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Cat fleas would make excellent high jumpers. They've got long hind legs, perfect for lift-off, no wings needed, achieving up to 6 inches in height. They are flattened from side to side, but get nice and plump when they've got a belly full of blood.
Anywhere you find cats, you'll likely find cat fleas. And if your dog gets fleas, those are probably cat fleas too. No wonder dogs and cats don't tend to get along.
Obviously, they hang around cats a lot. But they also feed on other less high-maintenance animals, such as opossums, foxes, mongooses and rats. They linger indoors in narrow cracks where they know these animals frequently visit. Outdoors they live in humid climates, and larvae live in the same locations, especially where there is plenty of moisture.
Cat fleas stay on a liquid diet - they feed on blood. As for larvae, they have slightly different dietary requirements. They must consume adult flea fecal material of digested blood in order to complete development. No picky eaters here.
After a nice meal, the female goes and lays 4-8 eggs in a host animal's hair or its bed. And she does this after every meal – she can lay up to 400-500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are minuscule white ovals, about 1/64 inch (0.5mm) long, and take 1-12 days to hatch. They may fall or be shaken off into crevices where the animal spends a lot of time. Larvae demand high relative humidity (45-75%) as they go through 3 instars (stages). This can take from 1-2 weeks, to several months. Larvae pupate in a cocoon, camouflaged on the surface so no one disturbs them. This process may last 4-14 days, or up to a whole year. Even after, the teenage pupae still wants to laze in bed, up to 20 more weeks. They like staying comfy and protected from pesticides and other nuisances that can be a real rude awakening. Once they finally poke their heads out from the cocoon, they immediately realize they are famished and seek out a source of blood. If unsuccessful, they can survive for several months on their reserve of stored fat. Once they find a host, they get cracking, feeding, mating and laying eggs.
Lifespan is tricky to calculate – as with every invasion, sacrifices must be made. This means that many live only a few days, as cats' thorough grooming removes almost half of their numbers. The remaining survivors can live about a year.
Not only are they a real nuisance to whatever they infest, they act as hosts themselves. Dog tapeworms can infest indoor cats, and rodent tapeworms can infest humans. Not only that, they can transmit plague and marine typhus.
Cat fleas ride around on pets and can even jump 6 inches (15cm) to hitch a ride onto people's shoes and clothes. They can survive without a continual food source, so the population can grow to be a nuisance even in the absence of their host.
Fleas are usually associated with pets when found within homes. However, this doesn't mean we humans are off the hook, as they can easily jump onto our shoes or clothes. They can also be carried in from an area just outside. If you don't have any pets, there is still an animal that is causing the problem. This could include feral cats, opossums or rodents. Get rid of this problem by using traps and exclusion methods.
If pets are present, they should be treated on the same day as treatment is rendered for best results. All surfaces that pets spend time on should be cleaned. Before this, you must vacuum to remove pet hair and fecal matter of adult insects, which larvae need to develop. Vacuum floors, wall-floor junctions, upholstered furniture, and base of furnishings where pets rest. Remove vacuum bag immediately, seal in a plastic bag, and dispose in an outside trash bin. Thorough treatment should be made to the inside and exterior areas. All carpeted floor areas, along edges of floor molding, and under cushions of furniture should be treated. In exterior areas, concentrate on places that pets spend time in or on, including lawns and shaded areas under landscape bushes. Suggestion: at the start of 'flu season', treat areas inside your home with an I.G.R. (Insect Growth Regulator).It affects the development of larvae, interrupting their pupation cycle and achieving excellent sustained flea control. As the treatment process requires great thoroughness, you may want to use a professional exterminator. Continued monitoring and possible additional treatments may be necessary. Contacting the insects with the material is essential to control. When using any pesticide, be sure it is registered for the target pest/location. Read the entire label prior to use. Follow all label directions, restrictions, and precautions.
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