Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are small and externally parasitic insects, meaning they spend their life feeding on the outside of their host. They primarily feed on the blood of cats, hence the name, cat flea. However, they are not limited to cats. Cat fleas are also commonly found on dogs. They can also bite humans, however they cannot survive with human blood and therefore will not infest humans but merely cause irritation and become a nuisance. Transfer between host to host for cat fleas are very low and most cat fleas will spend their entire lifespan on their host.
Although cat fleas and many other fleas are found all over the world, cat fleas can most commonly be found on both the fur of cats and dogs in North America, particularly in the United States. They are probably the common pet flea that you may be seeing in your home.
A few reasons why fleas are difficult to control is because they are so small and because of their reproduction trends. Although flea eggs are produced in the fur, they might roll out or be brushed out of the fur into any surrounding that the host travels to. For instance, when your pet cat sleeps on the couch or anywhere elsewhere, the eggs may roll off into the carpet area and hatch in those environments. Larvae does not require blood to survive because they feed off of dried flea excrement and skin flakes from the cat or dog that has built up in the resting areas.
Cat fleas on dogs and cats may cause little to no harm. However, if your pet is allergic to the bacteria in the saliva that is transmitted from fleas, they may have irritation or may become dehydrated. Also, they are capable of transmitting diseases from their host to people when they bite a human.
Like most other species of fleas, cat fleas are flattened from side to side. Cat fleas have a smooth covering and backward, hook-like spines off their hind legs that make it easy to maneuver through the fur of dogs and cats. They have something called ocelli (dark and flattened bristles) around their mouth which cannot be found on all fleas and make it very useful when a person may want to identify the type of flea.