Can Indoor Cats Get Fleas?

Amy Shojai, CABC

Fleas lay up to 40 eggs per day,1 so it's no wonder that some of these tiny pests might pop up on your cat occasionally. On outdoor cats, fleas hop aboard for a free meal when they roam the yard — but can indoor cats get fleas, too?

Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to avoid wild critters. It prevents exposure to diseases and parasites, including fleas. Even so, you may find a flea or three on your indoor cat, so it's important to know what to do when you spot these pests on your feline friend.

How Fleas Travel Indoors

Fleas prefer to find a victim and stay there, sucking blood and preparing to reproduce. Just because your cats stay inside doesn't mean fleas can't reach them. Fleas can leap 160 times their own body length through open doors or windows. They can even jump through window screens or cracks in doors.2 So, think of the bug as a hitchhiker that catches a ride into your house. Once fleas detect your cat nearby, they can hop over to your furry pal.

How can indoor cats get fleas? There are several ways that these pests can travel into your home and onto your indoor cat:

Hitching a Ride on a Human

Yes, you can collect fleas and ticks by walking through an infested field or yard. Visitors who have pets, such as the grocery delivery person, could also unknowingly bring fleas into your home.

These tiny parasites hide on clothing and remain invisible to you. When the cat snuggles up on your lap, they drop from your clothing to your feline friend. Even if a cat is far away, they can still hop over with ease.

Latching Onto Pups

Many people have both dogs and cats as household pets. Given that dogs spend time outside, they may bring in buggy pests on their fur.

The immature life stages of fleas infest dog beds, carpets, floors, and furniture. That means cats don't even have to sleep near the dog to get fleas. Just walking in the same area can prompt fleas to switch from the dog to the cat. If both pets share your bed, they also share fleas with each other and you.

Coming Home from Vacation with You

Cats prefer to stay home in their familiar environment. They may travel now and then if only to visit the veterinarian or groomer. Unfortunately, fleas can even hide from professionals. Shared bedding at the boarding shelter might transfer parasites, too.

If you travel with your cat, hotel rooms could pose a risk. A visit to Grandma's house and interacting with her pets could also expose your cat to parasites.

Stowing Away in a New House

Fleas stay dormant for months at a time without a pet to bite. If pets lived in the house before, fleas could still infest the premises. Used furniture could also carry fleas, so if you found a really good deal on an old sofa and brought it home, be wary of potential passengers.

Because parasites prefer pets, you may not notice any fleas on your furniture at first. When you bring your cat into the new house or your kitty sits on the new sofa, fleas you didn't know were there could emerge.

Prevent Hitchhiker Fleas and Ticks

Using a preventive approach works best to ensure you don't get fleas and ticks in the first place. Adams™ Flea & Tick Spray for Cats kills adult fleas on contact. It also kills eggs and larvae and protects for up to two months.

Although you can't scan visitors for bugs, you can ask if they use flea products on their own pets. Not every product kills fleas right away, though, which is yet another reason visiting pets may still infect your house. After they leave, wash the bedding and towels, and vacuum the house to pick up any bugs. Make sure to put the bag in the garbage outside afterward.

You'll also want to treat the yard to prevent hitchhiker fleas from riding on your shoes or clothes. Treat a new house before your cat's arrival, too. Adams™ Flea & Tick Home Spray kills adult fleas within five minutes. It also addresses immature fleas and other labeled pests and lasts seven months.

By using the right treatments in your home, you can better protect your indoor cats from fleas, ticks, and other pests that may try to hitch a ride into your home.

  1. PetMD. "Understanding the flea life cycle."
  2. FleaScience. "How far and high can fleas jump?"
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