Bed Bugs on Cats? How to Protect Your Pet & Stop the Itch

Bed bugs can bite cats, but it’s important to understand that they won’t infest your cat like fleas or ticks do. Can bed bugs get on cats? While they might go for a bite, these pests are much more interested in hiding close to where humans sleep rather than living on furry animals.

Why Bed Bugs Might Be Attracted to Your Cat (and How to Tell If There’s a Problem)

Bed bugs, like vampires, are drawn to warmth and the carbon dioxide we exhale. Here’s why they might be interested in your cat:

Warmth: Cats love cozy spots, and bed bugs are attracted to heat. If your cat sleeps soundly in a warm place, bed bugs might investigate.

Fur: While bed bugs won’t live in your cat’s fur, loose shed fur could provide temporary hiding places for these pests.

Limited Access to Humans: If a bed bug can’t easily reach a human host, they might resort to biting a pet for a blood meal.

Signs of Bed Bug Bites on Cats

Small, red bumps: Bed bug bites on cats can resemble other skin irritations like flea bites or allergies. Look for them on their belly, legs, or areas with less fur.

Itching and scratching: Excessive scratching can be a sign, but cats groom meticulously so you might not notice right away.

Unexplained changes in behavior: If your cat seems restless or avoids favorite sleeping spots, it’s worth investigating.

How to Tell if It’s Bed Bugs, Not Something Else

Bed Bugs on Cats
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Since bites can be tricky to identify, the key is to look for signs of bed bugs themselves:

Rusty stains on bedding: Crushed bed bugs leave behind bloodstains. Check your cat’s bed or blankets.

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Tiny, dark spots: Bed bug droppings look like specks of black pepper.

Live bed bugs: They are flat, reddish-brown, and about the size of an apple seed. Search bed frames, furniture near your cat’s sleeping spots, and cracks in the wall.

Molted skins: Bed bugs shed their exoskeleton as they grow, leaving behind pale, hollow shells.

Protecting Your Cat (and Yourself) from Bed Bugs

Prioritize cleaning: Meticulously vacuum areas where your cat likes to spend time. This includes carpets, furniture, and especially their favorite sleeping spots. Always dispose of vacuum bag contents in a tightly sealed outdoor bin.

Use heat to your advantage: Thoroughly wash your cat’s bedding, blankets, and any plush toys in the hottest water cycle possible. Follow up with a high heat drying cycle to eradicate any lingering bed bugs and their eggs.

Inspect with care: Develop a routine for checking your own bed, your cat’s chosen spots, and nearby furniture. Keep an eye out for reddish-brown stains, discarded bed bug skins, or any signs of the pests themselves.

Enlist professional assistance: If you have any reason to suspect a serious infestation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a reputable pest control service. They have the expertise to accurately identify the problem and recommend the most effective, tailored treatment plan.

Myths vs. Facts

Let’s bust some common misconceptions about bed bugs and cats:

Myth: Only untidy homes get bed bugs.

  • Fact: Bed bugs don’t discriminate based on housekeeping. They’re drawn to warmth and the presence of humans and animals, regardless of how clean your home is.

Myth: Bed bugs will infest my cat like fleas do.

  • Fact: Bed bugs behave quite differently from fleas. While they’ll feed on your cat if given the opportunity, they prefer to remain hidden close to human sleeping areas.

Myth: The only sign of bed bugs is bites.

  • Fact: Many cats don’t show obvious signs of bites. The key is to be on the lookout for physical evidence of the bed bugs themselves.
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Bed Bug Prevention Tips for Cat Owners

Bed Bugs on Cats
Image Credit: foaloce/istockphoto

Here are ways to reduce the chances of bed bugs becoming a problem:

Protective barriers: Invest in encasements for both your mattress and box spring. These make it difficult for bed bugs to hide and establish nests.

Safeguard your cat’s space: Apply a similar principle with protective covers for your cat’s beds and their carrier.

Minimize their hiding spots: Store cat toys in sealed containers or bins when they’re not being used.

Reduce clutter: This is crucial around your cat’s favorite lounge spots. The fewer hiding places for bed bugs, the better.

Travel smart: Before bringing your belongings inside, carefully inspect hotel or rental rooms for signs of bed bugs. If possible, place your luggage on a raised stand away from the bed.

What to Do If You Find Bed Bugs

Here’s a checklist to follow if you discover bed bugs:

Isolate your cat: Confine your cat to a bed bug-free area to prevent them from spreading the problem.

Contact a professional: Don’t attempt DIY treatment. A qualified pest control specialist can assess the situation and recommend a safe and effective treatment plan.

Treat cat belongings: Follow your pest control professional’s advice on how to safely treat your cat’s beds, toys, and carriers. This may involve hot water washes, freezing, or other methods.

Can Cats Help Detect Bed Bugs?

Some cats may become more alert or agitated in the presence of bed bugs. However, it’s important to remember that not all cats will react this way, and you shouldn’t rely on your cat as a primary detection method.

Conclusion

While bed bugs are a stressful inconvenience, it’s important to remember they pose little health risk to your cat. With careful observation, cleaning practices, and preventative measures, you can keep your home and your feline companion safe from these pests.

The photo featured below the post headline is Credit: elenaleonova/istockphoto

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Frequently Asked Question

Are bed bugs harmful to my cat?
While typically not dangerous, bites can cause discomfort and allergic reactions in some cats.

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What should I do if I find a bed bug on my cat?
Remove it safely (wear gloves if possible) and thoroughly search for signs of infestation.

Can I use flea and tick treatments to prevent bed bugs on my cat?
No, flea and tick medications are not effective against bed bugs.

Where can I find more information and resources about bed bugs?
The Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs) has a wealth of information on bed bugs.

Do bed bugs lay eggs in cat fur?
No, bed bugs prefer to lay eggs in cracks and crevices near their host’s sleeping area, not within animal fur.

Will bed bug spray hurt my cat?
Many common bed bug treatments are harmful to pets. If faced with an infestation, always prioritize seeking advice from a pest control professional. They’ll guide you on pet-safe solutions.

Can bed bugs get on cats’ paws?
While bed bugs don’t live on cats, they could temporarily cling to their paws if the cat walks near an infested area.

How can I tell if my cat has bed bug bites or another skin problem?
Bed bug bites on cats often look like small red bumps. However, allergies, fleas, and other irritants can cause similar reactions. It is best to consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

Can I get bed bugs from my cat?
Bed bugs are unlikely to hitch a ride on your cat into new areas of your home. They prefer to stay close to their established feeding ground.

What are the differences in treating bed bugs in a home with cats versus without?
The main difference is ensuring pet safety during the process. A pest control professional will use treatments safe for cats and advise you on how to keep your pet away from treated areas.

If I find evidence of bed bugs, should I treat my cat with anything preventatively?
No, preventative treatments aren’t necessary for cats. Focus your efforts on cleaning pet areas, inspecting your home, and calling a pest control professional if an infestation is confirmed.