Can Cats Spread Bed Bugs?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Can cats carry bed bugs, and if they can, how do you get rid of them on the cat? The place where I’m staying has bed bugs and I have three cats.

~ Jammie

Thomas curled up on his favorite fleece blanket. Photo by JaneA Kelley

Good night, sleep tight ... and don't let the bed bugs bite.

Siouxsie: Well, Jammie, bed bugs sure are a drag, and they’re the just about single biggest pain-in-the-tail pest of modern life in the U.S. But the good news is that no, your cats will not carry or spread bed bugs.

Thomas: Bed bugs generally don’t live on their hosts. They hide in cracks and crevices and come out at night to feed. Once they’ve eaten their fill, they hop off again and go about their nasty business elsewhere.

Dahlia: And given the choice, bed bugs will feed on humans before they’ll feed on cats, dogs or other animals. You humans have a lot less hair, so you’re easier to bite!

Siouxsie: If your cats are itchy, take them to the vet to make sure they don’t have other parasites like fleas.

Thomas: Because cats don’t carry bed bugs like they do fleas or ticks, you can’t keep them off your cat with flea treatments.

Dahlia: The only way to get rid of a bed bug infestation is to de-clutter, wash the heck out of all your (and your cats’) bedding and clothes, and bring in exterminators to treat your home.

Siouxsie: The ecologically safest way to get rid of bed bugs is heat treatment. Exterminators bring in special machines that raise the temperature of your house to well over 120 degrees F and keep the temperature that high for a set amount of time.

Thomas: One of Mama’s good friends got bed bugs in her apartment, and the property management company had the heat treatment done. She hasn’t seen a bed bug since then — and it’s been a few months now. (Heat treatment is not a DIY project! The forums contain a few horror stories about people who’ve destroyed their belongings and sometimes even burned their houses down by trying to heat-treat their own homes.)

Dahlia: You can read more about the various treatments for bed bugs here. They also have some advice for DIY treatments you can use to keep the nasty little things at bay.

Siouxsie: A couple of years ago, we responded to a reader who asked about how cat-safe the various bed bug treatments are. If you’re interested, you can read that column here.

Thomas: So rest assured, your cats are not a bed bug vector, and nobody should blame your cats if the bugs spread!

Dahlia: We hope you and your housemates can get your bed bug situation sorted out and that everybody is less itchy and creeped out as a result.


  • Melissa

    Maybe your cats can’t CARRY the bed bugs, but they sure as heck could get sick from them!!! Google for more info, but here’s on news report of a woman whose cat got sick after a stay at a Holiday Inn:


  • Bizz @ getting rid of bed bugs

    Unfortunately, bed bugs can hitch a ride on nearly anything that moves, and they will take the opportunity to relocate at a moment’s notice. I wouldn’t worry too much about this though, especially if the cat stays indoors…

    Of course, if you have a bed bug infestation and then you were to take your cat to the vet, or anywhere else for that matter, then there would be a very slim chance that the cat would become a carrier, but like Siouxsie said, they aren’t really considered hosts.


    Well that’s good to know! Bedbugs are one of my biggest phobias, mostly because they are so difficult to eradicate.

  • judy

    Anything known about stray cats and curbside household items left overnight for garbage pickup? Someone down the street cleared out what looked like everything in their dwelling including mattresses, dresser, furniture and miscellaneous stuff and left it at the curb for garbage pickup. At least it was only overnight. What are the chances they could hitchike on the neighborhood cat who is homeless?