spiral flea dirt

Spiral Flea Dirt: What It Is, Causes & How To Treat It

Spiral flea dirt is just another name for a combination of dried blood and flea faeces.

It can be found on cats that have recently had flea infestations or those that have external parasites on their bodies in high numbers. 

What Is Spiral Flea Dirt On A Cat?

Spiral flea dirt is effectively a matter that remains behind fleas, whenever they live on an animal. 

After feeding, the fleas produce some waste, which contains dried blood. This waste, also known as spiral flea dirt, has the appearance and texture of sand. 

For this reason, you might find that petting your cat might feel different to the touch. 

The reason it’s called ‘spiral’ is that the tiny specks sometimes look like a coil. 

What Causes Spiral Flea Dirt

The main cause of spiral flea dirt is a parasitic infestation – ticks do not cause any similar waste product, only fleas. 

If your cat has only one flea, you are probably not going to notice any spiral flea dirt on their body whatsoever. 

what causes spiral flea dirt

The reason for this is that it takes both time and quite a large flea population for the detritus to become visible. 

Unfortunately, if your cat tends to go outdoors and you haven’t applied a spot-on solution against fleas on her body for a while, the likelihood of her catching fleas from other animals is very high. 

If they are unlucky enough to be infested by a flea female, the parasite will deposit eggs on the cat’s body and this will lead to a large-scale infestation, and therefore, cause spiral flea dirt, too. 

Is Flea Dirt Flea Eggs?

Yes and no.

The reason we’ve given this answer is that while flea dirt can indeed contain flea eggs, it is mostly composed of flea feces.

Sometimes, pet owners might not know how to make the difference between actual flea eggs and the spiral flea dirt itself, and if the cat has a lot of both on their body, they might be confused. 

Is Flea Dirt Flea Eggs

The best way to differentiate the two is to understand how they look. While flea faeces, the basic component of spiral flea dirt, are dark in colour because of the blood in it, flea eggs aren’t dark at all.

In fact, something that flea eggs could be compared to would be very small rice grains. 

Unlike grains of rice, though, flea eggs are extremely small, sometimes measuring less than .5 mm. More importantly, they are almost always white or hardly white-yellow. 

Flea dirt can be compared in appearance to ground black pepper. 

How To Test For Flea Dirt

There is a very simple test that pet owners can use to determine whether or not their cat has fleas. 

If you have a particularly long-haired cat, it might be difficult to tell whether they have any external parasites.

Sometimes, the flea dirt might not be visible with the naked eye. 

In that case, you can simply place your cat on several pieces of white paper and give her a good body rub. 

rubbing your cat on white paper will reveal any flea dirt

Afterwards, you either spray some water on the surface of the sheet of paper or sprinkle it using your fingers. 

If your cat does have fleas, the flea dirt will become visible immediately as tiny specks either brown or red-colored. 

The red comes from blood that has recently been eaten by the fleas whereas the brown tint is a result of a blood degradation process. 

The ‘water test’ is often used by veterinarians, too, in practice, and it is a very easy and convenient way of telling whether a cat has a flea infestation. 

How To Get Rid Of Flea Dirt On Cats

The best way of getting rid of flea dirt would be to kill the fleas themselves. 

Since the appearance of the spiral flea dirt itself isn’t really pleasing to the eye, especially if you have a white cat, for example, we also recommend giving your pet a bath. 

cat in a bath with shampoo on head

Do keep in mind that this procedure should be performed as rarely as possible as cats already groom their own bodies and they don’t need you to remove the natural oils that are present on their skin. 

Bathing your cat removes most of the flea dirt, but you can also use a very fine comb to do the same, just by using the dry method. 

There are also plenty of dry cat shampoos currently available, either in the form of powder or foam, and they can simply be placed on the cat’s fur and then you brush their coat so as to remove any dirt, including flea faeces. 

A good example of a shampoo that works wonders in this sense is the Vet’s Best Natural Waterless Bath.

It not only cleans your cat’s body effectively and conveniently but it is also made with safe and natural ingredients such as aloe vera and oatmeal. 

It’s very gentle on your cat’s skin and coat, so it’s not going to cause any issues such as dermatitis or allergies. 

Why Do I See Flea Dirt But No Fleas?

There could be several reasons for this happening. 

If your cat is black, for example, seeing the fleas can be quite difficult, especially if their coat is long. 

Short-haired cats usually have both flea dirt and fleas that are visible to the naked eye, so you’ll quickly know if your pet has an ongoing infestation. 

Once fleas have made a home on your cat’s body, they are not going anywhere. 

So, do not make the mistake of thinking that seeing a lot of flea dirt but no fleas means that your cat doesn’t have any fleas at all. 

There are some areas where the fleas are slightly more visible, so you can check under your cat’s chin, for example. 

If your cat also has fleas, they’re likely to show up there every now and then. 

Why Does My Cat Have So Much Flea Dirt?

A lot of flea dirt effectively means that your cat has a lot of fleas. 

If your pet were to have just a single flea on their body, it would be incapable of producing that much waste, at least not over a short period of time. 

Therefore, either your cat has a few fleas, but the flea dirt has accumulated over weeks on their body, or your pet has a very severe infestation, so there are many fleas causing spiral flea dirt continuously. 

Defleeing your cat is extremely important, not just because it can cause negative consequences on your pet’s health, but also because you might cause a house infestation. 

Once the fleas are so many that they start attacking pretty much any being in their living environment and they also hide in places such as your carpet or upholstered furniture, you will have a very hard time getting rid of them. 

How Long Does Flea Dirt Stay On A Cat?

Since flea dirt is a result of a cat having fleas on their body, the answer to this question would have to be something in the lines of ‘flea dirt can stay on a cat’s body as long as a cat has fleas’. 

Flea dirt is not sticky, so it is not going to cling to your cat’s coat excessively. 

Usually, a bath or brushing your pet’s coat can result in getting rid of most, if not all of the flea dirt. 

brushing your cat will help remove flea dirt

Your most important goal should be making sure that your cat no longer has fleas. 

Although you might think that you can manually kill the fleas themselves or remove all of them by giving your cat a bath, these two methods are not that effective. 

We hate to disappoint you, but unless the cat shampoo that you use contains an insecticide, it will do nothing in the way of killing the entire flea population. 

You might say that decimating most of it still makes a difference. 

In fact, it does not. 

Just several fleas can reproduce in a matter of a couple of days and lay eggs in your cat’s coat, which will therefore translate into another flea infestation in one or two weeks. 

Ask your veterinarian about the defleeing options that are the safest for your cat keeping in mind that the insecticides have different dosages depending on the pet’s age and weight. 

Very few products are actually safe to be used on kittens, which is why some vets feel like giving them baths is actually safer.

During the procedure, you’re also removing the foam and therefore getting rid of any flea-killing substance from the kitten’s body surface (which could be harmful for the pet’s health). 

Can Flea Dirt Put Your Cat’s Health In Danger?

The flea waste itself can’t put your pet’s health in danger, but the fleas themselves can do a lot of damage

First of all, certain cat categories are more susceptible to developing health complications than others, especially when they have severe infestations. 

Think of a tiny kitten’s body being covered by dozens of fleas. 

These parasites can cause anaemia in a couple of days, not to mention that they can also transmit other diseases. 

Fleas are the most common vector for internal parasites since cats groom their bodies excessively in an attempt to calm down their itching. 

They can swallow one or several fleas, and they might contain tapeworm eggs. 

For a very young cat or very old one, this can complicate their health even more. 

Fleas are dangerous for cats also because they can lead to dermatitis. 

Some cats can additionally begin to suffer from behavioural complications and become more aggressive, withdrawn, or agitated since they itch all the time. 

Finally, fleas are also a major factor in the transmission of cat scratch disease, which affects humans that live with cats that have fleas.