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9 things you didn’t know about fleas
- Fleas don’t fly. Fleas are wingless (and therefore flightless) insects. Fleas are also very thin and can navigate through cat’s hair with ease.
- Fleas can jump 6 inches straight up. Although small in stature, adult fleas are still capable of jumping approximately 6 inches vertically. Whether your cat is walking outside, hanging out in your home, or visiting the kennel or groomer, all the flea has to do is jump on for a ride as the cat passes by. Cats can also be infested by exposure to other pets, stray animals, pet sitters and wildlife as the flea leaps from one to another.
- Fleas lay lots of eggs. It only takes one flea to cause an infestation. That’s because a single female adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs in one day.
- Fleas can drink 15 times their body weight in blood each day. Adult fleas are voracious blood-feeders, meaning they use the infested cat’s blood as their food source. This can cause the cat to become anaemic (low red blood cell volume). Since red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, blood loss means decreased oxygen to their muscles and major organs such as the brain and heart. For these reasons, anaemia may result in weakness and even death in extreme circumstances.
- Fleas can cause itching. Fleas affect cats in several ways, and every cat is different. Often the first symptom to be recognized by cat owners is excessive itching, biting, or scratching. Fleas jumping and moving around on the cat’s hair and skin cause irritation. As a result, you may see patches of hair loss or redness from scratching, which may become more evident as more hair is lost
- A single flea can cause flea allergy dermatitis. In some cats, it only takes one flea to cause a severe allergy known as flea allergy dermatitis, which can result in severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and redness
- Fleas can spread disease and parasites. Fleas can transmit bacterial diseases such as rickettsia, mycoplasma, tularaemia, and bartonella. They can also transmit parasites when feeding from cats or if swallowed, including intestinal parasites like tapeworms.
- Check your cat’s belly for fleas. Live, adult fleas are visible. Typically, they are best seen on less-haired areas of a cat’s body, such as their stomach, where you may see the brown/black fleas jumping quickly through your cat’s hair. Additionally, “flea dirt” may be detected when closely examining your cat’s coat. It’s essentially a flea’s faecal matter after digesting their blood meal. It appears as brown pepper-like specs in the fur.
- Flea eggs can land anywhere and everywhere. Here’s one last unsettling fact about fleas. Once a female flea lays her eggs, they almost immediately fall off onto carpeting, furniture, beneath cushions, or between cracks in wood flooring, as well as wherever your cat sleeps or rests. Therefore, a comprehensive flea-control plan is essential and needs to include treating both your cat and their environment to eliminate current infestations and prevent subsequent re-infestation.