Key features The cat flea is small at around 2 mm long, reddish brown in colour and is flattened laterally, a feature which enables is to move easily amongst the hair of its vertebrate host.
The most distinctive features of the cat flea are the large jumping legs and the row of black non-sensory spines on the front margin of the head and on the rear of the first thoracic segment. These bristles or combs are a diagnostic feature of the cat flea.
The eyes are apparent as are the antennae, and the mouthparts, adapted for piercing and sucking, are typically seen projecting downwards from the head.
After mating, the female flea lays several hundred eggs in batches after each blood meal in the cat's fur, bedding, resting site and in areas where the cat is to be found. The eggs are small (0.5 mm) white and oval in shape. From the egg emerges the larval stage which is again white in colour, legless but covered in large bristles. The larvae are not blood suckers but feed on general organic debris which is to found in the lair of the cat. When mature the flea larva is about 5 mm long and it spins a cocoon of silk which very quickly gets covered in a large amount of dust and debris. The pupa develops within the silken cocoon and when triggered by suitable stimuli such as vibration, the adults emerge to feed on the cat.
Although the cat and the dog are the preferred hosts for cat fleas - they are capable of feeding on humans, and frequently do. The distress caused by the bites can be considerable in cats and humans. C. felis felis is an intermediate host for the cestode tapeworm, Diplyidium caninum, which normally develops in the digestive tract of the dogs, cats and some wild carnivores, but also occurs in man and particularly young children. Vibration as a trigger for the adults to emerge from the pupa, mentioned above, frequently means that humans who go into an empty premises where cats had previously been "in residence" suffer a high level of attack.
Treatment consists of identifying the source of the infestation, ie: the host animal(s), and if appropriate treating it with a suitable veterinary product. Such a treatment should not be carried out by a pest control technician but by the owner of the animal or a veterinarian. A residual insecticide should then be applied to areas frequented by the animal. A carbamate containing bendiocarb or a residual synthetic pyrethoid would be suitable for this purpose
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