Most recently reviewed by: Janet Hurley & Pat Porter (2018)
Common Name(s): cat flea
Look for small (1/8 inch-long), wingless insects in the fur of dogs and cats. Adult fleas are brown to black in color, with strong jumping legs. Adult cat fleas feed on dogs, cats, and a variety of furred animals. People may be bitten by fleas, especially when populations are high, but fleas will not live and reproduce on humans. Flea larvae are small, rarely seen, legless larvae that live in carpeting, furniture, cracks in the floor, pet beds, and outdoors around pet sleeping and loafing areas.
Habitat & Hosts
Despite its name, cat fleas feed on a variety of hosts including dogs, people, cattle, opossums, raccoons, rats, etc. Cat fleas require animal blood meals for successful reproduction. Surprisingly human blood does not provide the right nutrition for cat fleas to survive, though they certainly bite humans. The presence of cat fleas in a home or yard without pets usually implies that wildlife (possums, squirrels, raccoons) or feral/free range dogs are cats are living in close proximity.
Fleas generally spend their adult life attached to one furry host. While feeding, female fleas lay eggs which fall off the animal and onto carpeted floors, furniture, grass and soil. Flea larvae feed on dried blood that has also fallen off the host. For this reason the most heavily flea infested areas of a home are places where pets like to hang out and sleep.
ManagementIf you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.
Infested pets should be treated immediately. Some of the newer on-animal treatments are generally effective and eliminate the need for sprays applied to house or yard, especially if applied before a serious problem develops. For more information about fleas and flea control, see http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3001/