How to Get Rid of Fleas on Kittens

Katy Nelson, DVM
Apr 07, 2020
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Fleas can make kittens itchy and spread disease, and if they’re really severe, they can even cause serious blood loss and illness.

Some methods for getting fleas off of pets, such as flea combing and bathing, will only kill the adult fleas on your kitten—they don’t prevent new fleas from jumping on them.

And because fleas have a complex life cycle, they don’t need to live on your pets to survive as eggs, larvae, and pupae. In these stages, they can live in your home or in your yard.

So how do you get rid of fleas on kittens? Which treatments are safe? Are there other gentle methods for ridding kittens of fleas?

Tips for Getting Rid of Fleas on Kittens

Making sure all pets in the house are treated for fleas, trying to manage fleas in the home and the environment, and washing bedding in hot water can all help reduce the transmission of fleas to kittens.

But when it comes to getting rid of fleas on kittens, here are some additional things to take into consideration.

Do Not Use Products With Permethrin

Cats actually have a very poor ability to process certain kinds of drugs and chemicals that humans and dogs can easily process. This poor processing ability means that these substances can be toxic for cats at very low doses, even though they are perfectly safe for dogs and humans.

One of the drugs cats have trouble with is permethrin. It’s found in many flea medications since it is effective against fleas. However, while it is safe for dogs, it’s very toxic to cats. Be extremely careful to check over-the-counter (OTC) flea products to make sure they don’t contain permethrin.

It’s critical that you read all labels very carefully. Even if a flea product is safe for cats, it does not mean that it is safe for kittens. If you’re not sure a product is safe, simply ask your veterinarian.

Do Not Use Essential Oils for Fleas on Kittens and Cats

Cats’ poor ability to process certain compounds also means that many kinds of essential oils can be toxic to cats, even at low doses and concentrations.

Many natural flea treatments use essential oils because they can be effective against fleas. However, essential oils can be very dangerous for cats, so it’s best to avoid these products, especially for kittens.

Look for Flea Treatments That Are Approved for Kittens

The best options for getting rid of fleas on kittens depends on their age and weight. An 8-week-old kitten only weighs about 1.5-2 pounds.

Most products are safe for use in kittens older than 8-10 weeks or over 1.5-2 pounds, but every product is different. Typically, flea products haven’t been tested on kittens younger or smaller than that, so they may contain doses that are too high for very young, tiny kittens.

Always read the warnings and instructions very carefully to be sure that a flea product will be safe and effective for your kitten. Your veterinarian can also help you find products to get rid of fleas on your kitten, regardless of their size and age.

Use Natural Methods to Get Rid of Fleas on Very Young Kittens

There are two ways to get rid of fleas on kittens that don’t require the use of flea products—bathing and flea combing. But both treatments only get rid of the adult fleas living on your kitten. They won’t prevent any new fleas living in the environment from getting on your kitten or other pets. So these methods are not long-term solutions but are safe for very young and small kittens that can’t safely use flea products yet. 

Here’s how you can help with fleas naturally.

Use a Flea Comb

For very young kittens—under 8 weeks—the safest option is using a flea comb on them once or twice a day. This will allow you to physically remove the adult fleas without exposing your young kitten to potentially toxic ingredients in products.

Give Your Kitten a Bath

Bathing your kitten is another pretty safe and effective option to help your kitten get rid of fleas. Follow these safety tips:

  • Don’t bathe your kitten more than twice a week, because frequent bathing can be damaging to their skin.

  • Keep your kitten warm during the bath and dry them quickly afterwards—kittens are not very good at maintaining their body temperature at this age.

  • Avoid flea shampoos, because they aren’t intended for use in kittens under 12 weeks of age.

  • If you use soap, choose a nonmedicated, tear-free, gentle soap only—like Dawn or baby shampoo. Soapy water helps prevent fleas from jumping out of the bathwater, although it isn’t actually necessary to remove or kill fleas.

  • Be sure to thoroughly rinse the soap off so your kitten doesn’t ingest the soap while grooming after the bath.

Start a Topical Treatment When Your Kitten Is Old Enough 

Once kittens are 8-10 weeks and over 1.5-2 pounds, they can safely receive appropriate topical flea treatments. These products not only kill fleas on your kitten but can prevent new fleas from hitching a ride on your pet.

There are numerous OTC and prescription options available for flea treatment that are safe and effective for kittens. If you’re using an OTC product, remember to check all ingredients and be sure to use the right dose for your kitten’s weight.

Your veterinarian can prescribe a safe product and also give you guidance on which OTC products would be safe and effective for your kitten.

Featured Image: iStock.com/SolStock

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