also transmit intestinal parasites to your kitty and cause anemia (decreased red blood cells), so having an overall checkup will ensure there is nothing more going on!"

Once your vet gives you an official diagnosis, treating your four-legged friends isn't all that difficult. "Your vet may offer a one-time pill that can rapidly kill any live adult fleas on your cat," she explained. "After, you will need to continue topical flea prevention for several months."

How Do You Prevent a Flea Infestation From Reoccurring?

Staying on top of your cat's flea medication is key, even if they never step foot outside. Additionally, pet parents can buy an inexpensive Flea Comb ($5) to make regularly checking for these annoying bugs easier. "Ensuring you keep up with the prevention is important because if your cat has fleas, there are also going to be flea eggs in your home environment," Dr. Satchu said. "The topicals will control live adult infestations but have no effect on eggs in the environment. Once they hatch, we need to take care of those, too. Keeping your kitty (yes, even indoor kitty) up to date on monthly flea prevention will help to prevent infestations in the future!"