Although very similar in appearance, cat and dog fleas are two distinct species. Identification of each species would require a microscope. Both of thes species are found in the US and throughtout the world. The dog flea, Ctenocephalides canis, can transmite diseases such as plague and typhus. This flea is well known throughout Europe although it has also common in North America. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is found throughout North America. Both flea species can live on either the cat or dog, but humans are generally attacked more by cat fleas. Additionally, cat fleas are more likely to be found on cats, dogs, and humans in general.
The cat and dog flea are the most common types of fleas found in and around homes. They are most abundant in warmer months. Typically, they are about 1/16 of an inch long. One of the distinguishing physical characteristic between the cat and dog flea is the genal comb length. They can transmit human diseases, and can carry tapeworms that infect dogs and cats.
Both cat and dog fleas are rapid reproducers. Although they can feed on humans, they can not reproduce without their preferred hosts, a cat or a dog. Eggs are laid on the animal which then falls to the ground as the animal moves. Larvae hatch which are twice as long as adults and find dark places in which to hide. At this stage, they do not suck blood but feed on dead skin, adult flea feces, and other organic material. After three larvae growth periods, they enter the pupae stage.
Adult cat and dog fleas emerge about one month after the eggs are laid. Heat, physical pressure, and carbon dioxide are all help trigger the emergence from the pupae. Adults then have the ability to jump up to one foot to an animal or human that is passing by. Once contact is made, the cat or dog flea immediately begins feeding on blood.
Although not able to reproduce on humans, a flea could live for months on human blood making life miserable. Given the similarity of the cat and dog flea, treatment and prevention are the same. It is important to treat the entire life cycle of the flea. Pets should be treated with topical or prescription medications. All bedding should be washed. A pest control expert should be consulted for complete flea eradication.