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What cat fleas look like
Not so long ago, I was of a firm belief that mosquitoes were the worst pests imaginable. However, since our animal kingdom has grown from one dog to one dog and 3 cats, I have changed my mind. There is nothing worse then fleas. Spring and summer is the period when both fleas and ticks are in season and as they say it is good to know your enemy, here are some basic facts about fleas that should help you get to know these pesky little buggers and get rid of them once and for all.
Cat fleas (also going under the name Ctenocephalides felis) are tough little insects. While flea's primary host is your cat, they can without much trouble fester on your dog and other carnivores (although the general consensus is that even though humans can be bitten by fleas, fleas are not capable to maintain their life cycle on a human). A life span for a flea is between 6 to 12 months and in that period of time they can hatch virtually millions of offspring. Scary thought I know.
The female fleas will hatch their eggs on your cat or dog. The eggs can stay in your cat or dog's fur or they may infest the bedding or space where your pet sleeps. From eggs flea larvae will hatch. Larvae will feed on a number of organic substances, but their primary diet is dried blood that is left in the coat of your pet by the adult fleas as fecal material (now I am not squeamish by nature but this bit of information made me want to retch). The larvae will go through 3 stages of metamorphosis and then they will spin into a cocoon and enter their pupal stage. Now here is what makes the fleas so clever. Pupal stage can vary in length, meaning that young flea will not emerge until it detects a potential host. They have to detect warmth, carbon dioxide production or vibration. Once they detect one of these they will jump on a host and start feeding on a host's blood in a matter of minutes. If they do not detect a host, they will stay in their pupal stage.
How the fleas look like? Their size can be from 1.5 to 3.3 mms, most usually dark in color (on cat is reddish-brown color, while on dog the color is black). Fleas are wingless and their bodies are flattened on both sides, which makes it easy for them to move through your pet's hair. They have tube like mouthparts through which they draw blood from their primary host. Fleas also have long hind legs, which enables them to jump very high (it depends on the species of flea - from 18 cms vertically to 33 cms horizontally). Another thing that is good to note is that they have extra hard bodies, in all probability so they can survive scratching - that is way it is difficult to kill them unless you press on them really hard.
Your pets may have different reactions to flea bites, for some it may be a mild skin irritation, while in others it can manifest as flea allergy dermatitis in case they have an allergy to the fleas saliva. In some cases flea bites can even lead to anemia, especially if they infest puppies and kittens. Fleas are also carriers of tapeworms (look for small rice like specks in your pet's feces in case you are unsure if your pet has tapeworm).
Even though you might not see fleas it does not mean they are not there, the usual symptoms are constant scratching, scabs on your pet's skin or flea dirt (dark like specs that can be found on your pet's coat).