How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Cats?

Bed bugs are among the most pervasive household pests. In addition to humans, these tiny invaders also have an appetite for the blood of our beloved pets, including cats. Such an infestation can lead to a truly distressing experience for your feline companion.

Bed bugs, however, do not nestle in cat fur like some other parasites. Their habitat is not your pet but the surroundings, more specifically near the sleeping and resting areas of your cat. Techniques for eradicating bed bugs include heat treatments, pesticide use, and the application of natural substances such as diatomaceous earth. However, it is essential to focus on the broader infestation within your residence, not merely your cat.

Interestingly, cats can facilitate the transfer of bed bugs from one domicile to another or draw them into your home, especially in multi-unit residential complexes. This is primarily because cats, like humans, generate warmth and exhale carbon dioxide — two factors that bed bugs find irresistible. Let’s delve deeper into how to avoid inadvertently attracting bed bugs and how to exterminate an existing infestation within your property.

Can Bed Bugs Reside on Cats?

The answer is a resounding no. Bed bugs do not take up residence on their hosts in the same way some parasites like fleas do. This fact, however, does not exempt cats from being bothered by bed bugs.

If your cat has a dedicated bed or sleeping area, it may be the epicenter of the infestation. Thoroughly examine this area for signs of bed bugs such as fecal spots, dried blood, discarded exoskeletons, or live bugs.

If your investigation yields any of these signs, launder the bed at a high temperature to exterminate any lingering pests. If the issue persists, the infestation may be more pervasive throughout your home.

Do Bed Bugs Bite Cats?

While their preferred hosts are humans, bed bugs can also bite pets and even wild animals that find their way into abandoned structures (though this is less common for obvious reasons). This wide host range allows bed bug populations to thrive in unoccupied buildings for extended periods.

The presence of fur or hair poses a challenge to bed bugs. Hence, they may find it somewhat harder to bite your pet than you.

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Do Cats Attract Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are drawn by two primary cues: body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide. By detecting these signs, they can easily locate their host. Humans, cats, and other pets emit these signals, making it easy for bed bugs to locate cats just as effortlessly as they find humans.

However, cats cannot attract bed bugs in the absence of an existing infestation in the vicinity. A bed bug infestation cannot materialize out of nowhere. Typically, bed bugs can find a new host within a six-foot range, but they can venture further in search of a host. Thus, if your neighbor has bed bugs, your cat could potentially attract them. But in the absence of bed bugs in the nearby surroundings, there’s no plausible way to attract them.

Is It Possible for Bed Bugs to Survive in Cat Litter?

While it may seem a plausible notion, the fact of the matter is that bed bugs are unable to thrive or even survive in cat litter. There are several reasons behind this, one of which is that the body structure of bed bugs does not lend itself to burrowing activities. Unlike creatures such as ants and moles, bed bugs have bodies that are comparatively broad and hefty, making it unfeasible for them to tunnel into loose substances like cat litter. The mere concept is almost counterintuitive to their physical characteristics.

More significantly, the composition of cat litter plays a vital role in creating an inhospitable environment for bed bugs. Cat litter is primarily made from silica gel crystals, a substance renowned for its exceptional moisture absorption capabilities. This is the same reason you often find tiny packets of silica gel included in product packaging — to keep the contents dry and free from humidity. When bed bugs encounter substances like silica gel, it can lead to their dehydration and eventual death.

This mechanism of desiccation is precisely how diatomaceous earth, a substance known for its pest control properties, works against bed bugs. The minute, sharp particles of diatomaceous earth can scrape away at the waxy layer of a bed bug’s exoskeleton, leading to the loss of their moisture-retention ability. The resultant dehydration is typically fatal for these pests. While it is uncertain whether cat litter can induce the same effect, it is a well-known fact that bed bugs tend to avoid excessively dry environments.

As for the question of whether bed bugs can find a home in or around a cat litter tray, the answer is indeed, yes. Given the right circumstances, particularly in a severe infestation, bed bugs could potentially squeeze into the small crevices beneath a litter tray, or even take refuge under a plastic handle on the side of the tray.

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Recognizing Bed Bugs in Cats: Symptoms and Signs

The indicators of bed bug bites in cats mirror those seen in humans. These pests cause the appearance of pink welts or spots in the area of the bite, often observed in clusters or lines where numerous bed bugs have feasted together. This formation is a result of the fact that bed bugs are attracted to the scent of their own kind, which helps them navigate back to their safe havens after feeding.

An evident sign that your feline friend may be dealing with bed bug bites is an increase in scratching and grooming activities. While frequent grooming is commonplace among cats, excessive scratching typically indicates the presence of pests or parasites.

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How Do Bed Bugs Influence Cats’ Health and Behavior?

One of the most visible ways bed bugs affect cats is through the relentless itching caused by their bites. The bitten spots can get severely itchy, prompting the cat to scratch these areas constantly. In doing so, the cat may end up creating small scratch wounds, which could occasionally lead to mild bleeding. These open wounds present a risk of infection, particularly if they are exposed to bacteria and the cat does not allow them to heal properly. It is advisable to maintain these areas clean to prevent any potential infections.

However, it is essential to note that reactions to bed bug bites can vary drastically among individuals, whether human or animal. Some may develop a rash, while others might not. Some might find the bites intensely itchy, while others may not experience any discomfort. Some individuals might not even present visible spots post a bed bug bite. This variability also extends to animals, meaning your cat may or may not exhibit these symptoms.

How to Investigate Cats for Bed Bug Infestation?

Before embarking on a mission to eradicate bed bugs, it’s critical to confirm their presence. Here’s a simple step-by-step examination process to identify if bed bugs are tormenting your cat:

  • Inspect your cat thoroughly for any bite marks or welts similar to those described earlier.
  • If your cat has a dedicated bed, check it for signs of bed bugs, including the bugs themselves, fecal spots (small black spots), red dots (indicating dried blood from bite marks), and discarded shells left behind by bed bugs during their molting process.
  • Regardless of whether you spot these signs or not, it’s advisable to wash the bed at a high temperature or purchase a new one as there might be bed bug eggs invisible to the naked eye.
  • Look around the area where your cat sleeps. Can you spot any bed bugs hiding under the furniture or inside it? Consider turning over the furniture to check for bed bugs. Examine any cracks in the walls or gaps in the sideboards nearby as well.

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How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Cats?

To effectively eliminate the bed bugs biting your cat, it’s imperative to deal with the infestation across your entire house. If any bed bugs are left behind, they could quickly reproduce and bring the infestation back to its initial intensity within a few days. Here’s a brief guide to ridding your cat and your house of bed bugs:

  • Begin with your cat’s bed. If your cat has a favorite spot to snooze, there’s a high probability that there are bed bugs lurking around it. You can either wash and dry the bed at a high temperature or opt for a new one.
  • Apply the same principles across your house. Any piece of furniture, upholstery, or similar items should be either cleaned or replaced. While this might seem like a daunting task, it’s crucial to remember that any missed spots could lead to a rapid resurgence of the bed bug population.
  • Consider investing in mattress encasements (and box spring encasements if necessary) to isolate and eliminate the bed bugs at their primary source.

This process should significantly reduce the number of bed bugs in your house. Most bed bug infestations originate from your bed, and isolating these bugs with an encasement can substantially aid in controlling the problem. To handle the remainder, you could use a spray or a steam cleaner on your furniture.

The Role of Bed Bug Lures

Just like humans, cats also produce carbon dioxide and emit heat, which attracts bed bugs. This makes bed bug lures an effective tool in controlling infestations. These lures typically emit carbon dioxide, and some even produce a mixture of other chemicals and heat, which draws bed bugs to them. Placing these lures near your bed and your cat’s sleeping area can attract a significant number of bed bugs. While this won’t eradicate every single bed bug in the house, it can make managing the infestation significantly easier.

What Not to Use in Your Battle Against Bed Bugs

While tea tree oil and other essential oils may seem like natural solutions to the bed bug problem, they should be avoided. Cats and several other animals have shown allergic reactions to tea tree oil, making it an unsuitable choice.

Certain people might opt for pyrethrins and pyrethroids, two highly effective pesticides, to handle their bed bug infestations. However, these substances are toxic to cats, dogs, and even certain exotic pets like snakes. Originally designed to eliminate brown tree snakes, pyrethrins pose a high toxicity risk to most animals, making them unsuitable for usage in a home with pets.

FAQs How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Cats?

Where Do Bed Bugs Love Biting Cats?

Bed bugs favor areas with less hair and fur for their feeding grounds. That’s why, when you find yourself with bed bug bites, they’re more likely to be along your back or legs rather than your scalp.

For pets, bed bugs will choose regions where the skin is more accessible. They are not equipped to burrow through fur because of their size and shape—they’re too broad and too large. Instead, they’ll opt for more exposed areas such as the belly, ears, and parts of the legs. It may vary depending on the cat. If you suspect your cat is affected by bed bugs, inspect the areas where they have less fur and check for bites. Cats with denser or longer fur are less likely to be affected, as there’s a smaller surface area for bed bugs to latch onto.

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Why Do Cats Carry Bed Bugs?

While bed bugs can bite cats, it does not imply that cats serve as carriers for them. No animal can truly ‘carry’ bed bugs.

Bed bugs are ectoparasites, meaning they live outside their hosts. Unlike other ectoparasites such as fleas and mites, bed bugs do not inhabit their host’s skin. Instead, they reside in safe spaces known as harborages, like beneath your mattress, where they can digest their meal in safety.

Because of their habitat preference, bed bugs lack the ability to cling onto a host. In contrast, a flea’s small legs and claws are designed to hold onto a hair when you attempt to comb them out, and mites and lice exhibit similar behavior. Bed bugs, however, lack this ability. They’re also too large to comfortably burrow through hair, and they don’t bite and remain attached like ticks do. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that cats cannot carry bed bugs.

Can Cats Transfer Bed Bugs?

While it is challenging for cats to serve as carriers for bed bugs, it doesn’t mean that cats can’t facilitate the transfer of bed bugs from one location to another.

Since bed bugs are attracted to all warm-blooded animals, cats can serve as a lure for these pests. In apartment complexes, it’s common for bed bugs to migrate from one unit to another—either through crevices in the walls or simply by crawling across common areas.

These bugs are lured by warmth and carbon dioxide. If your cat’s bed is situated near the door or a crack in the wall, it could potentially attract bed bugs.

Furthermore, it’s theoretically possible that a bed bug could secrete itself beneath a cat’s collar. This scenario is unlikely due to the constant movement of the collar, but considering that bed bugs prefer hiding in concealed spots, a collar is a potential hiding spot, albeit a less probable one.

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Can Bed Bugs Get in from Outside?

Cats cannot introduce bed bugs into your home from the outdoors. The reasoning behind this is simple: bed bugs are indoor pests. They exclusively inhabit human dwellings, or perhaps the inner structures of inhabited buildings.

Although bed bugs and ticks share several similarities, their host-finding strategies differ significantly. Ticks perch on tall grass, waiting to hitch a ride on passing humans or animals. Bed bugs, on the other hand, move from one house to another by seeking refuge in safe hiding places such as bags, public transport vehicles, rental cars, or discarded clothes.

So where did these pests come from before they infiltrated human homes? They evolved from ‘bat bugs,’ insects that lived in caves and fed on sleeping bats. When humans started inhabiting caves, we offered a larger food supply (blood) than bats, which led these insects to accompany us. When we transitioned from caves to homes, they followed us, taking up residence in our bedding. After thousands of years, these evolved bed bugs aren’t drastically different from bat bugs, and they still avoid outdoor environments.

To clarify, your cat won’t introduce bed bugs into your home by visiting a cave. All bed bug infestations occur when bed bugs migrate from one home to another.

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