No-one wants to discover that their cat has fleas but this is one problem that you cannot ignore. If you don’t act fast, you could have a major infestation in your house. There are several products that can help you, the flea comb is one of them. Here’s a useful guide to the best flea combs for cats.
Best Flea Combs for Cats Buying Guide & FAQ
What Makes a Good Cat Flea Comb?
The obvious characteristic of a good flea comb for cats is that it helps with the elimination and prevention of fleas on your kitty and therefore in your home. Anything that makes the comb more effective, or easier to use, is a plus. Here are some features that cat owners have found positive.
- Teeth close together. Fleas are small and flea eggs are even smaller so the closer together the teeth are, the more likely they are to be able to remove both fleas and eggs. Some combs with teeth that are wider apart are great for regular grooming and may remove adult fleas but they will leave eggs behind.
- Metal/plastic teeth. Some cat Moms and Dads prefer a plastic flea comb for cats because they feel that the teeth will be kinder to kitty’s skin. On the other hand, others prefer the stainless-steel teeth because they are less likely to snap off if you hit a knot in kitty’s coat. The combs with plastic teeth seem to stand up fairly well to normal use and even metal teeth have been known to bend.
- Teeth of two lengths. The combs with two sets of teeth, of differing lengths, are useful if you want to groom your cat and remove fleas at the same time. The longer teeth can tackle knots whilst the shorter teeth deal with the fleas. This is a good way to save time and effort, especially if your kitty is not a big fan of being combed! However, some experienced cat owners advise against using the same comb for both jobs.
- Double rows of teeth. Two rows of teeth are more effective at removing fleas because they can cover more fur per stroke. In some cats, it may make it more difficult for the comb to slide effortlessly through the fur.
- Teeth at different widths. Some combs are actually two combs in one. One side can be used for grooming as it has wider teeth and the other side has narrower gaps between the teeth and is for flea control. It is a matter of personal preference if you feel this makes the comb less comfortable for you to grip. It certainly means you don’t have to hunt around for two combs before the grooming session starts.
- Teeth with rounded ends. To protect your cat’s sensitive skin, some combs have teeth with rounded ends to cut down the likelihood of cuts and scratches.
- Bright colour. This may sound like a fashion statement but it is a lot more practical than that. Fleas are a grey/black colour and show up better against bright colours. You will be able to spot them nestling amongst the base of the teeth in a brightly coloured comb. This is why many flea combs are made in bright colours.
- Comfortable handle. Using a flea comb can be hard work especially if you have a kitty with a beautiful long coat. If you are going to spend a lot of time on this activity, it makes sense to have a comb with an ergonomically designed handle to prevent aches and pains. Some handles are plastic, others are rubber and others are wood.
- Easy to grip. You have to apply a reasonable amount of force when you are using a flea comb for cats so there is the possibility of it flying out of your hand. An easy to grip handle cuts down the chances of this happening and makes it safer for you and your cat.
- Electrical combs. Electric flea combs work by sending a low-level electric current through the flea to ‘zap’ it. The usefulness of this depends on how tolerant your kitty is of low-level noises. They are, however, perfectly safe and will not hurt your cat as long as you use on dry fur only.
Benefits of Using Flea Combs for Cats
The predominant benefit of using a cat flea comb is that it will help to prevent and treat an infestation of cat fleas. Here’s why this should be a priority for you as a cat owner.
Why Worry about Cat Fleas at all?
The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common flea species on the planet. Other species of flea sometimes live on cats but the cat flea is the one that is hardest to get rid of. Your kitty can pick up fleas from another cat or from eggs in your yard or your house.
Cat fleas are so successful as a parasite because they can complete their entire lifecycle in just two weeks if the conditions are right. The fleas prefer warm, humid environments, so our homes are just perfect for them which is bad news for you and your kitty.
The stages of the lifecycle are:
- Eggs – 20 – 50 eggs are produced by each adult female every day (which adds up to 1,500 in a lifetime), they fall off your cat and into your house/yard before hatching into larvae
- Larvae – eat organic debris until eventually building cocoons and becoming pupae
- Pupae – lie dormant for up to several months waiting for the right conditions to hatch into adults
- Adult – lie in wait for a cat to jump onto where they will spend the rest of their life and mate to start the whole cycle all over again. As fleas can leap more than a hundred times their own body length they will have no trouble getting onto your kitty!
It’s obvious that with this life-cycle, what starts with just a few cat fleas can turn into a big problem very quickly. If you don’t step in and do something about it, you will soon have a major infestation.
Human Health Issues Associated with Fleas
A cat flea infestation has health implications for both you and your cat.
Cat fleas will not live for long periods of time on humans but they will be quite happy to hop on you and try to feed on your blood. Fleas regurgitate (vomit up) digestive juices onto your skin when they bite you and this causes a lot of irritation on human skin. Some humans react badly. Flea bites on human skin usually look like small, red bumps with a red “halo” around the bite centre, they occur in groups usually on the ankles. They will itch, the skin will be sore, you may get hives or develop a rash. Secondary bacterial infections can set up in the broken skin.
Cat Health Issues and Fleas
Fleas are much more than simply an inconvenience for cats although their mere presence will annoy your kitty. You will know that your cat has fleas because they will persistently scratch, may over-groom and could even end up with bald patches. They can develop spots or redness and irritation and thickened skin in areas (e.g. around ear edges).
Some cats develop severe allergic reactions to flea bites. ‘Fleabite allergic dermatitis’ is a recognised health issue in cats and it can develop over the course of a cat’s life. When your kitty is allergic to flea bites they will groom and scratch excessively for every single flea bite. Their skin will look red, there will be hair loss and the itching can last for up to five days.
Cat fleas carry diseases. A more common one is cat flea rickettsiosis which can make both you and your cat ill. It causes headaches, chills, fever, vomiting, and a rash. Cat fleas can also carry tapeworm.
Fleas pose a special danger to kittens, old cats and ill cats as the blood loss can cause anaemia.
Cat fleas are a danger to rabbits because they can transmit myxomatosis.
Flea combs are not the only flea control for cats. You also have the option of powders, sprays and spot-ons which are applied to the skin. You can use flea-collars which contain insecticide and are worn all the time. There are also tablets, liquids and injections containing chemicals that enter the bloodstream and therefore enter the flea when it sucks the cat’s blood.
What’s Better About a Flea Comb?
There are several benefits of using a flea comb for cats that the other flea control for cats methods do not have.
- Immediate effect. The first is that they will immediately remove adult fleas and this can bring immediate relief from itching. Other methods may take a while to work. They also provide you with information! You can identify if your cat actually has fleas at that time and get an idea about how heavy the infestation is.
- Safe for sensitive cats. They are great for removing fleas from cats that cannot use chemical flea products due to sensitive skin
- Safe for kittens. Kittens are too young to use some flea products safely. Your vet can advise on what is safe based on your kitten’s age and weight. If you don’t follow their advice you can make your little kitten extremely ill or even cause their death. Homeopathic, essential oil-based substances are not a suitable flea treatment for kittens.
- Chemical-free. Flea combs are 100 per cent safe because there are no chemicals involved. You can rest assured that you are not harming kitty in any way.
- Cost–effective. In theory, a one-off purchase of a flea comb can last for years.
- Good for your relationship! Cats groom each other to show affection and to bond. Flea-coming may be a bit time-consuming but it is also a great way of showing your kitty that you love them.
- Useful for a health check. Whilst you are flea combing kitty you can have a quick check for other health issues such as ticks, skin conditions and matted fur.
Q: What is a flea comb for cats?
A: Flea combs are a fine-toothed device that you can use to find fleas (and remove them) from pets. They can be used in addition to or as an alternative to other flea treatments. Several varieties are available with plastic, rubber or wooden handles and plastic or metal alloy teeth.
Q: How do I use a flea comb on a cat?
A: Some cats are very happy to be combed with a flea comb but others can get very distressed. You can cut down the levels of stress by identifying the areas of the body where your cat is most sensitive. Also check them over for infected flea bites as these will be very sore and you need to take great care around these.
Brush your cat first to remove knots or tangles. It is best to do this outside as fleas will leap from a cat when they are disturbed and will take up residence in your sofa or carpet.
Pour some lemon based dishwashing detergent into some hot water in a small dish. Start with the head and neck region and work backwards by combing a section then cleaning off the comb in the water every couple of brushes. Periodically check for fleas stuck in the comb and remove them with a damp paper towel. If you are using an electric flea comb you must not use water.
Q: How often should I use combs for cats?
A: This depends on a number of factors. If you live near areas where fleas are found (trees and grass) and if your cat mixes a lot with other cats in your area, you may find that you have to comb every day or at least every other day.
However, if your cat never goes out, or you are using another flea control method, you will just have to do it periodically to check if they have picked up an infestation. Flea control works best when you are being proactive!
Q: Can a cat flea comb completely get rid of fleas?
A: This question divides opinion. Some owners claim that they have successfully controlled cat fleas with just a comb but others are of the opinion that this is not possible.
If you have an isolated flea problem that has just occurred, you may be able to control it with just combing. However, if your kitty has a lot of fleas and you have noticed flea dirt (eggs and larvae) in your carpets and bedding then you are likely to need another form of treatment as well.
Due to the life-cycle of the cat flea and the huge numbers of eggs that they produce, you will certainly have to tackle the environment within which your cat lives as well. This can involve regular vacuuming and treatment of bedding and rugs.
Our Top Pick
Safari Flea Comb with a Double Row of Teeth
A flea comb with a double row of stainless steel teeth to remove even more fleas and eggs. Works especially well on short hair. Easy to hold, brightly coloured handle that does not slip out of your hand.