Cat flea

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Cat Flea
Cat flea under an optical microscope
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Siphonaptera
Family: Pulicidae
Genus: Ctenocephalides
Species: C. felis
Binomial name
Ctenocephalides felis
(Bouché, 1835)

The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is one of the most abundant and widespread species of flea on Earth.[according to whom?]


The cat flea is a small sucking insect of the order Siphonaptera. Adults range from 1–2 mm long and are usually a reddish-brown colour, although this can vary. The cat flea, and all other fleas, are compressed laterally, resulting in an extremely thin insect that can be quite hard to find in an animal's coat.[2]

The cat flea's primary host is the domestic cat, but it is also the primary flea infesting dogs in most of the world. The cat flea can also maintain its life cycle on other carnivores and on omnivores.[2]

Humans can be bitten, though a long-term population of cat fleas cannot be sustained and infest people. However, if the female flea is allowed to feed for 12 consecutive hours on a human, it can lay viable eggs.[2]

Life cycle[edit]

Photo showing some characteristics used to identify from other fleas, including genal comb.
Flea larva showing red ingested blood.

Fleas go through four life cycle stages of egg, larva, pupa, and imago (adult). Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction.[3]

Flea populations are distributed with about 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults.[4]


The female flea lays her eggs on the host. The eggs, once dry, have evolved to filter out of the haircoat of the animal, and into the resting and sheltering area of the animal.


The eggs hatch into larvae, which are negatively phototaxic, meaning that they hide from light in the substrate. Flea larvae feed on a variety of organic substances, but most importantly subsist on dried blood that is filtered out of the haircoat of the host after it is deposited there as adult flea fecal material. Thus, the adult population on the animal feeds the larval population in the animal's environment.

Flea fecal material, coiled larva and fleas in the pupae stage combed from a cat, is also called flea dirt.

Pupal stage[edit]

Flea larvae metamorphose through four stages before spinning a cocoon and entering the pupal stage. The pupal stage varies greatly in length; the pre-emergent flea does not normally emerge as a young adult flea until the presence of a potential host is perceived by warmth or vibration.[5][6][7]


Newly emerged mature fleas jump to a new host within seconds of emerging from the cocoon. The new flea begins feeding on host blood within minutes.[5][6][7]

Effects on the hosts[edit]

A few fleas on adult dogs or cats cause little harm unless the host becomes allergic to substances in saliva. The disease that results is called flea allergy dermatitis. Small animals with large infestations can lose enough bodily fluid to fleas feeding that dehydration may result. Cat fleas also may be responsible for disease transmission through humans, and have been suspected as transmission agents of plague.

Disease transmission[edit]

Cat fleas can transmit other parasites and infections to dogs and cats and also to humans. The most prominent of these are Bartonella, murine typhus, and apedermatitis. The tapeworm Dipylidium caninum can be transmitted when an immature flea is swallowed by pets or humans. In addition, cat fleas have been found to carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, but their ability to transmit the disease is unclear.[8]


Main article: Flea

Since more than three-quarters of a flea's life is spent somewhere other than on the host animal, it is not adequate to treat only the host; it is important also to treat the host's environment. Thorough vacuuming, washing linens in hot water, and treating all hosts in the immediate environment (the entire household, for example) are essential and if possible on a regular basis.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ European wildcat species account IUCN Species Survival Commission. Cat Specialist Group
  2. ^ a b c "Cat flea". Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  3. ^ Fleas. P.G. Koehler and F. M. Oi. Printed July 1993, revised February 2003. Provided by the University of Florida
  4. ^ [1] Crosby, J.T. What is the Life Cycle of the Flea. Accessed 6 August 2012
  5. ^ a b "Fleas". University of Florida. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  6. ^ a b "Insects and Ticks: Fleas". Entomology Department at Purdue University. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  7. ^ a b "The Biology, Ecology and Management of the Cat Flea" (PDF). University of California, Riverside. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  8. ^ Teltow GJ, Fournier PV, Rawlings JA (May 1991). "Isolation of Borrelia burgdorferi from arthropods collected in Texas.". Am J Trop Med Hyg. 44 (5): 469–74. PMID 2063950. 
  9. ^

External links[edit]

Flea treatment[edit]