Rat Fleas

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Rat Fleas

Even though there are over 250 species of fleas, only a few have frequently come in contact with humans.  These include the cat fleadog flea, human flea, and rat flea.

Rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) are blood-sucking parasites.  They are external parasites that primarily host on rats like Norway rats or roof rats.  They are known to have originated in Europe but can now be found in temperate environments all over the world.  Although the rat flea hosts on rats, rat fleas will also feed on the blood of other mammals, including humans.

Rats are known to carry diseases and many people assume that rats are the main vector for transmitting diseases to people.  However, fleas are problematic vectors for transmitting diseases.  A rat flea will host on a rat that is carrying a disease.  They will then become carriers for the bacteria and then the hungry flea will bite a human and regurgitate the bacteria into a new host.  The Oriental Rat Flea is a known vector for the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death that overtook Europe during the Middle Ages.

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Identification

Rat fleas are flat insects meaning they are compressed from side to side.  Unlike the common cat flea or dog flea, the rat flea does not have a genal comb on its head. They are brownish in color and can grow up to 6mm but be as small as 1.2mm long.

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Date: Wednesday, 13. January 2010 13:27
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32 comments

  1. 1

    Are rat fleas known to be more difficult to kill?
    We have treated for a month now and it seems our infestation has come from item that were stored in storage unit for 3 years… I HAVE been in pet industry for 30 yrs..used to pride myself on NEVER HAVING FLEAS…thats over…5 cats and 3 dogs… frontline,knockout and capstar….still major infestation..oh and adams bombs 3 times also..many many baths…hearty ..sem to have built uip immunity

  2. 2

    Hi Sandy, I’m very sorry to hear about your flea infestation! Fleas are difficult to get rid of, but it’s not impossibly. Also, I don’t suppose that rat fleas are more or less harder to get rid of than cat or dog fleas. I do want to let you know that consistency and thoroughness are the two main things you have to be aware of when you are treating for fleas. Also, the insecticides that are used for flea control all have their own residual times. A residual time is the time that the chemicals remain active for even after it dries. Most foggers don’t have a residual time at all so once it’s dry and has ventilated, there is no longer any killing effect of the fogger. Concentrate insecticides have a longer residual of about 3-4 months. Finally dusts and granules have the longest residual. Dusts must be applied to hard to reach or restricted areas. Also, granules insecticides are limited to outdoor use. It is important to follow residual times and the product label because misuse can lead to negative effects or can harm the environment, your pets, and yourself. If you have any questions on flea control, you can always give us a call or contact us via email or blog.

  3. 3

    where do rat fleas come from? are they related to cat fleas, just treated for cat fleas now rat fleas are starting to show up, and my cat and rats dont go outside!

  4. 4

    Hello Julia! Yes! Rat fleas and cat fleas as well as other species of fleas are very closely related. In fact, they are all almost the same except for minor, very microscopic differences in their physical biology. Also, their preference in a host will be different as well which gives them all their names. For instance, cat fleas primarily host on cats and rat fleas on rats. However, be aware that if their primary host is not available, they will host on other animals, including you. Although they do not go outside, they may have entered the home through an entry point (usually open doors). You will definitely need to treat both your pets even if just one animal is infested. It is crucial to take care of the animals as well as treat your home for fleas. I hope this helped! Good Luck!

  5. 5

    Hi
    for years now I have been bothered by this feeling of things crawling all over me, but have only ever manged to find to mircoscopic white round mites which I think live in hair folicals and then create sore that weeps a golden color liquid and then these little things seem to live in it, or eat it..I feel them most at night, now I have been sleeping in my clothes on top of the bed for months with the light on , as that seemed to help..it seem to all come about when I arrived hoe to find I had rats in my house. They had urinated on a mat in the bedroom which I threw out, but that night in bed my face felt like a millions ants were crawling across it, now five years later I am still having trouble..I have been to umpteen doctors, tried umpteen lotion, powders, chemicals, and still these things nip me and cause small weeping sores, and strange hard golden stalimites, and little volcanoes on my forehead, shoulders..as soon as I hit the bed I am crawling..I changed the bed, done everything…does this sound like rat mites to you..what can I use to kill these little buggers, because I am slowly going crazy.. they are up my nose and in my ears.. I am to scared to sleep with anyone or hug them for fear of spreading these things…can you email me a reply as well as post here…thanks for any advice…

  6. 6

    Hi Maaka,

    We have sent a reply to your email address. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at info@pestmall.com.

  7. 7

    Hi-I have a neighbor that is experiencing the same symtoms as the post from Maaka, could you send me that response as well. We thought they were dealing with black knats, but they seemed to have subsided, or died from our applications of pesticides. However, she is still experiencing things biting her and causing weeping sores similar to those above. Please respond as they are desperate for a solution.

  8. 8

    Hello Darin,

    We have sent an email to the provided email address. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know! :)

  9. 9

    Hi,I hope you won’t have to print this. I have a question. I started noticeing a couple of rat dropings a week ago. Then one niht they got into the bread a little and ate half a peach and I found about a dozen or more dropings under the dinnig table. My son came over later that day and we found where we think they got in and fixed it. No peaches have been eaton nor are there any dropings any where. I hav’nt noticed any fleas or the like, but still want to have the carpets steam cleaned. Should I do anything first? I’ll wait acouple of days to hear back from you before I have themm cleaned. Thanks! Allen

  10. 10

    Hi Allen,
    Rats can be a huge problem if you do not act quickly. If you are worried about fleas or mites that can come from the rats, you should definitely get everything cleaned up, however, we do not recommend insecticides until you are ready to eradicate. You do need to eradicate the rats though. If there is a valid food source for them, they will definitely remain nearby and return to forage for food. Snap traps, glue traps, and baits are typically the way you can get rid of them. We do not recommend rodent poison for indoor the house though because there are chances that they may die indoors in the wall voids and the rotting carcass can leave behind foul odors. You should also do a thorough inspection of the outside perimeter and check for cracks and crevices that they may have entered from. You should seal those areas with Rodent Proofing Copper Mesh or any product of the like. If you have any questions about details of what products to use and how to use them, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-788-4142.

  11. 11

    Hi I’ve got a flea problem this year with my house and cats. One cat is 20 yrs old and has only had fleas maybe 3 or 4 times times including this out break. I’ ve used frontline on the cats twice in a month.. The younger cat is basically a outside cat that tends to eat rats and moles quite frequently, he comes in periodically not for long and then gets tossed out. The house has been treated with knockout per the vet. To no avail I still have fleas. I feel i’ m going to put the health of the elderly cat at risk if I use anymore product. What should I do?? Also, can a cat that eats a rat automatically start a cycle of fleas. I’ ve heard this a lot.. Thanks, itchy cinde’

  12. 12

    Hi Cinde gardner,
    The younger, outdoor cat definitely seems like a source. It behaves almost like a feral cat, coming inside only periodically for food, which means it can pick up fleas almost anywhere. Till this is controlled, there is no way to really eradicate or prevent a infestation of fleas. Like all pest infestations, to gain control or even begin the eradication process, the source needs to be taken care of first.

  13. 13

    sunny – my apt has had mice and rats for two years. ongoing battle with landlord. my body now infested. I would appreciate receiving the same email you sent to maaka – outbreak on back of neck and hairline on neck. started as one bump, now hundreds something living in nose hair and eyelashes. any help?

  14. 14

    Hi infested,
    It may not be a rat flea issue that you have. It may be something else. If you can identify the pest that is infesting your home by taking a sample to the local entomologist or pest control technician, we will be able to better assist you.

  15. 15

    Hi, I work at a school and we have found fleas and dead rats. We can not put poison out for the rats so we don’t know why we are finding them dead. But the fleas are biting the children,and they are special needs children, is this a danger to all of us? What can I do because I’m now getting bite in my classroom. Please email me anything that I can or should do. Because since I started at this school and all of this has been going on my asthma has been very bad and I feel like I have been sick since the first week of school.
    Thank you for any of your help.

  16. 16

    Hey Tami66,
    Yes, it is quite a mystery as to why you are finding the carcasses of the rats if you are not using rodenticides to control them. Since this is a school, it is difficult for us to recommend DIY pest control. You should definitely get professionals to treat the school when the buildings are vacant (after or before school hours). I apologize that I was not able to help you very much.

  17. 17

    Hi

    Our NYC apartment has a rat problem – thus far we’ve managed to eradicate them from the inside of the apartment, but it’s an ongoing battle, and we’re unable to do anything about the rat tunnels in the walls. My question is, after our most recent rat break-in, I noticed a small bug crawling on my husband while we lay in bed. At first I thought it was a bed bug, but we’ve had none of the signs of bed bug infestation (ie, droppings on the mattress, rows of three bites, blood spots, etc), all our furniture is new, and the apt was empty 6+ months before we moved in. Could it be rat fleas that I saw? The bug was very small (smaller than dog fleas), rounded, and tan with a black middle. If you could email me with any ideas that would be great! Thanks!

  18. 18

    Hi Jan,
    Unfortunately, we can’t identify the pest by just a description (although some very peculiar pests are easier to identify) and so we recommend that you take a sample to your local entomologist or to a professional pest control supply store and they will be able to identify the pest for you. Once you identify the pest, we can definitely help you start a treatment program to eradicate the infestation.

  19. 19

    Please send me the info you sent Maaka her email was sent May 3 2012

  20. 20

    Hello Edie,
    I apologize, but I do not actually know what you are inquiring about. If you can be specific about your inquiry, maybe I can give you a clearer answer that is specific to your situation! I apologize that I wasn’t able to help you out this time around, but I do look forward to receiving your response.

  21. 21

    Hi, I am a very concern father that is going crazy with this problem. A couple of months ago I fix this house (since I work as a handyman)that was left in really bad condition but really bad condition. As I was working in the house taking out all the ramaining furniture, clothes, and trash left behind by previous tenants, in those couple of weeks that i worked there I started to notice this crawling sentation in my face oround my nose, eyes, throat, forehead haiir and all over my body. I TAKE LONG SHOWERS and still feels like it doesn’t stop it. And also I see in my skin this shinny dots like glitter with the reflection of light. I am deseperate and concern because this things are in my house now and my wife n I we are super clean persons. I feel so bad, guilty and specially concern for my two little ones because it l my house its getting infastate by this thingsin a fast rate. How do I can get rid of it please .I tried everything What else should I do to get rid of it HELP! PLEASE… THANK YOU!

  22. 22

    Hi Mc,
    Have you identified the pest…or in other words, can you confirm that they are fleas? I ask this because I do not want to suggest any insecticide treatment without the correct identification of the pest. Also, it doesn’t seem like a flea infestation to me. They usually don’t attack the upper body much because they cannot fly. We recommend taking a sample to a local entomologist so that they can inspect the pest under a microscope. I apologize that I was not able to better assist you. If you do have any further questions though, please feel free to contact me again.

  23. 23

    i have a friend that has rat fleas how do u get rid of them he needs some HELP now they are driving him crazy with all the bites

  24. 24

    Please help…
    My friend bought her kids 2 ferrets for Christmas, one from a different location, only to find after bringing them home, one of them had rat fleas. Now, both ferrets, the family dog, the kids and all rooms of the house have been compromised. This was realized after my family had visited for the New Year. She emailed me out of concern for our family and pets (we have 1-dog, 2-cats and 1-dwarf bunny). I haven’t found evidence that we’ve caught the ‘micro-monsters’ but nonetheless… I am still concerned that it’s a possibility.

    She said, “I sprayed, swept, mopped, wiped, and washed every inch of my home. I was just finishing up the bedding in the wash around midnight last night, brought up (her son’s/name removed) his comforter and (her son/name removed) got bit by a big flea.” She’s bathed all the pets twice and given the dog flea drops but nothing yet; actually they’re multiplying steadily.

    They have no carpeting. At the time, before finding your site, I recommended some Murphy’s Oil Soap for the hard surfaces & hardwood. Then, borax powder for behind/under/along furniture, cushions & pet bedding.

    I’ve poured over your site but am coming up blank for actual ‘recommended’ flea shampoos for ferrets and bunnies. I’m hoping we’ve avoided catching the ‘micro-monsters’ but still want to be prepared. Can you recommend a decent flea shampoo for ferrets and bunnies?

    I don’t know what to do to help her… or us; any advice?

    -Helpless

  25. 25

    Hi Kim,
    Are you sure they are rat fleas? If they are, he will also be having an issue with rats. If the fleas are the aftermath of a rodent infestation and he has already taken care of the rodent problem but the fleas remain, then treatment will be a lot simpler. However, if he has not done any rodent control, he must first and foremost get rid of the rodents that are infesting his home. If he has appropriately gotten rid of the rodents, then he can focus on getting rid of the fleas with an integrated approach of combining both non-chemical and chemical methods. Non-chemical methods will involve a lot of structural inspections for cracks and crevices, frequently vacuuming the house including all cracks and crevices and spaces under and behind furniture, as well as laundering clothes in hot temperatures. Insecticide treatment can be done with Zenprox EC and Precor IGR. Both Zenprox and Precor are concentrate formulas that must be diluted in water and applied by pump sprayer. It is applied once every three months after initial treatment. All treated areas must be completely dry before you come in contact with that treated area again. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again.

  26. 26

    Hi Helpless,
    Unfortunately, we do not specialize in veterinary services or products and the only product we carry that can be applied to cats and dogs directly is Petcor but this is not a product that is labeled for use on ferrets and bunnies. They will definitely have to take the pets to a veterinarian who will be able to better assist you. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again.

  27. 27

    Hello, we had some rat problem in our house a month ago and we managed to get rid of them successfully. However, in 2~3 days after the last rat was caught (we were pretty sure about this because the food we left out on purpose was never touched again), we got bitten by what I believe to be rat fleas (I actually caught one feeding off my daughter). We don’t have any other pets except for some fish. You mentioned above the combination of Zenprox EC and Precor IGR for insecticide treatment. Are those safe with small children? Also, I laundered all the bedding and clothes with hot water and vacuumed out the house many times, but what should I do with the mattress? Thanks a lot!

  28. 28

    Hi Jimmy,
    Yes, Zenprox EC and Precor IGR are the recommended products for flea control. If it is applied correctly and in the correct places, it is alright to use even around children and pets. Keep in mind that all treated areas must be completely dry before reentry. We recommend using a fast knockdown aerosol for the mattress. A product like Ultracide or Precor 2000 Plus have IGR mixed in it already and a fast knockdown kill effect, which is convenient, but has a short residual compared to the concentrate forms which makes it ideal for intimate areas like the furniture. It cannot be used as a broadcast application on the furniture, but it can be applied to the bottom sides of the couch cushions, the edges of the mattress and bed frame, the bottom of the couch and etc. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again.

  29. 29

    Hi, i have been getting bit by what I’m assuming is a flea from the rats we are trying to get rid of for the past week. Problem is, I’m the only one in the household being bit, why is that? What can i do? Please help.

  30. 30

    Hi Vanessa,
    I’m not sure why you are the only one getting bit. Perhaps, they may in fact be getting bit but are just not reacting to the bites? I am not very sure. We recommend getting your house inspected by a professional. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again.

  31. 31

    I have recently been bit several times on my leg by rat fleas. Should I be worried? and how do I exterminate them from my house?

  32. 32

    It will be difficult to identify the specific species but you can use flea spray to control their numbers. I would recommend Ultracide Aerosol. It contains an Insect Growth Regulator which will help prevent the fleas from reaching a stage where they are able to reproduce.

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