Bed bugs are becoming one of the top concerns for households in the U.S. as many people have a perception of immunity to them; they believe bed bugs are only present in the filthiest, most run-down apartments.
But bed bugs do not discriminate. They can be everywhere where food sources—people and pets—are currently feeding off, from the most beautiful homes to the most exceptional hotels. This means, yes, your cat can carry bed bugs into your bedroom, living room, and just about anywhere!
What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs
Pets can carry bed bugs into your home; these little insects are tenacious and love to hitch a ride on a host. But bed bugs aren’t usually found outdoors in a significant enough capacity to cause an infestation in your home. While it’s not impossible to find one outdoors—they had to come in from somewhere after all—your pet is more likely to carry some invaders if they’ve recently visited an environment with a bed bug infestation.
Unlike lice and fleas, bed bugs don’t live on their hosts. They live in the surrounding environment and feed off their food sources when they’re present and available, like lying in bed. Since bed bugs don’t spend as much time in your pet’s fur as conventional pests, they’re unlikely to be found just lazing about. However, they’re highly effective hitchhikers that could take a ride to your home in your pet’s fur if you take them to a location with a bed bug infestation.
Getting rid of bed bugs is far easier than accidentally bringing them into your home. It’s much easier to avoid bed bugs than to get rid of them; even most conventional bug bombs and other pest control methods pale when it comes to defeating these virulent pests.
What Are the Risks to Pets from Bed Bugs?
The most significant risk bed bugs pose to your pet is their bites. While they’re generally no worse than a typical bug bite—and they can be nearly indistinguishable visually—any itchy bug bite runs the risk of becoming infected from scratching.
This is especially true for cats who don’t have the same knowledge base of bed bugs and their bites. They scratch because it feels good, and they don’t have the necessary advanced knowledge not to do so.
Cats and dogs are also exposed to various pathogens that humans rarely encounter. They often interact with dirty things outside or in the litter box. Even in a clean home, your cat faces daily contact with pathogens and germs that stay far away from you.
Realistically, bed bugs will be more of a nuisance than a significant health risk. Still, they top the charts of the “nuisance pest” list for bugs when it comes to how much of a nuisance bed bugs are.
I Think My House Has Bed Bugs! What Do I Do?
The first thing you should do when you think you have bed bugs is to contact a professional pest management service. Not only will they be able to diagnose your pest problem correctly, but they’ll also be able to treat it most effectively. Bug bombs purchased from a local store will almost certainly not be strong enough to treat a bed bug infestation; you need a professional-grade product that requires licensing.
Let the pest management service know that you have pets and tell them what type of pets you have; different products are safe for other animals. Personally request that they use the safest possible pesticides for your family and pets.
In November of 2012, the CDC released an advisory about health issues associated with the misuse of pesticides in controlling bed bugs. If you intend to use a pesticide in your home, ensure that you read and follow all label instructions. Ensure that the label states that the pesticide can be used on bed bugs—otherwise, the treatment will not work—and that it is EPA-approved by looking for the EPA registration number. Further, ensure that the pesticide is rated for and safe for indoor use.
Once you’ve confirmed a pest control service will come to treat your home, you’ll need to figure out what you’ll do with your pet and their things. You probably won’t need to throw away their bedding like you would your own. Bed bugs don’t find pet bedding to be as hospitable as human bedding, and they prefer human blood, so they’re more likely to gravitate to places where they can get it.
Laundering your pet’s bedding at the hottest temperature settings (at least 120° in the wash and medium or high settings on the dryer.) Be careful not to spread the bed bugs to your pet’s bedding when you bring the bedding to the laundry and sort it.
If the materials can’t be washed but can be put in the dryer. Dry them on medium to high heat for 10–20 minutes. This will help kill any bed bugs that made your cat’s bed their home.
If bedding or clothing has tears or holes, get rid of them. Put the bedding in a sealable plastic bag, seal it, and mark it with something that indicates it’s infested with bed bugs—like writing “INFESTED WITH BED BUGS” on the bag. Then toss it. Putting it in a plastic bag protects other people from interacting with an item infested with bed bugs.
Are Flea & Tick Preventatives Effective Against Bed Bugs?
While flea and tick preventatives may offer some protection against bed bugs, few of them are rated for use against these pests. Since these pests do not infest the pet’s body, there’s no reason to seek to put a preventative pesticide in their treatments.
To treat the infestation, you should only use products rated for a specific infestation. A veterinarian must treat cats infested with bed bugs to eradicate the infestation.
While our pets aren’t immune to bed bugs, they’re at a much lower risk of dealing with them than we are since bed bugs prefer to feed on human hosts. Still, you should be vigilant about protecting your home and family from bed bugs; they’re so hard to get rid of once you have them! The best medicine is prevention!
Featured Image Credit: lev.studio, Shutterstock