The common cat flea, ctenocephalides felis, is one of the most widespread and abundant species of flea in the world. Measuring about 1-2mm long, they are parasitic insects that infest the coats of cats, feeding on their blood and quickly reproducing and laying eggs on your pet’s body. Although they’re a separate species to the dog flea, cat fleas are actually the most common flea found on dogs too.
Fleas are wingless, but have long hind legs that allow them to jump relatively high and move very quickly. They also have extremely tough shells that prevent them from being squashed when your cat scratches at them. A flea infestation can be very itchy and uncomfortable for your pet, and if left untreated can spread to other areas of your home. While they do not live on people, cat fleas can and will feed on adults and children if they’re given the chance.
Fleas are often picked up by cats from wild animals like birds, rabbits and mice, usually while they are hunting - fleas can jump from one animal to another when their bodies come into close contact, and almost immediately begin laying eggs. Flea eggs may also be contracted from bedding, soil, carpets or floorboards. The eggs are extremely durable and can lie dormant for months at a time.
Fleas begin as eggs, which are laid by females in batches of around 20 at a time, usually on the pet’s body. After a period of two days to two weeks, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and feed on any organic material nearby. During the larval stage, fleas will seek out dark places to hide. After one to two weeks, the larvae then weave a cocoon (just like butterflies) and spend around a week pupating before emerging as an adult. They will then try to find a blood meal and reproduce, after which the cycle begins again.