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How to Help Control Fleas in Feral Cats: 5 Vet Reviewed Tips & Tricks

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Most feral cats have difficult lives, and one common problem that they can have is being infested with fleas. These parasites can be quite dangerous and lead to other diseases, which is why feral cats with fleas need our help.

This article includes the best tips and tricks for helping to control fleas in feral cats and reduce the number of infested cats in your neighborhood.

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Why Are Fleas Dangerous for Cats?

Fleas are dangerous for cats and other animals because they can quickly spread from one host to another while causing other health-related problems. Fleas don’t need much in a host beyond a comfy place to live with adequate nourishment.

Felines are excellent hosts for these parasites because they are furry and warm, and their fur is often moist, which makes the perfect environment for fleas to live and multiply. Flea bites are annoying for cats because they hurt and itch, but scratching may lead to serious infections due to open wounds. Another danger of fleas is that they can carry other diseases that they may transfer to the host cat.

flea on cat's skin
Image Credit: thka, Shutterstock


Five Tips & Tricks to Help Control Fleas in Feral Cats

Now that you know how dangerous fleas are to cats, let’s consider ways to contribute to the community and help feral cats with fleas.

This list will help you get started and hopefully teach you how to assist the numerous feral cats with flea problems.

1. Engage in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

One of the best ways to help feral cats is to engage in TNR, which is a technique for trapping and neutering feral cats and returning them to where they were found.

While this technique is extremely beneficial for preventing the overpopulation of community cats, you can also use it as a chance to rid those cats of any fleas.

This technique will enable you to see if a cat is infested with fleas, which will help you determine which felines need treatment. Also, most cats that are neutered and have adequate shelter and enough food are less likely to have secondary issues from fleas, such as anemia.

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2. Put Food & Water Out for Feral Cats

Good nutrition can generally help cats stay strong and boost their immune system.

It’s best to give high-quality foods to community cats, but ensure that you are providing them in the right amounts to keep food from lying around. Avoid overfeeding, and try to limit the feedings to about 30 minutes every day.

Leaving food outside for long periods may attract wildlife, which can also carry fleas, so you should always prevent such situations.

Feral cats drinking water
Image Credit: stock-enjoy, Shutterstock
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3. Use All-Natural Insecticides

Potential options to control fleas in feral cats include using  all-natural insecticides. The two most common  options are as follows.

Diatomaceous Earth

This is a fine powder made out of tiny algae with hard shells called diatoms. This powder kills fleas on contact, so you can sprinkle it around the shelters of feral cats and in areas where they typically like to hang out.

Beneficial Nematodes

These beneficial worms feed on flea larvae but are entirely safe for cats. You can sprinkle these worms on areas where feral cats like to spend time and let them do their thing.

These worms reproduce quite rapidly and can drastically reduce flea populations in feral cats in just a couple of days. For the most successful results, it might be best to use a lawn sprayer to apply these worms while spraying them on shady, moist areas to promote faster reproduction.

Most of these worms die during cold weather, so you should re-apply them every spring, as that’s when fleas are the most active.

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4. Use Standard Flea Medicine

Using flea medicine can help control fleas in feral cats, but this is one of the most challenging things to try. Standard flea medicine used for household cats typically requires you to handle the feline, which may be tricky.

Still, there are versions that don’t require you to engage with the cat too much. Oral flea medicine can be put into the food that you plan on giving to feral cats. You can also add brewer’s yeast, which purportedly repels fleas.

Either way, before using medicine to treat fleas in feral cats, speak to your neighbors to ensure that no one else is trying to do the same thing. Otherwise, you may risk treating the same community felines repeatedly.

applying flea treatment to cat
Image Credit: Csaba Deli, Shutterstock
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5. Bathe Feral Kittens With a Flea-Eliminating Shampoo

If you stumble upon feral kittens with fleas, you can help them by giving them a bath with a flea-eliminating shampoo. Kittens are typically much easier to handle than adult feral cats, and you can safely return them to their original location after giving them a bath.

When bathing kittens, you should create a soapy ring around their neck and anus to prevent the fleas from escaping into the ears and other areas of their bodies.

It’s not ideal to try this with adult feral cats, as they are typically afraid of people, and such an interaction may traumatize them.


How Can You Know If a Feral Cat Has Fleas?

There are various ways to know whether a feral cat has fleas. To start, simply try to observe them and how they look and act.

Here are common signs of fleas in feral cats:
  • Itching that leads to excessive scratching
  • Skin scabbing
  • Restlessness
  • Overgrooming
  • Headshaking
  • Hair loss
  • Fleas jumping around the cat’s body

Can Humans Get Fleas From Feral Cats?

Many people are afraid that helping feral cats with their flea problems will transfer fleas to them. However, the chances of a feral cat transmitting a flea-borne disease to people are relatively low.

Also, most feral cats are afraid of people and mainly try to avoid them, so the chances of human-cat contact are low in general.

two feral cats on the table
Image Credit: Nathalie Jolie, Unsplash

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There are various ways that we can help control fleas in feral cats. People simply need to be informed about the ways that they can help and start implementing them.

Many people are afraid of feral cats with fleas, but they are entirely safe. However, they do need us to get them healthy, which is why you should try to help feral cats get rid of fleas and live healthy, normal lives.

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Featured Image Credit: Maja Marjanovic, Shutterstock