Cat Fleas


January 17, 2014

One must be well studied in fleaology to develop a pest profile – a behavioral and investigative tool to assist pest management professionals (PMPs) with predicting and profiling pest characteristics. Fleaology provides the essential information to control these host-intimate, hematophagous insects.

The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, victimizing humans and companion animals. Primarily assaulting cats, the flea will feed on 50 species of mammals. Adults are 1.5 to 2.5mm long and compress laterally – like a tooth in a comb – to burrow into pelage. Responding to thermal and visual stimuli, female fleas have one bloodmeal about every 12 hours for survival and oviposition. The flea places its eggs, which can fall into intimate areas of the host or carpet, on the host. The larvae feed on dried blood, exuviae (cast skin) or tapeworm eggs. Pupae hide within cemented cocoons covered in debris.

Cat fleas flee with extraordinary ability. After squatting for as little as 0.1 second, the flea propels by relaxing its levator muscle, holding the femur in a vertical position and relaxing the ventral (lower front) longitudinal muscles holding catches in a cocked position. Stored energy in compressed resilin (an elastic protein) is released in 0.7 second, driving the trochanter (part of the leg) against the substrate for leverage off the substrate. Strong muscles lengthen the joint between the trochanter and femur, which extends the leg while the tarsal segment and claws press against the substrate, providing more thrust. Fleas rob their host of blood and escape quickly; but as fleaologists, PMPs control them for a healthier environment.


About the Author

MITCHELL, D.O., DVM, PsyD, BCE, is technical director of PestWest, and a frequent contributor to PMP.

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