When pet owners think about fleas, jumping creatures probably come to mind, but if fleas are around, flea dirt is, too. Flea dirt looks like small, dark granules and is most often found on cats' coats and skin, especially in places that are hard for them to reach. If you've noticed flea dirt in your home or on your cat, you need to bring it to a vet. Here's why.
What It Means
Despite its name, flea dirt isn't actually dirt in the traditional sense. Rather, it's a form of excrement that's left behind by fleas. After a flea bites an animal, it often lays eggs. In addition to eggs, it may leave behind flea dirt as a form of nutrition for any newly hatched larvae. Until a flea matures enough to be able to bite on its own, it needs to survive off of this dirt. So if your cat has flea dirt, it not only has fleas, but the flea infestation may be about to get a lot worse.
Unfortunately, fleas do a lot more than simply leave behind eggs and dirt. Flea dirt itself is a problem, as are the fleas.
For example, cats can pick up parasites like tapeworms from fleas. Tapeworms don't typically transfer from cat to cat, but instead, cats are infected when they swallow infected flea dirt or an infected flea. The tapeworm egg or larvae found within then hatches and/or matures in your cat's body, sapping everything that they eat for vital nutrition. This can end up being a major health risk to your cat and shouldn't be ignored.
Unfortunately, fleas also do more than just increase your cat's risk for anemia. They can also transfer certain bloodborne diseases and contaminants that break down red blood cells from the inside. Even if your cat isn't being bitten by fleas anymore, it may still be at risk of severe anemia.
While many pet owners will find evidence of fleas in addition to flea dirt, if you notice that your cat seems a bit dusty or grungy, it's a likely sign that you have fleas. Even if you think the situation is under control now, if your cat had enough dirt on them to be noticeable while petting or grooming them, then you should get to a veterinary clinic. Your cat's vet will be able to check your cat for more fleas, parasites, and anemia and can get them back on the road to good health.