The Simple Way to Check Your Cat for Fleas

If your cat is scratching, licking themselves bald, or has developed lots of little scabs on their skin then you really need to know how to check your cat for fleas.

Fleas are an incredibly common cause of itching in cats, and it’s not always as obvious as you might think to know if your cat has fleas or not!


Today I've recruited Molly to show you, with flea season really kicking off in the northern hemisphere, how to see if your cat has got fleas and how to check your cat for fleas.

The first thing we're going to do is to hold your cat or have them on the floor facing away from you like this. If you've got someone to help you, then that's obviously going to help make checking your cat much easier and quicker!

how to hold your cat

Have your cat between your legs, facing away from you.


To start with, we're just looking into the depths of their coat towards their skin, running our fingers from their tail up towards their head. As you’re doing this, you should look for fleas which can appear as little black specs that are moving, and also look for flea dirt. We start at the tail, in part, because it is the most common place to find evidence that a cat has fleas.

part your cat's fur

Start at the tail base + use your thumb to part your cat’s fur


What this is, is actually flea poop, and it looks like lots of little black dots that are easy to mistake for just dirt, dust or soil.

If you’re seeing lots of little black dots, especially deep down in their coat, then that is a sure sign that your cat has fleas! I'm going to show you in just a minute how to be 100% certain that these specs are flea dirt and not mud or soil or anything like that.

Now, if you don't see any sign of fleas or you don't see flea dirt, this doesn't mean that there aren't fleas present.

The next thing you should do, especially if your cat is itchy or grooming themselves a lot, is to use a flea comb (get one here). Take the comb and run it from their shoulders down towards their tail.

use a flea comb

Use a flea comb to brush from head to tail


After each pass have a little look at the flea comb, because if there are adult fleas on your cat, they're going to hop off the comb quite quickly and you don’t want to miss seeing them!

check for fleas and flea dirt after brushing your cat

Check for fleas after every stroke


If, rather than fleas being seen, you are collecting black specs on the comb, then this is important too. Even 1 or 2 specs can be enough to let you know that your cat does indeed have fleas.

To tell if it is flea dirt or not, tap or wipe the specs onto a damp piece of tissue paper or cotton wool.

wipe flea comb

Wipe the flea comb on a damp piece of tissue paper


With you’re finger, then gently rub the dirt to smear it onto the wet paper.

If it goes a rusty red then you know for certain that it is flea dirt and your cat has fleas.

If it doesn’t mark the paper, or leaved an brown or black mark then you have just found dirt or soil!

rub the flea dirt

Rub, and if they leave a rusty red smear, your cat has fleas


So this is a really simple way you can tell that there are fleas present, even when you can't see adult fleas.

If you do find fleas then you clearly need to treat your cat, as well as any other animals in the house. Here you can find all the details about killing fleas and eradicating an infestation!

There’s no harm in applying a treatment even if you can’t find any sign of fleas, and in fact prevention is generally a good idea. If your cat is continuing to scratch, groom excessively, or has any other skin problems, then taking them to the vet for a check up is going to be the next action step.

Getting on top of other skin problems can be frustrating, but a proper diagnosis is the first step!