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Is It True That All Stray Cats Have Fleas? The Facts & FAQ

stray cats lying on the ground
Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Sarah Psaradelis

It is fair to assume that all stray cats have fleas simply because they are more likely to be exposed to other animals infested with fleas. If a stray cat has been on the streets for a long time, they are likely going to be malnourished and in a weakened state. However, not all stray cats may have fleas.

If you have found a stray cat that seems to be in good condition and is a new stray in the area, then they may not have fleas and could be a lost or abandoned pet. Fleas are commonly found on stray and feral cats, so it is good to be cautious when handling stray cats and preventing your pet cat from interacting with them.

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Do Stray Cats Have Fleas?

stray cats resting on the ground
Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

Yes, it is common for most stray or feral cats to have fleas because they are more likely to pick them up and have no owners that are getting them treated. Fleas are a common problem with all cats, especially with feral cats that have been stray for a long time. Stray cats are a common problem in many neighborhoods and fleas are a concern for rescuers and people who handle stray cats.

Aside from issues with malnourishment, overpopulation amongst feral cats, and diseases, fleas are a problem in stray cats according to TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs. Nearly all stray cats that have been strays for a while are guaranteed to be infested with fleas or carry their eggs, regardless of the season.

Keep in mind that you will not always be able to tell if a stray cat has fleas, as severe infestations are more likely to present symptoms in affected stray cats. It will be safe to assume that all stray cats may be carrying fleas even if you cannot be certain by looking at the cat’s overall health.

Why Do Stray Cats Get Fleas?

Fleas and their eggs can be found in most outdoor environments which is why stray cats are at risk of picking up fleas. Even if the fleas themselves are not present in the environment, a cat’s fur can still hold a flea’s eggs that will hatch later.

Fleas can travel quickly in colonies of feral or stray cats which can quickly lead to an infestation. Not only does a stray cat’s health suffer from fleas, but they put other neighborhood cats at risk. Stray cats on the street are not getting regular flea and tick treatments, so the cats are more likely to fall victim to infestations. It is inevitable for stray cats to not get fleas because they spend so much time outside where fleas can be found. Stray cats can also pick up fleas and other parasites by eating rats, mice, and birds that are affected by fleas.

How To Tell If a Stray Cat Has Fleas

close up fleas on cat
Image Credit: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock

It is difficult to determine if a stray cat has fleas unless they have a major flea infestation. However, there are some signs you can look out for that might indicate whether a stray cat has fleas.

  • Excessive scratching and grooming
  • Biting at their fur and legs, and appearing restless
  • Poor coat condition with patches of dry skin
  • Healing or open wounds from the rigorous scratching and biting
  • Small bite marks on the cat’s skin
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness

Most stray cats will appear to be underweight or will have a grungy coat because they are usually malnourished, and their fur can get trapped with dirt. The best way to get a stray cat checked for fleas is to take them to a veterinarian or contact a local cat rescuer who works with strays and can take them to a veterinarian for you. Stray cats will probably be too scared or stressed to allow you to look closely at their fur.

Luckily, fleas are easy to treat in feral cats by using flea and tick medications or topical ointments that can be administrated by a veterinarian. The first thing many stray cat rescuers will do when they acquire a stray cat is to give them flea treatment.

Can You Get Fleas from Stray Cats?

Fleas prefer to stay on the host; however, fleas can bite humans or jump onto your clothes which can travel into your home and affect your pets.

You should always be cautious when handling stray cats because they are likely to be carrying fleas. Fleas can attach themselves to clothes and pet fur, so always make sure you sanitize any travel crates, blankets, and other bedding that stray cats come into contact with if you are helping a stray cat by taking them to a veterinarian or rescuing them from the harsh life on the streets.

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Final Thoughts

Stray cats are likely to have fleas because of their outdoor living environment, and since they are not getting regular flea treatments, there are no control methods to stop stray cats from getting infested. If you find a stray cat and want to help it, you should always wash any items that the stray cat was near to be safe. This includes your clothing, bedding, and travel crates.

Featured Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

About the Author

Sarah Psaradelis
Sarah Psaradelis
Sarah Psaradelis is an avid young writer with dual passions for literature and animals. She enjoys sharing knowledge of animal care and helping others. Sarah has over 8 years of writing experience and is currently studying veterinary science. She resides in South Africa where she takes care of fish, aquarium snails, dogs, and rodents. Sarah is a passionate vegan activist and animal rescuer pursuing her path to make the world a better place for humans and animals alike.

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