It occurred to me today that in light flea infestations there is an obvious reason why fleas congregate around the neck region of a domestic cat. It has only recently occurred to me (duh 😢). When I flea comb my cat I focus almost exclusively around the back of the head, the sides of the neck and under the chin. I flea comb down the spine and focus on the area at the base of the tail. In that area, if there are fleas, you will see flea dirt which are flea faeces. But the fleas themselves are not normally in the region around the base of the tail.
The fleas, as mentioned, are on the neck region, particularly at the back and sides of the neck. These are the areas that domestic cats cannot groom. They are inaccessible areas for self-grooming. That’s why the congregate there. Note 1: in bad cases of flea infestations the fleas are anywhere on the cat because self-grooming does not subdue them. Also, in these cases, the cats have often neglected themselves because they are ill and barely coping as they are stray or feral cats. Note 2: Also, cats don’t deliberately try and remove fleas by grooming. They may be irritated by fleas and groom to quell the itch or they pick up flea inadvertently. Cats don’t seem to understand what a flea infestation is. Note 3: When cats ingest fleas during grooming, they ingest tapeworm eggs inside the flea which is how they get a tapeworm infestation as well. Those damn fleas are perhaps the single biggest health hazard for the domestic cat.
When a domestic cat self-grooms (autogrooms) herself the spines of their tongue, which are quite long, penetrate quite deep into the fur and touch the skin. Because of this, fleas feeding on the skin are caught up by the cat’s tongue and ingested. Note 4: Flea combing feels like a cat’s tongue to the cat as the teeth brush against the skin.
Self-grooming removes the fleas from those areas which are accessible. The fleas therefore migrate to those areas where they are safe. My theory for why flea dirt is found at the base of the tail is because they are pushed there when the cat self-grooms. The base of the tail is a specific region where you will find flea dirt if there are fleas. I can remember my veterinarian, years ago, flea combing that area because he wanted to trip me up and prove that I was not a good cat caregiver. My cat was entirely free of fleas and flea-dirt.
Like many cat caregivers, I flea comb my cat in the areas mentioned daily as a matter of routine. The flea-coming session fits in with the routines of both myself and my cat. These are very pleasurable sessions which he asks for positively and I willingly provide because I know he loves it so much. And he loves it so much because he realises that he can’t get at those places and therefore I do him a great service. He appreciates it.
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