A flea comb is one of the most valuable cat care products that you can purchase. St. Louis Cat Clinic sells a double sided plastic one that is about $1.50 including tax. We use them in the clinic and they seem to be durable and effective.
What is a flea comb? The teeth of a "flea comb" are extremely close together so that fleas and flea dirt (flea poop) will get caught between the teeth and can be pulled out of the fur for identification.
It can be very difficult to actually find a flea on a cat or dog without a flea comb. The doctors at St. Louis Cat Clinic flea comb all patients if the patient will allow it for fleas. A flea comb will usually be able to find fleas if they are present. We find fleas on indoor cats, cats treated with "flea control products", outside cats, well cats, sick cats, cats in the Wintertime, cats in the Springtime, cats in the Summertime, cats in the Fall, the cleanest homes, the less clean homes, affluent homes, not so affluent homes. There is always a flea potential for any cat. Never assume that your cat cannot possibly have fleas. It is inexpensive to check.
It is hard to find fleas separating hair with your fingers looking for them. The fleas are running ahead of your fingers in the hair and it is easy to miss them.
What does flea dirt (flea poop) look like? Specks of black or dark brown dirt, sometimes comma shaped. You can determine whether your cat has flea dirt or other dirt by placing the dirt on a white paper towel. Wet the dirt. Wait 5 minutes. Put a finger on the dirt and drag your finger across the paper towel. If there are rust streaks on the paper, it is flea poop. Fleas eat blood;so that is why flea poop streaks rust colored. If there is flea poop, there are fleas.
A flea comb's teeth will break off if used to comb matted cats. Use only on non-matted areas.
I have had a client who really believed that her cat had some kind of severe neurological disease because when she touched the cat on it's back, it would go into a frenzy chewing it's front legs and get very agitated. She was afraid to bring the cat in for an exam for fear of causing further neurological damage. The cat was older. The cat had fleas and was allergic to he protein in the flea saliva. Treating for fleas and flea allergic disease resolved the cat's problem.
I have had several clients get very angry at me when I started looking for fleas on their lovely well groomed Persians. Their clean cats in their really clean house could not possibly have fleas!! They all had fleas. No veterinarian would ever be implying that your home is dirty or that you do not take great care of your cat when we start looking for fleas. We are simply looking for the usual suspects for skin problems.
Where can your cat become exposed to fleas? 1. Outside (even if they only escape for a short time). 2. Adoption of a new cat or dog which has fleas. 3. Bringing a stray cat or dog into your home. 4. A friend or family's visiting pet. 5. Pet goes to a boarding facility. 6. Pet goes to a grooming facility. 7. Pet goes to a pet store/pet bathing establishment/veterinary practice. 7. You volunteer for pet rescues/shelters. 8. You take your pet to visit in someone's home. 9. Travel with your pet and use pet friendly hotels. 9. You pet strays on the street. 10. Mowing your yard and working in your yard. 11. Failure of pet flea control product you are currently using. 12. Not using any flea control products. 13. Using cheap over-the-counter insect growth regulator products that do not kill fleas ever. St. Louis Cat Clinic has seen cats with fleas for all of the above sources/reasons.
St. Louis Cat Clinic sprays and mops for fleas regularly. We have an isolation room to place hospitalized cats that have fleas to get them treated for fleas, no cat enters the clinic without being checked for fleas and treated for fleas if the cat has fleas, exam rooms are fully treated by a special protocol if fleas are found on a cat in an exam room before any other cat is placed into the room, all of our rescue cats/kittens are treated for fleas monthly, all of our clinic cats are treated for fleas monthly.