What are fleas?


Knowing what are fleas and how they behave is very important if you want to get rid of them from you, your animals and your house. Fleas are wingless insect that cannot fly but have the ability to jump large distances. This allows them to move around from place to place and host to host very easily. Since they are external parasites and feed on blood, fleas’ primary target are animals, especially birds and mammals such as dogs, cats and humans.

Fleas prefer warm climates and humid environments to live and reproduce. This is because humidity and moisture are conditions necessary for their eggs to hatch. A single female can consume about 15 times its body weight and can lay 40 to 50 eggs every day. This means that in an entire lifetime they can lay up to 2,000 eggs. Looking at this number you can understand how easily is to could be to have a flea infestation if they settle on your animals or inside your house.

What do fleas look like?

Fleas are small insects approximately 2.5 mm long and have a reddish-brown color. Their bodies is very flattened and even if they are visible to the naked eye, they can be very hard to find and catch. Before they will reach the adult stage, they will go trough other 3 main stages: egg, larva and pupa. The flea life cycle takes from two weeks to eight months to be completed, depending on the environmental condition they are living in.

how to treat fleas

Even if they are classified as different species, all types of fleas are very similar to each other and it can be difficult sometimes to differentiate them. This happens also because for example, the type which is supposed to attack cats, can be found on either dogs and humans. For this reason, let’s see the most common types in details:

Dog fleas – They are also known with their scientific name Ctenocephalides canis. A dog flea has a dark red color and is different from other types because it has combs around the mouth and head. Despite their name, dog fleas are able to infest also other animals.

Cat fleas – Their scientific name is Ctenocephalides felis. Cat fleas have a dark color, usually black or brown. They are more common than dog fleas, because they are more resistant to flea repellents. They are usually infesting cats but can be found on other animals as well.

Human fleas – This particular type is also known as Pulex irritans. They are 2-3 mm long and their color is dark brown. They are quite rare in the cities but you can find them very easily in the countryside especially where there are farm animals.

Where do fleas come from?

Summer is the period when flea infestations happen more frequently. The reason is fleas love hot and humid weathers to live and reproduce. A flea life cycle is much faster when they find the right conditions and summer is the perfect time. Flea infestations are less frequent during winters but they are still possible, particularly inside the house. Carpets, pillowcases, curtains, moquette, couches and beds are the places where they commonly hide and you are going to find them.

In the case you have pets or a garden in your house flea infestation become very common. Domestic animals are the perfect host and plants in your garden or in your house are very good places for fleas to hide. If you have pets, you should check them regularly because as soon as they get infested, you are going to have fleas everywhere, especially if you let them inside the house.

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Cat Fleas

Cat Fleas (also called Ctenocephalides felis) have dimensions of 2-3 mm and have generally a more flat shape than other parasites of the same family, such as dog fleas.This is not the only difference that there is. Their color is reddish or brown and they survive living off cat’s blood to complete their life cycle. Another characteristic of cat fleas is their prominent genal comb that allow them to pierce the skin of the cat and make very hard to remove them from it.

In order to live, cat fleas needs warm and humid temperature. This is why the fur of your cats is going to be the perfect place for them to settle in. This will permit them to survive even during cold periods and to reproduce. It is also possible that at a certain point they will decide to move on another host, which doesn’t have to be a cat but it can also be any another animal, even us.

cat fleas

Behavior and flea bites on cats

The reproductive capacity of cat fleas is very high. They can lay 15 to 40 eggs per day and more than 2,000 eggs in a lifetime. Even if the eggs are lay on the cat, they are going to fall and settle inside the environment where the cat lives.In good environmental condition a flea will move from the egg stage to larval stage in just 10 days. Then they will hide in dark, humid and hot places inside your house like carpets, couches, beds or other dusty areas. In few weeks they will end their cycle becoming first pupae then adult.

Once they reach the adult stage they will start looking for a host, usually  a cat, but they can choose also another pet or other animals. Then they will settle inside its hair and getting the nourishment from its blood. Flea bites are going to be very irritating for your cat. They will cause itch, red skin and in the worst cases infections or dermatitis. You are going to immediately understand when your cat is bitten because it will start scratching very hard.

How to get rid of cat fleas

The first step to get rid of cat fleas is to find them. To do so you will have to look very carefully inside the hair of your cat and in the places where it sleeps. I suggest using a hand lens when you do the search because sometimes could be very difficult to see them. This is what you have to do:

  • Lift gently your cat hair and start looking for fleas. They have a reddish-brown color and are about 2 mm long.
  • If you notice small brown-black dots on your cats you may just have found flea feces.
  • Check your cat more times during the day. Since fleas are very small, sometimes it is possible to miss them.
  • Check the areas where it sleeps. Its basket, bed, couches or all the other places where it uses to take naps.

Prevention and flea treatment for cats

There are different ways to treat fleas on cats and most of them require the use of flea repellents (such as collar, shampoo, spot-on) which contain toxic chemicals and may not be well tolerated by the cat. Sometimes they can cause allergic reactions or infections (when ingested).

This is why a lot of people have decided to use natural home remedies to treat their cats. However, its is vey important that you document yourself before using any of these remedies that are vey easy to find on the web. For example, DO NOT put garlic in your cat food or wash them with dish soap like many website suggest. Both of these remedies are very dangerous for your animal and can create a bigger problem that the one you are trying to solve.

One of the best ways to protect your cats is to keep your house and the environment where they live always clean. This is because fleas like to hide in dusty areas especially curtains, carpets, moquette, pillowcases and couches. Fleas infestations are less frequent when they cannot find places to hide and reproduce.

I want to give you with a good trick to catch fleas in house. Put a plate with dish soap under a lamp or with a lighted tea light candle in it. The light will attract the fleas in the plate and the dish soap will trap them until they are dead. If you decide to follow this trick, be very careful that your cats will not be able to reach the plate (as I mentioned before, dish soap is very dangerous if ingested).

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