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Ticks and Fleas on Cats Q&A

WebMD veterinary expert answers common questions pet owners have about fleas and ticks on their cats.



Q: Are fleas and ticks worse in some areas? Where?

A: Ticks and fleas can be worse from one area to another and can vary seasonally and from year to year. There’s one particular flea species that we find on dogs and cats in North America that predominates. If you look it up it’s called Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea, because its species name is felis. For that flea, the primary determining factor of populations is humidity. So why are their more fleas in Tampa, Fla., than in Kansas City? Why are there more fleas in Kansas City then Denver? Humidity. Once you get into the Rocky Mountain states, for example, or even the Western areas of the plains states, fleas on dogs and cats are not that much of a problem because it’s just too dry. The Gulf Coast region of North America and the Southeast region are the flea capital. As you move inland, however, depending on the rainfall in a given year, it can be OK or get very horrid at times.

Ticks have different biologies and behaviors, of course. And there are different areas that have more tick problems than others. There are very few places in North America you can’t encounter ticks today, because there are so many different ticks. But there definitely are areas that are worse than others.


Q: Can cats get heartworms?

A: Sure can. Absolutely. And it can be deadly in cats. Dogs get heartworm far more often than cats do. But when cats do get heartworm, it can definitely be lethal. I honestly believe that heartworm in cats is more lethal than heartworm in dogs, to that individual. There is no effective heartworm treatment for cats. All we can do for cats is try to treat the symptoms, manage the disease, until the worms die off. There are preventatives for cats, just like for dogs. If you put the cat on preventatives, it will keep them from getting heartworm, and if you use it when they have heartworms, it will keep them from getting more while you wait for the worms they have to die off. Some of these worms can live up to four years in a cat.

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