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If you've read part 1 of this series, you now have an idea of the type of kitten that would fit in with your family and lifestyle, and the importance of early socialisation and experiences.

So it’s time to get practical with the types of equipment you will need to provide for your new family member, and think about how you can set up your home to be a safe and non-threatening environment for your new bundle of mischief. 

It’s best to have all equipment prepared prior to bringing your kitten home so that it can immediately explore and start to feel comfortable in its new home, without too many subsequent changes. 

Cats are creatures of habit and are territorial, so whichever areas of your home you want them to use for sleeping, feeding, toileting etc., should be established from day 1. 

Setting up the basics

#1. Cat carrier:
Arya travels in a pre-loved pet carrier but does not mind getting in and out, even at the vet!

Shelters will often provide a temporary cardboard carrier for you to transport your new family member home, but it’s a good idea to invest in a good-quality carrier which will last the lifetime of your kitten

The author’s current cat (the lovely Maggie) currently travels in a carrier that is 20 years old and still going strong, so the initial financial outlay is well worth it. The carrier needs to be large enough for an adult cat to stand, lie down, stretch and move around comfortably, with enough holes to allow good air flow, and a comfortable blanket or other padding. 

Carriers with removable tops are great because when your kitten goes to the V-E-T the carrier roof can easily be removed, allowing an examination without trying to drag a scared and reluctant cat out of the carrier door. 

#2. Food and water bowls:

Cats prefer to have their food and water sources separate from one another, therefore providing both in a ”double” bowl is not advised. However, these bowls can be used to separate wet and dry food. 

Also consider that eating from a bowl is a very “human” activity and by providing meals in bowls we are forcing our pets to abandon their natural behaviours and instincts. 

Maggie is searching for treats in a DIY feeder made from empty toilet rolls

There are many interactive feeders commercially available or you can make your own, to safely foster your kitten’s hunting instinct and keep mealtimes interesting and challenging (imagine how boring it must be for natural hunters to have their food placed in front of them in a bowl every single day). 

The water bowl should be sturdy enough not to be tipped over. Most cats do not like their whiskers touching the sides of their bowls or dunking their heads into deep bowls, so wider and shallower bowls are preferable. Some cats like plastic bowls; others prefer ceramic or metal, so if your kitten does not appear to like one, try another. 

Some cats will prefer to drink from a running water source
, such as from a tap; if your kitten likes hijacking your sinks and playing with or drinking running water, you might like to consider a pet water fountain. 

Ask what diet your kitten was fed at the shelter or breeder and continue feeding this at home to begin with. If you plan to change the diet, do so gradually, over a 7-10 day period, to avoid gastro-intestinal upsets from a sudden diet change

Cats can also become fixated on particular diets, and some will simply refuse to eat a new food that suddenly appears due to its unfamiliar taste, texture or smell. (On the other hand, some cats will eat anything and everything they are offered, and then some!) 

Kittens need a balanced growth diet; ask your veterinary professional for advice about which diets are appropriate, but generally speaking try to avoid “supermarket” diets as these are usually a much poorer quality food with variable ingredients and inappropriate levels of nutrients, such as increased salt to make them more palatable. 

There are many other important dietary considerations, which are beyond the scope of this article, but providing an appropriate diet is one of the most important ways you can keep your furry friend healthy. 

#3. Litter tray 

Even cats with outside access should be provided with a tray inside. The litter tray should be situated well away from food and water sources. Cats are fastidiously clean animals; would you want to be eating in close proximity to your toilet? 

Ideally the tray will be located in an area which does not see a lot of foot traffic; again, consider your own preferences! A corner of the laundry or bathroom generally works well, however also consider how happy your kitten might be to use their tray while the washing machine or tumble dryer are running!
If you have multiple cats, the advice is to provide 1 litter tray per cat plus 1 extra (ie: 4 trays for 3 cats), with these trays situated in various locations. This ensures your cats can access at least 1 tray, particularly if they are territorial, and they are not all fighting for this important resource. 

Many commercially available litter trays are too small, so consider the size your kitten will become as it matures to adulthood. The tray length should be 1.5 times the length of the cat (including the tail), enabling the cat to move around in the tray comfortably. Tray sides should be low enough for your kitten to get in and out; smaller kittens might prefer a flatter tray (resembling a baking tray). 

Hooded trays are popular, allowing a cat to climb in and have a “private“ toileting experience, as most of us would prefer ourselves! 
Arya quickly took to her PetSafe ScoopFree self-cleaning litter box but after 3 months
 we had to remove the hood as she felt a little cramped!

However, some cats don’t like to feel “trapped” inside these trays, which happens sometimes in a multi-cat household when a dominant cat blocks another cat in a confined space. 

There are many types of cat litter commercially available; once again personal preference of individual cats comes into play. Types of litter or “substrate” include recycled paper, wooden pellets, clay-based or sand/small pebbles. 

The author doesn’t advocate the use of scented litter products because although humans might like the idea of masking the aroma of the litter tray with a flowery or fruity scent, cats tend to dislike these and they could deter your kitten from using the tray. 

It is preferable to clean the tray and replace soiled litter on a regular basis to minimise odours. Find out what litter type the kitten is used to and use this as your kitten settles in, then gradually change to a new litter type if you prefer to change it. Bear in mind that if your kitten starts toileting elsewhere, this could be a way of expressing its dissatisfaction with the toileting conditions you have provided! 

#4. Bedding:

It’s important that your kitten has its own comfortable sleeping area, located in a quiet area of the house, and ideally raised off floor level (cats like to be up high). Remember that kittens need a lot of sleep in between all those entertaining antics! 

Ensure your kitten is not disturbed once it has retreated to its private bed (or preferred nap spot), and teach children that they should not disturb the kitten during these times. 

Naturally, many cats will make themselves comfortable elsewhere such as the dog’s basket, human beds, furniture and the lap of the person who likes them the least, however their own designated bed should always be available as well. 

#5. Scratching post:

Scratching is an important behaviour for cats and serves several functions. Rather than try to prevent scratching, train your kitten (without punishing them) to scratch only in designated areas.

Kittens are fast learners and can learn quickly which are the appropriate scratching spots and which are not: such as the leather couch, the carpet, or the leg of any available human!
 Candice's cat Cee with her scratching post and toy collection

Scratching posts and toys can be either vertical or horizontal and your kitten will often have a preference for one or the other so follow its cues when providing scratching equipment. An important consideration is that many vertical scratching posts are far too short, even for a kitten.

Ensure the post is tall enough that the kitten can stretch up at full length on its hind legs, and as the kitten grows to full size the post might need to be replaced. Also ensure the post has a sturdy base and cannot be tipped over when in use. 

#6. Cat Toys:

There is no shortage of kitten and cat toys available, and let’s face it, when it comes to playing every cat is a kitten! Do you choose “fishing” toys on rods and string, feather toys, rattle balls, squeaky mice, climbing frames, tunnels… or all of the above? 

Safety is a major consideration when providing toys for your kitten. Ensure there are no small parts which could break off and be swallowed, and invest in toys that are sturdy enough to last more than a single playtime! 

Toys also don’t need to cost the Earth!

To a kitten a cardboard box, a ping pong ball and a piece of string tied to a peg are just as entertaining as expensive designer toys. 

Remember to rotate toys periodically so that your kitten doesn’t become bored with them. Compared with dogs, cats have been a domestic species for a much shorter time and it’s important that we are meet all of their behavioural and environmental (stimulation and enrichment) needs when we impose our human domestic ideals onto them. 

Remember also that cats love having their humans play with them, and this interaction is an important way of strengthening the human-cat bond. 

So, get down on your knees and drag that fish-on-string or bat that rattly ball across the floor – and watch your own stress levels come down! 

Written by Candice Drew, September 2020 for Australian Cat Lover (all rights reserved).

About the Writer

Candice qualified as a veterinary nurse in Australia in 2005, being awarded the Novartis Award for Outstanding Achievement in Veterinary Nursing in her qualifying year. 
She has worked extensively in Australia and the UK, and is a UK Registered Veterinary Nurse. Candice is experienced in general practice, shelter nursing and referral nursing (Surgery and Emergency & Critical Care [ECC]). 

She attained the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (surgical) in 2009, qualified as a trainer & assessor in 2015, and completed the ISFM Diploma in Feline Nursing in 2018. Candice is interested in most aspects of veterinary nursing but her passions are feline nursing, ECC and working with students.
Candice is the happy slave of a 10-year-old rescue cat named “Maggie”, whom she adopted in January 2018.

Stranded cats and dogs to be reunited with owners under new arrangement

Cats and dogs may now be transhipped via Sydney to the Post Entry Quarantine Facility in Melbourne under a new temporary arrangement with Qantas airlines when there is no option for them to fly directly to Melbourne.

Minster for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud said the temporary arrangement is great news for Australians with pets stranded overseas due the pandemic.

“Pets are part of the family in almost every household in Australia,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The Australian Government understands how hard it has been for some pet owners to make the difficult decision to leave their pets behind due to the COVID-19 inflicted travel restrictions.

“That is why we have worked with Qantas to offer an alternative arrangement for cats and dogs to be reunited with their families during these difficult times.

“Qantas has demonstrated they can effectively comply with all of Australia’s biosecurity requirements and I thank them for their work to make this a reality, Minister Littleproud said.

“Biosecurity will never be traded off and import conditions must be met in full before any pet can come to Australia.

“Despite current state government COVID restrictions our quarantine facility continues to operate and meet demand from pet owners for bookings.

“We also shouldn’t forget that throughout the pandemic my department has worked closely with owners, pet transport agents and airlines on arrangements that have safely delivered over 1200 pets to our Quarantine facility in Melbourne since May.

“This arrangement will allow those pets waiting overseas where there are no direct flights to Melbourne to get home to Australia.

“I look forward to seeing Australian’s being reunited with their beloved pets and hope that this brings some happiness during a difficult period.”

Chief Customer Officer, Qantas Freight International, Nick McGlynn said pet movements into Australia remain restricted due to the limited number of flights, but the option to use Sydney as a transfer port will go a long way towards helping reunite them with their owners.

“Setting up Sydney as an alternative pet transfer hub has been made possible due to the close collaboration between a number of government departments and Qantas,” Mr McGlynn said.

Fast Facts

Cats and dogs entering Australia must still undergo a quarantine period in the Australian Government Post Entry Quarantine Facility in Mickleham, Melbourne. 

Nearly 2800 dogs and cats have arrived in Australia during 2020 including more than 1200 since May 2020 when air transport for pets recommenced following an airline-imposed embargo in March 2020.

This is around 60 per cent of the volume in same period in 2019.

Transhipment is only available under limited eligibility, where other flights are not available. 
Given the preparation that must be undertaken to prepare animals for their journey this arrangement will be available from late September.

Information on biosecurity requirements to bring cats and dogs to Australia is available at

Where a direct service into Melbourne is not operating, pet owners will need to contact a local pet travel specialist to arrange their pet travel.

The option to use Sydney as a transfer port is contingent upon available capacity and services for connections into Melbourne. 
Where there is an identified need, the airlines will work with the department on making suitable arrangements for transfer flights.

MEDIA RELEASE, 18th September 2020

Mission ImPAWsible: Aussie families desperate to bring stranded pets home

Kindness and compassion in pet rescue triumph in these tough times

The Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards is proud to announce the finalists of the 2020 Awards, which celebrate and recognise achievements in the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of companion animals Australia-wide.

“The Rescue Awards is the platform to showcase excellence and innovation in rescue, and it’s more important than ever to shine the light on the rescue industry and the innovations they have implemented to keep on going in these difficult times,” said Cathy Beer, Rescue Awards founder and rescue advocate from Pets4Life, an independent education resource for cat and dog guardians.

In its third year, the Rescue Awards have attracted more than 1,000 entries across 10 categories, including many excellent industry submissions from around the country!

The Advocate® People’s Rescue Story category received more than 850 entries of pet adoption. The new Drontal® Foster Carer Story category attracted more than 120 inspiring submissions.

“Companion animals are more than cats and dogs. It’s great to see rabbits, rats and a horse among our amazing finalists this year,” said Cathy. “The judges were moved by remarkable stories of resilience and human-animal bond. The entries are an inspiration to rescue organisations to continue their efforts in saving and rehoming companion animals.”

This year, Jetpets is again the Platinum Rescue Hero and naming Partner.

Jetpets General Manager Sandy Matheson said, “Jetpets is proud to support the Companion Animal Rescue Awards in its third year. In a year which has been challenging in so many different respects, it has been amazing to see how the fantastic and inspiring work rescue groups and volunteers continue to devote around Australia. Jetpets are grateful and congratulate all of the finalists in 2020.”

20 Judges, 10 Categories

The Finalists were determined by a large panel of highly respected judges who have donated their time and expertise to assess the Rescue Awards entries. For a list of the panel and biographies, please visit here.

2020 Finalists

1. Outstanding Rescue Group: Perth Rescue Angels (WA), Greyhound Rescue NSW, Forever Friends Animal Rescue (VIC), Hunter Animal Rescue (NSW), Maggies Rescue Co-operative (NSW)

2. Outstanding New Rescue Group: Liberty Foundation Australia (NSW), A Safe Place for Meow (NT), BARRC (WA), Cat Lovers Ballarat (VIC)

3. Outstanding Animal Shelter: Cat Haven WA, Central Coast Animal Care Facility (NSW), Rachie’s Ratirement Home (QLD), Sydney’s Animals For Everyone (SAFE) (NSW)

4. Outstanding Council Animal Shelter: Townsville City Council (QLD), Shoalhaven Animal Shelter (NSW)

5. Innovation in Rescue: Paws & Recover (NSW), Central Coast Animal Care Facility (NSW), Sunny Days Cat Cottage Stray Cat Rehab (VIC), Defence Community Dogs (VIC)

6. Community Education and Outreach Program: Second Chance Animal Rescue (VIC), West Cairns Management Program (QLD), Banyule’s Free Cat Desexing Program (VIC), RSPCA NSW HEART

7. Volunteer of the Year: Krystall Lloyd VIC (Campaspe Animal Shelter), Shelley Tinworth NSW (Greyhound Rescue), Cheryll Keneally SA (Safe Pets Safe Families), Mel Tarei WA (SAFE Bunbury), Peter Sharp NSW (Sydney Dogs and Cats Home), Leanne Simpson NSW (Hunter Animal Rescue), Margot Undercliff NSW (Greyhound Rescue NSW)

8. Refuel Digital Technology Award (new): Greyhound Rescue NSW, Cat Haven WA, The Rabbit Sanctuary NSW, Greys4PetsInc (QLD)

9. Advocate® People’s Rescue Story: Find out the 10 finalists here.

10. Drontal® Foster Carer Story (new): Find out the 5 finalists here.

Plus a Special Foster Carer Award: Mumma Zura, a blue American Staffy who has fostered over 200 puppies. To find more, click here

Winners Announcement

The winners will be revealed at a virtual Rescue Awards Ceremony at 4pm AEDT on 15 October 2020. Join in the celebration and watch this special event live via the Rescue Awards Facebook page at @rescueawards

Thank you to our Official Rescue Awards Ceremony Supporter, Nature’s Gift and wonderful Supporters for donating cash prizes and/or products and services for the winners.

For updates on the Rescue Awards program, please visit, sign up to the e-newsletter or follow the Rescue Awards on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. #jetpetsrescueawards2020

Photo Credit (all): Jo Lyons Photography

MEDIA RELEASE, 16th September 2020
So, you’ve decided to become a cat parent?

Congratulations on your decision to adopt a kitten and make it part of your family. 

Being owned by a cat is a huge responsibility and comes with many sacrifices, as well as countless years of entertainment and companionship. There are many things to consider when deciding which kitten will be right for you, depending on your circumstances and resources. 

The suggestions in this article will help you to make the choice which is right for you and your family, and for your new kitten. 

Which kitten is best for me? 

Our own Arya adopted at 10 weeks, beautiful in and out!
Many people choose a cat because certain characteristics of that cat appeal to them, such as physical appearance (e.g.: colour), coat type, gender, current popularity of the breed and temperament. 

Regardless of the type of kitten you choose, it is crucial that your choice is based on the temperament and health of the kitten as well as your own level of commitment to that kitten’s care (for example, do you have time to brush the coat of a long-haired cat every day for the next 15+ years?)

While there are numerous other factors to consider, this article focuses on early kitten behaviour and socialisation and how you can help your kitten to become a friendly, well-adjusted adult.

Did you know? 

A kitten’s temperament can be partially determined by the father… even if he doesn’t stay around long enough to meet his offspring!
A cat’s personality is influenced by a combination of genetics/breed, early experiences and its current environment [1].

The age of 3-9 weeks is the most crucial stage in a kitten’s life for developing its social behaviour [2]

This is when it is most receptive to new experiences and it should be introduced to a wide range of situations during this time such as other cats and animal species, people (including children of various ages) and a variety of situations (such as riding in the car, a vacuum cleaner, rubbish trucks passing the house). 
A kitten which does not begin its socialisation during this time is likely to be a timid, aggressive, fearful and anxious adult, and more likely to bite, scratch and hide when exposed to situations it is not used to. 

It will not be happy living in a busy home with other animals, many people and children if it is not appropriately introduced to these during the early window for socialisation. 

“They didn’t teach me about this at orphaned kitten school!” 
I’m not coming out from behind the books until the vacuum cleaner stops chasing me!” Cee’s hidey-hole on the bookshelf. 

It is also important to avoid punishment and similar negative experiences during the socialisation stage, because a kitten’s experiences during this time will be “imprinted” and affect the way your kitten reacts in the future. 

Kittens which are separated from their mother from the age of two weeks and hand-reared tend to be more fearful, slower to learn and less able to adapt to new stimuli and situations. 

It is possible that they will develop attachments to other kittens but it is a slower process. 

Kittens are more likely to attach to people if they are handled from an early age in a non-threatening way. They also tend to tolerate being handled for longer and initiate interactions with people if they have been handled between 3-14 weeks of age [2].

The temperament of the sire (father) has been shown to be an important contributing factor in a kitten’s personality. Males who are bold and friendly tend to have kittens with the same characteristics, whereas timid males can sire kittens who are also timid and fearful [3]

It is not always possible to view both parents, especially the father, however if you are adopting a kitten from a registered breeder it is a good idea to view the parents or at least ask about their temperaments.

Remember, kittenhood lasts for one year only, at which point your family cat is an adult. 

A cat can live for 15+ years so its kittenhood is a very small part of its life
Its early experiences help to determine what kind of adult your kitten will grow into. 

When choosing a kitten, remember to consider the following points:

✔️ Visit the kitten at least once before adopting it, and get to know his/her temperament and reactions to those around it. Avoid impulse buying and don’t adopt a kitten because it appears unwell or stressed and you feel sorry for it

✔️ Does the kitten look physically well, and is it an appropriate size for its age?

✔️ What is the kitten’s body language? Does it cringe, flatten its ears, hunch over, raise its hackles, or does it appear outgoing and “fearless”?

✔️ How does the kitten interact with its littermates (if present)? Does it play and curl up to sleep with them, or does it isolate or hide in a separate area?

✔️ Does the kitten approach you with curiosity or does it hide/run away from you? 

✔️ If you have children, how does the kitten respond to and interact with them? 

✔️ How does the kitten respond to being stroked and picked up (by both adults and children)?
✔️ Ask about the kitten’s parents and their temperaments (if known) and meet the parents if possible. At what age was the kitten weaned and/or separated from its mother? Was it hand reared? At what age was it first handled by people?

✔️ Ensure your interactions with the kitten (before and after adoption) are consistent, friendly and non-threatening, which will encourage the kitten to accept and trust you [2].

✔️ Ask the breeder/shelter about what experiences the kitten has already been exposed to, for example living with dogs in a foster home, travelling in a car, being handled for procedures such as parasite control, grooming and nail trimming, attending kitten classes?

✔️ In spite of the degree of early socialisation, kittens and cats vary widely in their acceptance of other cats and people. This is due to other contributing factors such as breed/genetics, relationship with the mother, environment and early experiences [2].

✔️ How does the kitten approach you and other members of your family? How does it respond to being picked up and handled?

Remember: while physical appearance might be appealing, it is important to choose a kitten which is well-adjusted and healthy, and which will fit in with your family and your lifestyle. 

Kittens and cats are important family members and it is crucial that their quality of life allows them to express their normal behaviours, so that you and they have many years entertaining one another and enriching one another’s lives!

written by Candice Drew, September 2020 for Australian Cat Lover (all rights reserved).

About the Writer

Candice qualified as a veterinary nurse in Australia in 2005, being awarded the Novartis Award for Outstanding Achievement in Veterinary Nursing in her qualifying year. 
She has worked extensively in Australia and the UK, and is a UK Registered Veterinary Nurse. Candice is experienced in general practice, shelter nursing and referral nursing (Surgery and Emergency & Critical Care [ECC]). 

She attained the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (surgical) in 2009, qualified as a trainer & assessor in 2015, and completed the ISFM Diploma in Feline Nursing in 2018. Candice is interested in most aspects of veterinary nursing but her passions are feline nursing, ECC and working with students.
Candice is the happy slave of a 10-year-old rescue cat named “Maggie”, whom she adopted in January 2018.

1. International Cat Care: “Choosing a kitten”, October 2018,
2. Landsberg, G. Behaviour Problems of the Dog and Cat, 3rd edition, Saunders Elsevier, 2013
3. Seksel, K.: Training Your Cat, Hyland House Publishing Pty Ltd, 2001
4. Cat Protection Society of NSW: “Your new cat. Tips for ensuring a healthy and happy life for your new family member”,
5. Cats Protection: “Bringing a new Kitten home”,
6. Cats Protection: “Caring for your kitten. Essential Guide 15”,
International Cat Care/The Cat Group: “The Kitten Checklist”,
Keeping your cats, your family and your home safe from fleas – starting from scratch

Fleas. We all know about them. We all hate them. Our cats certainly hate them. Some of us will start scratching at the mere thought of those jumpy, itch-inducing, disease-ridden pests. But how much do we really understand about fleas, how they reproduce and live, how they affect us and our pets? Most importantly, how well do we understand how to get rid of them – safely - and how to prevent them from coming back?

In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to inflict upon you a brief science lesson, which might seem irrelevant and boring, but bear with me and you will come to understand the meaning of life. The life of a flea.

Introducing the Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis) 

There are over 2,000 species of flea, with the species affecting domestic cats aptly referred to as the “cat flea” or Ctenocephalides felis

Ctenocephalides felis (male) - Source: Ken Walker Museums Victoria
The cat flea is also found on dogs and some other mammals, being more versatile with regards to its host than its relation the “dog flea” or Ctenocephalides canis.

Fleas are a type of arthropod, meaning that instead of a spine they have a hard outer skeleton and jointed legs. Fleas are in a category of arthropod known as insects (6 legs). Other types of arthropods include arachnids (spiders) and crustaceans (crabs, lobsters etc.)

Fleas are parasites; a parasite is an organism which lives on/inside a host from which it gets its nutrition, usually with adverse effects on that host. They are an obligate parasite, which means they cannot complete their life cycle without a host, such as a cat or dog. In the case of the cat flea, it needs a blood meal from its host before it can reproduce.

Fleas are classified as ectoparasites (ecto = outer or external), meaning that they live on the outside of their host. Other examples of ectoparasites include ticks, mites and lice. This is in contrast to endoparasites (endo = internal or within), which live inside the host, such as intestinal worms, heartworm and lungworm.

  • Ctenocephalides felis: cat flea
  • Ctenocephalides canis: dog flea
  • Parasite: a living organism which lives inside or on the outer surface of a host and feeds off that host, usually with no benefit to that host
  • Ectoparasite: lives on the outside of the host
  • Endoparasite: lives inside the host
  • Obligate parasite: requires a host in order to complete its life cycle
  • Arthropod: an invertebrate; lacking a spine but has a hard outer skeleton and jointed legs

All you ever wanted to know about Fleas ... and then some!
1. Fleas are 1-2 mm long and are well known for being able to jump great heights and lengths in relation to their body size. While reports of this jumping ability vary widely, they appear to rarely jump higher than human ankle height. This explains why flea bites on humans are often found around the ankles. Fleas also move along their host (e.g. the cat) by jumping; a flea which crawls is likely sick/dying or injured.

2. While fleas can parasitise other hosts, such as humans, we are not their preferred host, and fleas from dogs and cats are unlikely to jump from them onto us

This is because once they find a satisfactory host they will not search for another. This is also the reason why fleas will not usually jump from one cat or dog to another, so it is uncommon for flea transfer between hosts to occur with adult fleas. The most common route of flea transfer between pets is from immature flea stages in shared bedding and sleeping areas.

3. If a host’s body temperature drops, fleas need to find a new host, because without a suitable host to feed off, they will soon die.

4. Only the adult stages of fleas are parasitic.

5. Fleas prefer a warm, humid environment, both in their immature stages of development and when erupting as adults. This is one reason why the advent of warmer weather is often accompanied by a seemingly “new” flea infestation.

6. Fleas cannot drown, because they are not heavy enough to sink below the water’s surface. A flea trapped on water will float until it starves to death.

7. Because cats are such fastidious groomers, many flea eggs laid in their fur are swallowed by the cat during grooming.

Stages of the Flea Life Cycle:

  • Adult: being an obligate parasite, the cat flea needs to feed off a host (your cat) before it is able to reproduce. Once they have jumped onto a host, approximately ¼ of fleas are engorged with the host’s blood within 5 minutes (B.I AHA course). The flea will then mate on the host and within 1-2 days the female begins laying between 20-50 eggs a day. These eggs will fall off the cat into the environment, such as bedding, furniture and carpet, when the cat moves around.
  • Larva: larvae from eggs hatch within 1 week. Larvae have no legs and they prefer darkness, so they will burrow into crevices and deep into carpet while they develop.
  • Pupa: The next stage of development is pupa. Pupae live inside a sticky cocoon which is very difficult to remove from the environment. This stage usually lasts 1-3 weeks, however pupae can remain within their cocoons for up to 1 year, dropping their metabolic rate during this time because they have no source of food. Pupae wait for a suitable external environment, stimulated by light, warmth and movement (such as a cat walking past) before emerging from their cocoons as adult fleas and immediately jumping onto their chosen host. It is then necessary for these young adult fleas to start feeding on their host as soon as possible before they die.

The timing of this life cycle varies, depending on environmental conditions and how favourable they are to the fleas’ development. The entire life cycle can be completed in as little as 1 week or up to 1 year, but the average time is 1 month. This is important when considering which flea products to use on your cat and how often they need to be administered.

Flea Stages in the Environment - Source: Moxiclear
Another important consideration is that from this life cycle, it becomes apparent to us that the adult fleas feasting on our cats are only a small number of the total flea population in our environment. 

In fact, adult fleas represent only 5% of the total flea population! This means that 95% of flea families are hunkered down in a cosy part of our homes, waiting for the right time to jump up and parasitise our pets. It is vital that we remember this life cycle when treating and preventing flea infestations.

Potential health concerns from fleas:

✔️ Skin irritation and inflammation in reaction to flea bites.
✔️ Anaemia, especially in kittens with a small blood volume. In extreme cases of flea infestation, kittens become very weak and can die.

✔️ Miliary dermatitis is an allergy to flea saliva which can develop if a cat is exposed to repeated flea bites. This can result in excessive scratching and lead to self-mutilation.

✔️ Transmission of the flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninium. While the flea is a parasite of cat, dogs and other animals, it can itself be a host to other parasites. The flea is needed as an intermediate host in order for the tapeworm to complete its life cycle. Because cats can ingest fleas via self-grooming or eating infected prey, all cats should receive regular worming treatment which covers the flea tapeworm.

✔️ Transmission of the Bartonella henselae bacterium, which causes cat scratch disease in humans and is therefore a zoonotic disease. 

Up to 40% of cats are infected with Bartonella henselae at some stage of their lives, although most cats show no signs of illness. On rare occasions it can cause severe organ disease in cats. 

Infected flea dirt gets into the cat’s claws and teeth during grooming and Bartonella henselae transfers from a cat to a human if an infected cat bites or scratches hard enough to break that human’s skin, or if the cat licks an open wound in a human. 

The wound can then become infected and the affected human can also experience signs such as fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, headache and swollen lymph nodes.

Transmission of the Rickettsia felis bacterium, which is responsible for flea-borne spotted fever. This bacterium is found in the flea populations of many parts of the world, as well as other arthropod species such as ticks and mites. It seldom causes active disease in cats. 

Rickettsi felis is also zoonotic and is transmitted to humans when flea faeces enters a human’s broken skin. It was first diagnosed in Australian humans in 2009 when family members were bitten by fleas from infected kittens.

How to tell if your cat has fleas:

✔️ If your cat is itchy /scratching, this should always be

The absence of visible fleas does not rule out a flea infestation, and remember that cats will swallow many fleas during grooming. (Even if fleas are ruled out, it is recommended that other potential causes of the scratching are investigated as there are many parasitic and non-parasitic skin diseases which affect cats).

✔️ If your human family members have flea bites around their ankles, this indicates an environment infested with fleas (in various stages of development).

✔️ Use a flea comb, which has teeth positioned closely together, to brush your cat’s coat, then tap the comb onto a piece of white paper. Flea dirt (excreted blood / flea faeces) looks like specks of dirt, which turns a red / rust colour when moistened. Even if no adults are seen, the presence of flea dirt indicates an active flea infestation.

Treatment and prevention of fleas:

A common error among pet owners is to only treat their pets for fleas during the warmer months (Spring and Summer). While it is true that warmer temperatures prompt the emergence of new adults from their cocoons, remembering the flea’s average life cycle and the fact that these adults represent only 5% of the total flea population is crucial when treating and preventing infestations.

For several years there have been claims of fleas becoming “resistant” to newer commercial flea preparations for pets. While there might be isolated incidences of proven resistance, in the majority of cases product resistance has not been definitively established. 

“The initial response to product failures by practitioners and clients is often to attribute them to insecticide resistance. However, in recent years many of these failures have been ascribed to operational factors. These include the failure to properly treat all pets in a household, to follow label instructions, to continue treatments in winter months, and to properly apply the product to the animal”. (Rust, 2016).

There are many different flea products available, with varying chemical makeups, applications and modes of action. This is not due to a resistance of fleas to particular modern insecticides, but instead a reflection of the huge financial potential in the flea control market (Rust, 2016). Domestic flea products are big business, and manufacturers also recognise the different needs, preferences and lifestyles of pet owners and strive to produce products for owner convenience. 

These include spot-on applications, tablets, chews, injections, sprays, collars and powders, in addition to products designed for treating the environment.

Flea control products vary widely in cost, efficacy and safety, so when choosing one it’s advisable to consult with a veterinary professional (veterinarian or nurse) who has undergone training in parasite control and can help you select the best product for your cat, your family and your lifestyle. 

Cheaper products, especially those found in supermarkets, are not recommended by the author, because their efficacy and safety have not always been established to the standard of veterinary-recommended products. This is especially the case with older-style flea collars and powders. Essentially, you get what you pay for, and it is easy to waste time, effort and money on products which might not give the results needed and which could be unsafe for your cat. If you are uncertain about any product, it is worth asking your veterinary professional for advice.

Another reliable source of information is the manufacturer’s customer help services. It is crucial that you follow the manufacturer’s accompanying written instructions about, how, when, how often and how much to treat your pets, remembering that “treatment failures” are almost always the result of not using a product correctly.

There are 3 broad categories of flea control products:

1. Adulticides. These products kill adult fleas but will not impact on the development of immature flea stages (eggs, larvae, pupae). Therefore, adult fleas will still lay eggs before they die and these will progress to a new generation of adults. In effect, adulticide-only products address only 5% of the total flea population.

2. Insect Growth Regulators (IGR’s). These products interrupt the development of immature flea stages (eggs, larvae, pupae), preventing them from maturing to adults.

3. Combination adulticide / IGR. Many of the commercially-available pet flea products contain both an adulticide and Insect Growth Regulator, enabling them to interrupt flea development at all stages of the life cycle. 

Several of the products also treat other parasites such as ear mites, intestinal worms and heartworm. This is another reason why veterinary advice is useful, in choosing a product which covers all of the important cat parasites and which suits your ability to apply the product correctly (and one which your cat will physically allow you to apply!)

Products available for treating the environment include sprays, “bombs” and foggers. These can be used in conjunction with direct treatments, however these also vary in efficacy and convenience. It is also crucial that safety directions are followed with regards to other pets such as fish and birds and the length of time which should pass before returning to the area.

Product safety:

Regardless of the product you choose, there are a number of general principles to follow when selecting and using a flea product for your cat:

Only use products which have been licensed for use in cats.

Some dog flea products contain permethrin or related chemicals, which are highly toxic to cats and one of the most common causes of cat poisonings throughout the world [4]

If you also have dogs, do not use permethrin-containing flea products on them because being in contact, as brief as a cat brushing against a permethrin-treated dog, can cause serious illness or even death in the cat.

Permethrin affects the cat’s nervous system and causes neurological signs such as twitching, tremors, increased sensitivity to noise and touch, staggered walking, as well as seizures, blindness and breathing difficulties in some cases [4]. It is extremely traumatising for the cat to experience and for the human family to witness.

If you believe your cat has come into direct / indirect contact with a permethrin (or similar) product, it is essential that you seek veterinary advice immediately, even if your cat does not appear to be unwell. The author has personally treated a cat which was inadvertently given a spot-on dog flea treatment. 

Even though the cat’s owner realised their mistake immediately and washed the product off the cat and sought emergency veterinary treatment, the cat still died from the effects of the toxin. Fortunately, most cats are successfully treated if they receive immediate veterinary attention, however this is definitely a case of “prevention being the best cure”.

In September 2018, the FDA alerted pet owners and veterinarians of the potential for neurologic adverse events in dogs and cats when treated with drugs that are in the isoxazoline class [7]. Pet owners should consult with their veterinarian to review their patients’ medical histories and determine whether a product in the isoxazoline class is appropriate for their pet.

Other product considerations:

✔️ Always follow the product’s weight guidelines; is the dose for kittens, adults, cats <2kg or >4kg? 
Licensed products tend to have a wide safety margin but it is better to regularly weigh your cat to prevent under- or over-dosing. Don’t assume that your cat is a “standard 4kg cat”. For this reason, it is also unadvisable to “share” treatments for a large cat between several smaller cats.

✔️ Ensure you reapply the product at the recommended frequency, all year around.

✔️ Follow any directions for bathing and swimming in relation to timing of product application (if your cat likes getting wet!)

✔️ Ensure the product is age and life-stage appropriate. For example, from what age can kittens be treated, can it be used on pregnant or lactating queens, is it safe to use on cats with various medical conditions (including skin conditions)?

✔️ Treat all in-contact pets, and remember that if your pets go outside they can be exposed to fleas from other animals which have shed flea eggs in the environment (such as the cat from next door which likes to use your garden as a litter box).

Treating the cat's environment:

If you have an active flea infestation, remember to also treat the environment. It is important to treat the environment as well as the pets, because as we have seen from the flea life cycle, existing immature flea stages (eggs, larvae and pupae) will still hatch if they are not removed (however, if an Insect Growth Regulator is used on the pets, future eggs laid - up to 50 per day - before the adult fleas die will not hatch). 

If the environment is not treated during the initial stages, eradicating the flea population can take several months. This is why it is crucial to treat all pets all year around, to interrupt the life cycle at several points.

Wash animal bedding, and soft toys, furniture covers and other soft furnishings in 60⁰ water and hang in direct sunlight. Any immature flea stages which survive the hot washing process will be desiccated in the sun and not develop.

Vacuum all carpets, between floorboards, crevices in lounge couches and chairs and cracks / niches on a daily basis to remove immature flea stages, then apply an insecticide spray containing an Insect Growth Regulator to these areas (follow manufacturer directions regarding where and how to use). Sprays are usually more effective than “bombs” and foggers because the latter products don’t always reach into the niches where immature fleas prefer to hide.

Reduce pet access to areas where flea infestation is possible, such as under the house.

Avoid using essential oils as “home-made” flea treatments. While some commercial products might contain essential oils as part of their chemical make-up, many oils have not been proven to be of benefit and are not licensed for use in cats. 

Some oils, such as eucalyptus and tea tree oils, are toxic to cats [8], especially concentrated oils, and safe doses versus effective doses need to be established.


Successfully eradicating and preventing a flea infestation from your cat and your home requires time, patience and persistence, but with the correct products and professional advice it can be safely achieved. There are so many products commercially available with different modes and frequencies of application and different combinations of parasites they are designed to target. Having so many options is confusing, but take advantage of the many alternatives available and select products which suit your needs, your lifestyle and above all your cat’s and your family’s safety.

Once you have succeeded in making your cat and your home “flea free” ensure you continue to treat all pets throughout the year to prevent reinfestation when the warmer weather arrives. The time, effort and cost associated with year-around prevention is far less than if you let treatment lapse and need to tackle the problem again…from scratch.

written by Candice Drew, August 2020 for Australian Cat Lover (all rights reserved).

About the Writer

Candice qualified as a veterinary nurse in Australia in 2005, being awarded the Novartis Award for Outstanding Achievement in Veterinary Nursing in her qualifying year. 
She has worked extensively in Australia and the UK, and is a UK Registered Veterinary Nurse. Candice is experienced in general practice, shelter nursing and referral nursing (Surgery and Emergency & Critical Care [ECC]). 

She attained the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing (surgical) in 2009, qualified as a trainer & assessor in 2015, and completed the ISFM Diploma in Feline Nursing in 2018. Candice is interested in most aspects of veterinary nursing but her passions are feline nursing, ECC and working with students.

Candice is the happy slave of a 10-year-old rescue cat named “Maggie”, whom she adopted in January 2018.


1. Boehringer Ingelheim: Animal Health Academy for Nurses (accessible only to professionals), Pet owners can access similar information via
2. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention:
3. Cooper, B. (eds): BSAVA Textbook of Veterinary Nursing, 5th edition, BSAVA, 2011
4. International Cat Care: “Fleas and flea control in cats” and “Keeping cats safe: avoiding permethrin and controlling fleas”,
5. Richmond, P.: “A veterinary nurse-led approach to flea control”, The Veterinary Nurse, 2018,
6. Rust, Michael K.: “Insecticide Resistance in Fleas”, Insects 2016, 7,10; doi:10.3390/insects7010010,
8. Benson, K.: “Essential oils and cats”, Pet Poison Helpline,
9. Advantage Petcare: Advantage for cats,