Of the more than 2,000 recorded flea species, the most commonly found in the U.S. is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). These fleas are attracted to homes with domestic pets. Cat fleas infest a variety of animals and are not only found on cats.
Cat fleas develop through the egg, larval and pupal stages before emerging as adults. This process can be complete in 30 days, although environmental conditions may cause the development cycle of the cat flea to stretch over one year. Females can produce four to eight eggs at a time. Eggs are oval-shaped and usually fall from the host animal’s fur to the ground, remaining there until they hatch into larvae. Larvae then become pupae and eventually mature into adult cat fleas. Adult cat fleas live on their hosts, consuming their blood in order to survive.
While their bites cause little damage in small numbers, cat fleas can transmit murine typhus to humans. Cat fleas are also intermediate hosts of dog tapeworm. Some hosts develop allergic reactions to flea bites, resulting in flea allergy dermatitis. If the infestation is severe and the host is particularly small, the animal may become anemic.
In order to control a cat flea infestation, the host animal, home and yard must all be treated. Consult a veterinarian for recommendations on pet products. Floors should be cleaned, and fabrics should be washed. Areas indoors can also be treated with spray insecticides. Several other products may also be selected for outside use. The use of chemicals is best left to trained professionals, so contact your local pest control professional to discuss treatment options.