My Cat Has Black Specks in Her Fur

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains what those specks are - and offers caution on older cat's water intake.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: Oct. 3, 2008, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: Our cat is a 13-to-14-year-old female. She seems to lick and scratch herself more than normal. When we brush her, we see very tiny black specks. They are not ticks or fleas. Other than that, she eats normally and drinks plenty of water and seems to be in pretty good health. Any idea what these specks might be?

 A: You may not be seeing any live fleas on your cat. However, fleas often leave evidence behind, and these specks may be what we call “flea dirt” (a more pleasant term than flea … um … poop). Fleas bite your cat, ingest blood, digest it and then eliminate on your cat. Flea dirt looks like little grains of pepper, as if someone has briefly sprinkled the pepper shaker onto your cat. Comb some of these specks off the cat with a flea comb, collect it on a tissue or paper towel, and then add a drop or two of water.  If these specks appear to “bleed,” then this is digested flea blood, and your cat has fleas, even though you cannot see them. There are many safe, effective monthly flea-control products (for example, Advantage, Frontline or Revolution) that you can purchase from your vet. This will easily solve the problem.
P.S. You mention that your cat drinks “plenty of water.” If her thirst has always been like this, that’s fine. If she is drinking more than normal these days, I’d also have the vet check it out. A 13-to-14-year-old cat is at increased risk for disorders that cause increased thirst, like chronic renal failure, hyperthyroidism and diabetes.

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Reader Comments

Mim    International

2/6/2015 12:28:40 AM

Liz, the black spots on kitty's chin could be from plastic bowls.... A lot of cats react to them, try switching to ceramic..

Liz    nashville, TN

12/21/2014 3:18:29 PM

My cat gets black specks on his chin. They do not turn red in water and they get worse when I brush him. They do not easily come off. I've seen dogs with black patches on their skin that she'd terribly when they are washed. Wondering if this could be the same thing?

Liz    Sarasota, FL

11/13/2012 11:50:16 AM

What if the specks don't "bleed"? I can't find any fleas, and my cat isn't scratching. I thought it was fleas too, but now I don't think so. I have no idea what all these black specks in her fur are.

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

9/27/2012 9:46:49 PM

I remember when I first learned that the black specks were flea poop. My cat sleeps with me and every morning I use a hand vac to clean up any lose hair from the sheets. Well I started seeing all this black pepper like substance where my cat had laid. I looked it up on the Internet and sure enough, it was flea poop. I had to clean everything and disinfect. Wow what a job! I used lice shampoo for humans to shampoo her in. I did it twice and put her on Advantage. I had her on Frontline but that never worked for her. She is mostly an indoor cat but I take her outside for a little fresh air.

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