cat flea life cycle

How Does The Cat Fleas Life Cycle Begin?

The life cycle of the cat flea begins when the adults (both male and female bite) find a suitable warm blooded host to feed from. Fleas are described as ectoparasites, meaning they feed from the host externally.

With cat fleas they will often feed on humans where a genetically appropriate host is not present, but this is believed to have a significant impact on the fleas fertility, meaning that if the cat flea feeds on anything but a cat, it will find it difficult to develop viable eggs.

Once a flea latches onto a host it quickly moves vertically to acquire a suitable feeding site from which to extract it's blood meal.

What Do Cat Flea Eggs Look Like?

Once the female cat flea has been successfully mated and appropriately fed, she will begin laying eggs at a rate of about twenty or so per day.

Cat fleas usually lay the eggs on the host animal, but because they have no viscosity they quickly fall off the cat and onto floor coverings or the animals bedding/resting place.

The cat flea will lay many hundreds of eggs during her life time, which could be as long as a year! The average figures suggest that most fleas will be fortunate to last a few weeks, but as will all things in the natural world - there is always an exception to the rule.

Cat fleas eggs are very small and difficult to see without the aid of a magnifier. Typically the cat fleas eggs are about 0.2mm in length, oval in shape, light cream in colour and will very often have hatched within a few days, depending of course on how conducive prevailing environmental conditions are at the time of laying.

What Do Cat Flea Larvae Look Like?

The distinctive features of cat flea larvae are the brown head with a couple of small antennae, followed by thirteen body segments and two projections from the rear end called anal struts.

The body is light brown in colour and the segments have hairs projecting from them. The larvae are big enough to be seen relatively easily by the naked eye as they grow to about 5mm long.

The important thing to remember about the larvae is that they tend to develop in dark, undisturbed places where they are safe from trampling feet, bright light and the vacuum - so make these places the first to be intensively vacuumed before considering the application of any flea treatment.

It is also widely reported that the flea larvae must consume a quantity of what is termed flea dirt (dried blood, that has been digested by the adult cat flea and deposited on surfaces as faeces. As the larvae mature they pass through two or three moults or instars.

This portion of the cat fleas life cycle will commonly last for a few weeks, however this can be prolonged and take up to eight months where environmental conditions are not conducive. The larval stage of the life cycle is where the fleas are at their most vulnerable and only small fluctuation in humidity and temperature will negatively impact the survival of the larvae. Unfortunately the adults have few such concerns.

What Happens to the Flea Larvae

Once fully mature, the flea larvae will quickly begin constructing a silken cocoon in which it will pupate and develop into an adult cat flea. The time that it takes to develop into an adult flea is dependent on the quality of the environmental conditions. In most cases it will take from a week to 14 days. This is not the end of the story though - read on.

What Happens Once the Adult Cat fleas Are Ready to Emerge?

The cat fleas are now adults and ready to feed, but they will not often hatch unless they have the right stimulus. Cat fleas can sense all that is going on around them, in part due to a highly specialised sensory organ in the fleas posterior called the sensilium.

The adult fleas will emerge in response to vibration, carbon dioxide or fluctuations in humidity. Very often fleas can remain ready to emerge from their cocoons for as long as a year.

The very worst scenario is where you walk into a property that has not been set foot in for weeks or even months after infested cats have been present or a window/cat flap has been left open allowing feral and/or untreated cats to enter. When this happens hundreds or in very rare cases, thousands of fleas emerge within moments of each other. The fleas will be very hungry, often crawling vertically up the inside of trousers etc, where they feed covertly before dropping off.