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Parasites are organisms that live in or on another living organism known as the host. From the host, these parasites are able to feed.   At some point in your cats life it may have a problem with external parasites.
The more common external parasites are known as fleas and ear mites.
External Parasites

Fleas


The common cat flea is called Ctenocephalides felis.  Fleas are wingless parasites that like to suck the blood of your pet so that they can lay their eggs.









The worst time of year for fleas is usually between the months of May through November.  In warmer climates, the flea season is longer. 

Fleas are a nuisance to your pet.  They irritate the skin which may lead to dermatitis and infection.  If it’s a small kitten, it can become severely anemic or die as a result of blood loss, or your cat can become infected with tapeworm if they swallow a flea during self grooming.

Cats usually get fleas from coming into contact with other animals who have fleas, or an environment infested with fleas.  Fleas are not host specific. The flea can jump several inches onto a new host. They have a very complex life cycle which includes egg, larvae, pupae, and finally emerge as an adult. 
The life cycle can last several months depending on the conditions
of the environment.




Flea Life Cycle

A female flea jumps onto your pet because she needs a drink of blood,
so that she can lay her eggs. The eggs fall off your pet and lands on your pet's bed, into cracks in the floor, onto your furniture, under appliances,
in your carpet or in your yard.  In a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae.  These larvae feed on any debris that they can find.  It could be the dandruff from your pet, dust, mold, hair or flea excrement.  The larvae will remain at this stage for anywhere from ten to two hundred days depending on the environment.  Then the larvae spin a cocoon around themselves and in another 10 to two hundred days  they emerge as a full grown adults
ready to start the cycle all over again.

Unless the infestation is very bad, you may not see the adult fleas themselves.  The flea population consists of 50% eggs, 35% larvae,
10% pupae and 5% adults.  If you suspect your cat has fleas, check your pet for flea dirt.  Flea dirt is actually flea feces,  made up mainly of blood
sucked from the pet that is eliminated through the flea's digestive system
as dried blood.  If you spray the flea dirt with water and it turns bloody,
your pet has fleas and immediate attention is required. 
Not only must you treat your pet, but also your house.



Treatment

If you discover your cat has fleas, call your Veterinarian.  They will be up to date on the latest safest most effective means of flea treatment for your pet, and will advise you on treating your house as well.  Prevention is the key.
It is best to protect your pet against fleas before the flea season starts.

There are a number of treatments available for your pet. There are collars, sprays, mousses and shampoos.  Personally, I prefer the treatments that last at least a month and don't require too much fuss.  There is one on the market which lasts six months called Program Injectable.  The female flea who takes the blood of a pet who has been treated with Program Injectable, ingests a chemical that will prevent her eggs from hatching.  Another is a premeasured liquid dose, depending on the age and weight of your cat, that you apply onto your pet's skin, at the base of your cat's neck once a month called Advantage.  The solution quickly spreads over your pet's skin and lasts one month.
This treatment kills the fleas that jump onto your pet before they have a chance to lay their eggs.

It is equally important to treat your house for fleas.  Ask your Veterinarian for advice.  Vacuum all carpets, furniture and floors including cracks and crevices thoroughly.  Vacuum and wash your pet's bedding in hot water and dry on hot cycle.  Do the same for your sheets and blankets if your cat likes to sleep on your bed.  Empty and disinfect the litter box and the scooper.  You may want to apply a special flea spray to carpets and furniture, but best to check with your veterinarian.   Discard the vacuum bag once you are finished.  Remember, prevention is the key.







Ear Mites

The common ear mite is called Otodectes Cynotis.











This mite causes the most common infections of the outer ear canal.  It is a very small eight legged bug that lives and breeds in the ear canal of your cat or dog.  Usually it affects outdoor cats who come in direct contact with other cats who are host to the little critters.  These mites can be found in the ear canal and also in the hair around the ears and on the tail which lies against the ears when the cat is sleeping in a curled position.




Symptoms Include:









• cat shakes head frequently
• rubbing ears
• thick dark wax build-up in the ear
• a bad smell from the ears





If you suspect your cat has ear mites, have your cat checked by your Veterinarian.  The Vet will be able to make a proper diagnosis and advise you on what treatment is required for your cat. 

Like fleas, the cats bedding and your house will also require
thorough cleansing.
Medical and care advice on this page is for your knowledge and information only. It is not a substitute for a Veterinary Appointment or
an actual diagnosis for your pet.  If you feel your pet has a health or behavior problem please consult your Veterinarian immediately for specific advice tailored to your individual pet.