The cat flea, ctenocephalides felis, is one of the most abundant and widespread species of flea on earth. Adults range from 1-2mm long and are usually a reddish- brown colour. The cat flea is compressed laterally perfectly suited for clinging and climbing through the host’s fur. The cat flea’s primary host is the domestic cat, but the cat flea is also the primary flea infesting dogs in most of the world.
Humans can be bitten, although long term population of fleas on humans cannot be sustained. The cat flea goes through a complete metamorphosis. First the egg, then larva which pupates and then finally hatches into the young adult. This adult must have a blood meal within 3 days or it will die. Adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day which can become larva within 24 hrs. These larvas are phototaxic, meaning that they hide from light in the substrate. When environmental conditions are right the whole life cycle can be completed in about 14 days, but the pupa can remain dormant for up to a year.
Keeping the Problem Under Control
Good housekeeping goes a long way to controlling the problem, shaking out animal bedding regularly and washing at high temperatures; thorough vacuuming in all the nooks and crannies also helps and treating the dog or cat with a good quality flea treatment such as Advocate. However the cycle is difficult to break without spraying all the soft furnishings with a professional insecticide, which has a residual action that will work for several weeks after treatment to kill of any of the pupa hatching at a later date. These products are perfectly safe but exclusion from the home for 8 hrs on the day of treatment gives enough time for it to dry before re-entering the house.