What is a Cat Flea?
Ctenocephalides felis, the ‘cat flea’, is one of the most profuse and prevalent fleas found in the world. As the name suggests, the ‘cat flea’s’ primary host is the domestic cat but they can also live on other pets and animals that visit the city, such as dogs, opossums, foxes, mongeese and even rats.
They are also found indoors in narrow cracks where these animals frequently visit, or outdoors in humid climates. Their larvae live in the same kinds of places, especially where there is high moisture.
Cat flea adults are about 1/8 inch (2.5 mm) long with a body that is flattened from side to side and has no wings. Brownish black to black in color but reddish black when full of blood, ‘cat fleas’ have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris, as well as dried adult flea fecal blood.
After each blood meal, a female cat flea lays 4-8 eggs among a host animal’s hairs or in its bedding area, amounting to 400-500 during her life. Eggs are tiny white ovals, about 1/64 in (.5 mm) long, which take 1-12 days to hatch. They may fall or be shaken off into crevices where the animal sleeps or spends time.
Larvae need high relative humidity (45-95%), going through 3 instar stages in 1-2 weeks to several months. Cocoons (pupae) with camouflaging debris on the surface last 4-14 days, up to a year. The pre-emerged adult stays in the cocoon for up to 20 weeks, protected from dangers such as pesticides.
Adult fleas look for a blood meal soon after emerging, but can survive for several months on stored fat. Once on a host, they feed, mate and lay eggs. Many adults live only a few days, as cat grooming removes up to half of them, but survivors can live about one year.
Why do I have them?
Fleas can enter buildings that do not have pets as they can jump up about 6 inches (15 cm) and enter on peoples’ shoes and clothes. Even if a structure has been empty for 6 months, should there have been flea larvae or cocoons present, it is possible for the population to have grown to be a nuisance, since a continual food source is not required.