Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Do Cats Get Fleas When They Don’t Go Outside? 8 Likely Ways

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Fleas can be a big problem in any home, and they can be especially surprising when they turn up on a cat that doesn’t go outside. If this has happened to you, keep reading as we list several ways that a cat that doesn’t go outside can get fleas. We also provide several tips and tricks that you can use to get rid of the fleas and prevent them from coming back.

The 8 Ways Cats Get Fleas Even When They Don’t Go Outside

1. From Visiting the Vet

british shorthair cat being treated by a vet
Image Credit: Andrii Medvednikov, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, your indoor cat can get fleas when they visit the veterinarian. While rare, if a pet with fleas is in the waiting room, one can hop off and jump onto your pet.

What Can I Do About It?

You can help prevent fleas from getting on your indoor cat at the vet by keeping them away from other pets while you are in the waiting room. Placing a washable cover over the crate and putting a flea collar on your cat can also help.

2. On Your Clothes

One of the most common ways that fleas can get on an indoor cat is by coming in on your clothes. Tending to your garden, mowing your lawn, and even going for a walk can put you in areas where a flea can jump onto your clothing. Once you return home, the flea can jump onto your cat and multiply.

What Can I Do About It?

If you spend time in the garden or any outdoor area that other animals frequent, removing your clothes and putting them in the washing machine before greeting your cat is a good idea.

3. From a Wild Animal

cat hunting mice in the wild
Image Credit: Kathryn19, Pixabay

If your indoor cat likes to spend time on the porch, there is a chance that they can get fleas from a wild animal that frequents the yard. The flea could have jumped off the wild animal and onto the porch before getting on your cat and into your home.

What Can I Do About It?

If you have wild fauna or stray cats coming onto your property that you think are responsible for the fleas in your house, there are several steps that you can take to keep them away, including putting up a fence, using a sonic deterrent, or setting up a motion-activated sprinkler.

4. Through the Window

Another way that fleas can get into your home is by jumping through the window. These small insects can easily fit through any holes in the screen and are especially likely to do so if your cat likes to spend time on the windowsill.

What Can I Do About It?

Check all your screens carefully to ensure that there are no holes that a flea can fit through. Look through the window to ensure that there are no gaps, and make repairs or change the screen as necessary.

5. From Porch Furniture

cat sleeping with its belly up on a cat bed
Image Credit: Jim Black, Pixabay

If you have old furniture on your porch, it can be a breeding ground for fleas if wild animals have access to it. These fleas can then get on your clothing or jump on the cat if they spend time on the porch.

What Can I Do About It?

If you think that wild animals are depositing fleas on your porch furniture, you will either need to take steps to keep the animals out of your yard or get rid of the furniture.

6. From Another Pet

If you have both a cat and a dog in your home, your indoor cat can get fleas from the dog after they go outside to use the bathroom. Dogs also like to rummage around in tall grass and chase after other animals, so they can easily pick up fleas that they then transfer to your cat. Fleas can even jump on you when you pet other dogs and cats.

What Can I Do About It?

If you own a cat and a dog and the dog spends time outside, you will likely need to protect your cats from any fleas and ticks that might come in with the dog. Flea-and-tick medications are expensive but extremely effective at preventing fleas from getting out of control in your home.

7. From a Mouse

cat with dead mouse
Image Credit: B_kowsky, Pixabay

A common way that an indoor cat can get fleas is by catching a mouse or another rodent that got into the house. Mice frequently enter people’s homes in the fall as the temperature drops, and if they have fleas, they will transfer them to your cat.

What Can I Do About It?

The best way to prevent mice from entering your home is to inspect your property each year in late summer and plug any small holes that a mouse might be able to use to enter your home. Mice only need a hole the size of a pencil to get in, so you must look carefully.

8. Already in a New Home

If you just moved into a new home, there is a chance that the previous tenant left a few fleas. This is especially common in pet-friendly apartments in the city.

What Can I Do About It?

If you are moving into an apartment that you suspect might have fleas, try using a flea bomb before moving in your cat and your furniture. Plenty of baking soda and vacuuming can also help you kill off any remaining fleas before they get on your cat.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Keep your yard well-maintained. Cutting the grass will make your property less inviting to fleas and cats.
  • Don’t allow bushes or trees to grow too close to your windows.
  • Frequently grooming your cat with a flea comb can help you detect fleas faster, making them easier to eliminate.
  • Monthly flea medication not only prevents fleas from getting into your house, but it can also be a great way to eliminate them because once they can’t live on the cat or any other host, they will quickly die off.


Indoor cats can get fleas in several ways, but if you don’t have a dog, the most likely cause is fleas on your clothes, and those likely got there as you tended the garden, walked through the woods, or pet a strange animal. Fleas can also enter the house on a mouse or through an open window, and you can even pick them up at the vet. If they get out of hand, using flea-and-tick medication can help get them under control.

Featured Image Credit: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database