and dog fleas are very similar in appearance and both species can
live on both cats and dogs. Humans are mainly attacked by cat
fleas. A cat or dog may have a light infestation of fleas without
the human inhabitants knowing it, but if the pets are carrying large
numbers of fleas, then there is naturally a greater likelihood of
humans being bitten. A heavy infestation may occur if the cat
or dog is removed from the house, for then the insect has no alternative
but to feed off us. In such cases one may comfort oneself with
the fact that the cat and dog fleas cannot breed without their principle
hosts, and so eventually the infestation will die out on its own.
On the other hand, they can live for months on a diet of human blood,
so it needs an unusual amount of patience to wait until the fleas
die of old age.
The Cat Flea;
(Ctenocephalides felis) & The Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides
These two fleas,
particularly the former, are the most common species found
in and around homes. They are most abundant in summer, and seem to
be especially numerous when homes are re-occupied afteer the residents
have been away for a few weeks. The cat and dog flea are so similar
in appearance and bilology that for practical purposes they can be
described under the same heading.
The female is 2.5 mm long, and the male is slightly smaller. The head
of the female cat flea is twice as long as high when seen from the
side, while that of the female dog flea as less than twice as long
as high. In both species, the genal comb consists of 8 pairs of spines,
and the pronotal comb also consists of 8 pairs (click
here to see diagram). With the aid of low magnification, it can
be determined that the first 2 anterior spines of the genal comb of
the cat flea are about equal in length, while the first spine is distinctly
shorter in the dog flea (Ewing and Fox, 1943; Pratt and Wiseman, 1962).
The larvae of both
species are nearly twice as long as the adults. They feed on particles
of dry blood, excrement, and various organic substances collected
in corners and crevices in the infested premises. When infestations
are very heavy, the accumulations of grayish larvae and white eggs
give the sleeping quarters of cats and dogs a "salt-and-pepper" appearance
that easily identifies the infestation.
Are Spread: Particularly in warm, humid areas, the exclusion
of cats and dogs, or their proper management, is necessary to prevent
flea infestations. Residential premises are sometimes so heavily infested
that cats will leave to seek relief, and will carry the infestation
to an uninfested home. If an infested stray cat has kittens under
or near an uninfested home, the appearance of fleas within the house
is very likely to follow. Fleas often also become established in the
lawns of heavily infested residences, in warmer areas of the country.
Fleas can jump vertically for 5 or 6 inches (about 15 cm), and can
attach themselves to skin or clothing. Some pest control operators
avoid being bitten by spraying insecticide onto their clothing, but
this is not according to label instructions.
In addition to cats,
dogs, and humans, many animals are attacked by cat fleas and dog fleas.
are due to Walter Ebeling for some of these notes
University of California
Division of Agricultural Sciences ©1975, 1996, 2002