You live in close proximity with your furry companion and let her share your home and maybe even your bed. When the warmer weather comes and she starts scratching and you find she has fleas, sharing is the last thing on your mind.
Cat fleas, Ctenocephalides felis, are the most common flea in the United States. They are small wingless insects about 1/16- to 1/8-inch long. Their shiny, dark reddish-brown bodies are flat to allow easy movement through your pet's fur, and they have large back legs for jumping. Backwards-pointing bristles also help them to move through hair. The mouth-parts are designed for piercing the skin and sucking blood from their host.
Female fleas lay eggs in the fur of their host which fall onto the ground, floors and wherever the cat spends time. These hatch into larva that feed on adult flea excrement, dead skin and other organic matter. They pupate and hatch as adult fleas, which jump onto a passing animal to use as a host. Females consume about 15 times their body weight in blood daily and begin laying eggs within two days of their first blood meal.
Cat Fleas and Humans
Fleas do not live on human skin but will occasionally feed from humans. This can occur when people handle flea-infested animals or when fleas living in soft furnishings or pet beds need a meal and there is no cat or dog nearby. Bites usually occur around the ankles and lower legs unless puss sleeps in your bed, and then they can occur anywhere. Flea bites cause itchy red bumps with a red halo around them.
Fleas are most abundant during the summer months, and getting rid of fleas requires treating both the pet and the premises. Spot-on flea treatment for cats gives good control of adult fleas that act for several weeks. Pet bedding should be washed at the same time as the cat is treated and weekly for several weeks. Carpets, cushions, couches and areas where kitty spends time should be vacuumed or steam-cleaned every few days to prevent eggs hatching out and developing.
- young woman with a red cat image by amlet from Fotolia.com