What Are Cat Fleas?
A Cats Fleas are distinctive from other insects in many key ways.
In terms of size, they are about 1.5 – 2mm long with backwards-facing hairs that allow them to move swiftly through the victims (hosts) hair where they feed on the hosts’ blood.
Cat fleas are quite small, flattened insects that are a few millimetres long. Fleas appear brown, especially once fed when they become a richer mahogany shade.
The other significant features are the incredible jumping range and a distinctive dark brown to the black eye on the head.
In the picture above, the powerful rear legs are clearly visible. Claws on the ends of the legs grasp the hosts’ flesh, ensuring they have a firm purchase while feeding.
Why Should I Treat Cat Fleas?
Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are the most abundant species of flea in the UK, and this fleas bite is the very least of your worries.
Fleas might feed on your blood, but the reaction some of us have to substances in the flea’s saliva often cause us to scratch.
Scratching the bite site breaks the skin and causes it to scab over. Infected skin lesions often form and permanent scarring is a direct consequence.
So this makes sense so far but what happens if you swallow a flea?
Probably nothing – but suppose you are a child and your digestive system is not so robust as a healthy adult – guess what’s coming in with the infected flea?
You likely thought disease, but it’s the developing stages of an 18inch long tapeworm called a cucumber worm (Dipylidium caninum). Freaked out yet, you should be.
Fleas have some fantastic traits, but they always come with a warning.
It’s often the children or other vulnerable people in your home that are at the greatest risk from flea-borne parasitic, viral and bacterial infection.
Infection is not common, but becomes more likely in premises were fleas are only partially controlled if at all.
Partial flea control is a common problem and the costs of doing a little every so often, very often, massively, surpasses the costs of a professional treatment.
Pest Control Treatments For Cat Fleas
Large Cat Flea infestations quickly develop while your home is empty.
Every summer we attend properties infested with fleas. Homeowners typically return home after a trip away and become covered in pepper! No – not pepper – it’s hundreds of fleas emerging from the floors, etc, simultaneously.
The flea has an astonishing ability to jump 100 times its own height. This helps it easily jump onto a passing host (you or your pet cat).
What’s interesting is they only jump when it’s light.
Freshly hatched fleas quickly crawl up your ankles, legs and get under your clothing to feed.
Fleas can infest your car. Being in a confined space with fleas is bad news. People wake the next day to find dozens of flea bites on their legs. You can’t see the fleas feeding on you when you are driving!
What Pest Control Treatments Can Be Used?
You can waste hundreds of pounds on ineffective amateur treatments, or you can let experts do it correctly ONCE!
Fumigation or ULV treatment offers a very quick knock-down of adult fleas but provides virtually no residual control, so you pay to “control fleas at the moment” and nothing more.
This is because it does little to disrupt the fleas life-cycle.
What is good is that it penetrates most of the nooks and crannies that are commonly found in homes and will get into all the hard to reach areas in cluttered rooms.
Flea Control Sprays
Residual spray – this kills some fleas quickly but can’t be used on delicate materials especially those that will be damaged by water.
The spray should contain a residual insecticide that will provide killing power for months and should also include an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) to break the flea life-cycle.
In short – if you use one method it is a toss-up between temporary relief or prolonged suffering for about four weeks.
But if you want it sorted fast, then you need to employ the combined power of both.
The products you can buy in the shops can have some effect but in general, are a sorry match for the for large infestations that are only quickly taken care of by integrated methods that include both fumigation and residual sprays.
Common Sources of Fleas: One of the big questions our customers often ask about fleas affecting their homes or offices is very simply “Where do fleas come from”?
For the answer, you need to engage in a small amount of detective work.
You need to think when you first started experiencing the symptoms of bites, such as raised itchy patches on the skin or others in the same area reported seeing them or getting bitten by them.
Once you have a little bit of a timeline, you need to ask some of these questions and of course, give honest answers.
Where did I first notice them or the flea bites on my body?
The legs and lower arms are common places, especially where the skin is delicate with a good vascular supply close to the surface.
The neck is also a familiar spot to get bitten.
Clothing is an excellent insulator and also provides fleas with a level of concealment.
Where was I when I noticed them?
What had you been doing that day? Had you had any visitors or had anyone else in that location?
Had you been into a property or area where animals were or had been present? were you in a property where an animal had been kept up to eighteen months before?
You should ask questions like “has my neighbours cat entered my car while windows were open or the roof was down”?
What time of day was it when I noticed them?
Was the weather hot or cold – was it day or night?
Like all insects, fleas like warmth. If you are the warmest thing in a cold room, then your heat signature will get them interested.
If the room is warm or an area is exposed to sunlight through glass, then it speeds up the development time it takes for flea larvae to reach maturity or developing adults in pupae to mature.
Do you have any pets that have not received flea treatments?
Cats and dogs are the most common sources of fleas. You also find that rabbits and other animals that frequent your garden will also leave these little critters behind.
It’s not uncommon for fleas to be present in one corner of the garden. Badgers, hedgehogs and foxes regularly visit gardens.
Children usually get bitten first as their skin is delicate and untainted with strong perfumes or aftershaves.
Pets that come into your homes and offices are also commonly responsible for infestations.
If you have a cat flap installed without a magnetic or infrared lock then it must be sealed. It is ubiquitous for non-resident cats to come into the property and nap on the sofas, etc.
Fleas are usually present two to three weeks after the initial infestation. Sometimes quicker if large numbers of adults were present on the contaminating host.
The only good news is that those fleas you eventually see are unable to breed without a blood meal from the respective biological host.
This means that if a cat flea bites you it cannot breed, but can of course survive.