Cat Behaviour Different After Fleas

by Mark
(Leicester, UK)


I got my 10 year old ginger rescue cat, Percy, 8 months ago. He was in the cat sanctuary for a year before I got him and I was told that he used to be kicked by the previous owner's small children before they put him in there.

He was timid to start with and has a fiery temper, but became very loving and would come for a pet at least once a day. He loves being outside and since it has gotten warmer has spent more time outside. He used to always come wandering in every few hours and often fell asleep somewhere in my house.

Now in August, he recently had fleas. The first spot-on treatment by a company called Bob Martin did not work and so I went to the vet and bought Frontline spot-on as well as a household spray Indorex. I have now treated him and the house.

Since getting fleas, which I think he probably had for 3-4 weeks, he began staying out longer and the week before I treated him, he only came in to feed every day, staying out all night in any weather. The few times he came into the house, he would run over the carpet to get to the wooden floor, I expect because of the fleas.

The fleas have now been treated and the infestation has subsided. I have checked him and he seems clean, but have noticed a few on my bed still, so plan to retreat the house tomorrow.

Percy seems a bit withdrawn and won't play with me. He used to love to chase one particular feathery toy, but now has no interest.

I'm guessing he now associates the house with being bitten, but not sure why he seems so subdued. Do fleas have this effect or is it the constant itching? Hopefully, if I give him some time, he will come around again.

I thought I might start keeping him inside at night by locking the cat flap so he becomes reacquainted with the house and learns that he won't be bitten inside (once the fleas have been completely irradicated). Also, my friend's cat recently got hit by a car and died; thought that might also be prudent as I live near a main road.

Anyway, hopefully you can shed some light and offer a little reassurance.

Many thanks,

Hi, Mark,

I learned long ago that one can never understand the minds of cats completely and that anything is possible. However, having said that, I feel rather strongly that your cat is not avoiding the house due to the fear of being bitten by fleas in the house. There are plenty of fleas outdoors to bite him.

One thought would be that your kitty simply became more and more interested in spending time outdoors as many cats do in the warm weather.

Running to the wood floor rather than carpet is something many cats do in warm weather because the wood is cooler. It may also be more soothing to his itchy skin.

My biggest concern is about his decreased playfulness and whether it could be attributed to not feeling well from one of two reasons: (1) either the flea treatment itself (in the future I would highly recommend you use only Frontline or Advantage or something recommended by your own veterinarian. There have been many illnesses and even deaths from many flea products bought in stores without the advice of a veterinarian.)

This also applies to anything you have used to treat the house. I personally will not treat my house with any type of pesticides because I have cats. Cats are very sensitive to toxins; their livers do not have the ability to breakdown chemicals as well as the livers of people or dogs. If I have a flea problem, I stick with the old-fashioned vacuum cleaner method (lots of vacuuming and throwing out the bag)and monthly use of Frontline.

(2) The other possibility would be that his lethargy is indeed a response to feeling uncomfortable from fleas and itchiness.

I strongly advise you continue the Frontline monthly even in the winter months to be sure all fleas are gone. I also think you should take him back to the vet for a check-up to make sure he is not having a reaction to the household flea treatments or the treatment you used prior to Frontline.

Keeping him indoors at night is an excellent idea, not only to get him to spend more time with you, but because night is the most dangerous time for a kitty to be outdoors.

I hope this helps. If he has a check-up and is deemed healthy by your veterinarian, I'm sure over time you can rekindle and deepen your relationship with him. Keep the fleas away and keep him indoors as much as possible, buy some new toys, try some catnip, treats, favorite foods, and things should work out.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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