Fleas have been making us itchy for a long time. In fact, scientists estimate that the fleas living amongst us today have been here for at least 40 to 50 million years.
So they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their bloodsucking craft, spread panic and disease, and eke out a solid place in human history.
So much so that once you go looking, you’ll be astounded by how much the humble flea has influenced both history and art. They’ve featured in classic poems by the likes of Jonathan Swift and John Donne. They’ve inspired fine paintings, such as The Flea by Giuseppe Maria Crespi and The Flea Catcher by Georges de La Tour.
Fleas have even worked their influence into compositions – The Song of the Flea by Modest Mussorgsky – and cinema via Charlie Chaplin.
And who can forget their role in the Black Death, the plague that killed an estimated 50 million people throughout Asia, Europe and Africa.
Pretty large impact for such a small pest, huh?
But you’re not interested in fleas for their historical significance. No, you want to know exactly what fleas are and what they do so you can get busy eradicating them from your life.
By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert in all things fleas. And more than equipped to fight this menace that’s been plaguing us for centuries. Let’s get to it.
What are fleas?
By their simplest definition, fleas are small, reddish-brown, wingless and flightless parasites with three pairs of legs. And when we say small, we mean very, very tiny.
Measuring around 1 to 3 millimeters when they’re fully grown, fleas are visible to the human eye, but very easy to miss.
This is especially true when it comes to fleas in their pre-adult life stages. If you think adult fleas are hard to spot, just imagine trying to find a flea egg that’s about the size of a grain of salt. Or even trickier – colorless flea pupae that are camouflaged by dirt and debris.
What Do Fleas Look Like? 50 Pictures of Fleas and Flea Bites
It is exactly this ability to evade detection that makes fleas such a persistent pest.
Because while you’re blissfully unaware that you even have a flea problem, those fleas are busy, well, gettin’ busy. If you know what we mean, wink wink.
In case you don’t know what we mean, we’ll spell it out for you: fleas breed like crazy.
Once a young female flea has had her first blood meal, she’s ready to start making babies. And she does so like a champion, laying around 20 to 50 eggs per day. In her lifetime, a female flea can lay as many as 2,000 eggs.
Want more flea facts to help you understand your foe?
19 Shocking Flea Facts You Need to Know to Defeat Them
This outsized breeding ability is at the crux of the flea problem. Let’s dive in.
What do fleas do?
In short, fleas eat, mate and reproduce. But actually, that’s just what adult fleas do.
For most of their lives, fleas are actually busy growing and maturing into the pesky, jumping bloodsuckers we know and hate.
The flea life cycle goes like this:
- Each adult female flea can produce thousands of flea eggs. Flea eggs hatch in just one to ten days.
- Flea larvae crawl out of their eggs and seek dark, warm hiding places where they can molt and mature in peace. Then, the larvae spin their protective cocoons and become flea pupae.
- Flea pupae mature into adult fleas while hidden and safe in the impenetrable walls of their cocoon. And if the temperature and humidity is right, young adult fleas emerge from their cocoons in just a couple of days, ready for a blood meal.
With each female flea resulting in thousands of flea babies, it’s easy to see how a flea infestation can get out of hand quickly. In fact, in any flea infestation, the jumping, biting adult fleas are only about 5% to 10% of the total flea population!
The rest is made up of flea eggs, flea larvae and flea larvae.
Why are fleas so hard to get rid of?
We don’t want to get you down but it’s important you understand what you’re up against as you go into this war with fleas.
Because it’s staggering to think, isn’t it? The majority of the flea army is hidden and growing, always ready to supply fresh forces.
This is why flea eggs are the most crucial battle you’ll fight in your war on fleas.
Flea Eggs: The Most Crucial Battle in the War on Fleas
But it doesn’t stop there – the unique characteristics of fleas in their juvenile life stages make them very difficult to kill. For starters, flea eggs are tiny and white, making it easy for them to evade detection.
And it goes downhill from there. Literally. You see, flea eggs aren’t sticky at all. Once a female flea lays her eggs – usually on her host (aka your pet) – the eggs roll off and scatter around the home. That means a flea infestation is never confined to one spot.
Even worse, when flea larvae hatch from the eggs, they actively avoid the light and worm their way into the dark, warm recesses of your home, such as deep in the carpets or cracks in the floorboard.
Flea larvae have no reason to venture out because at this stage, they don’t need to suck your blood. Nope, they’re content to hide and feed on the feces of adult fleas, which have all the protein content they need to grow.
Last but not least, flea pupae are no easier to deal with. Shielded in the protective cover of their cocoons, flea pupae are resistant to most of the pesticides you can throw at them.
If you’re feeling defeated by all this bad news, don’t despair. We are only giving you the facts so that you don’t underestimate what you’re up against.
Fleas may be tiny but they are a mighty foe. The good news is that humans have been fighting them for centuries and we know how to defeat this enemy. Let’s start with the basics.
Do I have fleas?
Most people know the basic signs of fleas: excessive scratching caused by flea bites. Because good god, are flea bites itchy!
And unlike bed bug bites, which you won’t feel at first and most people don’t even have reactions to, flea bites can be felt pretty much immediately. Which is exactly what makes them one of the best signs that you have fleas.
But many more subtle signs of fleas can easily go unnoticed, especially if you don’t know what to look for.
How to Tell If You Have Fleas: 9 Unmistakable Signs of Fleas
And you can’t afford to waste time being blissfully unaware of fleas. Because these champion breeders will be losing no time multiplying like there’s no tomorrow.
This is why we are such big fans of flea traps. These low-tech, easy-to-set-up devices allow you to quickly assess whether you do, indeed, have fleas.
They’re even useful throughout your war with fleas since they’ll clue you in on the size of your (hopefully dwindling) flea population.
How do you get fleas?
There’s good reason why the majority of people who get fleas are pet owners. Our dogs and cats bring love, joy, and the coziest cuddles into our lives. But they also often bring fleas.
Yup, the most common way for fleas to gain entry into your home is by sneaking a ride on your beloved pet.
Of course, pets are not the only way. In fact, it’s entirely possible, albeit unlucky, to have fleas without pets.
Got Fleas Without Pets? Here’s Why and What to Do About It
Fleas can enter your home on that piece of used furniture you got a great deal on. You might even bring them in on your clothes. The cute rabbit or squirrel that visits your garden may have dispersed some fleas in your yard.
But the truth is, the usual culprit behind a flea infestation is usually your precious pet. And it needs to be dealt with STAT. Because not only is your pet most likely miserable from flea bites, fleas can pose real dangers like skin infection and even anemia, especially for very young or older pets.
Here’s everything you need to know to get rid of fleas on pets.
NOTE: Dogs and cats both get fleas. But products that work for dogs are not necessarily safe for use on cats. Cats have sensitive metabolisms, tend to be smaller than dogs and endlessly groom themselves, meaning that what you put on their bodies are more likely to be ingested.
Always, always check that the product is specified as safe on dogs and/or cats before using it on your cat.
Even flea products that are safe to use on both dogs and cats have small differences that are adapted to be best for either canine or feline. Case in point: flea combs.
What’s the Best Flea Comb for Cats and Dogs? (Yes, There’s a Difference)
How do you get rid of fleas on dogs?
The very first thing you want to do is to make sure that your dog actually has fleas. This isn’t a complicated process at all but you need to know what to be on the lookout for.
If your dog does have fleas, you may suddenly have a bunch of questions. Where did your dogs get fleas from? Can fleas harm – or even kill – your dog? Can you get fleas from your dog? Let’s get those questions cleared up first.
As you now know, fleas are rarely lethal for dogs. That’s the good news. But flea bites are ridiculously itchy and are causing your dog a world of misery. If left untreated, your dog may desperately scratch and bite at his skin, leading to irritation, broken skin, and infection.
Nobody needs that. Let’s get your poor pooch some much-needed relief.
Now that your dog has gotten some immediate relief, let’s get to killing all the fleas ravaging his poor furry body.
When it comes to flea treatments for dogs, the two big contenders are flea shampoos and flea collars. Click on the articles below to see how they work, the pros and cons, and the best ones to choose.
But whereas shampoos and collars rank amongst the most popular, they are by no means the only options when it comes to flea treatments for dogs. In fact, fleas on dogs have been a problem for so long that the market has developed a huge range of products.
So you’ve got choices. Which are the best ones and how do they stack up? Here’s the list of the most effective flea treatments for dogs to choose from.
And professionally-made products aren’t the only options you have. In fact, there are a handful of home remedies for fleas you can use on your dog (and some you should skip).
The good news is that once you’ve treated your dog, you’ll both feel a lot better. But it’s not yet time to pop the champagne.
Your dog may have been ground zero for the flea infestation but chances are, the infestation has already spread around your house. And if there are fleas still lurking in your home, your bed, your garden – it’s just a matter of time before your dog is re-infested.
You’ll want to read out most comprehensive guide to get rid of fleas on your dog. Forever.
How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs Forever: The Ultimate Guide
Last but not least, once your dog is free of fleas, you’ll want to make sure he stays that way. But you may not be comfortable with constantly bathing him in flea shampoos that contains pesticides or strapping a pesticidal flea collar on him.
We get that. Check out the above article for your best options when it comes to natural flea repellents for dogs.
How do you get rid of fleas on cats?
When your cat starts itching and behaving strangely, it’s easy to jump to the assumption that its fleas. But there are at least a handful of other conditions that can lead to itchiness and irritation like a food intolerance, house dust or pollen allergies, ear mites or even bacterial infections.
And you don’t want to go through the rigamarole of flea treatments for cats without making sure that it is, indeed, fleas you’re dealing with. So let’s make sure first.
Once you’ve determined that your cat has fleas, you’ll probably have a million questions swarming in your head. How did your indoor cat get fleas? Can these fleas seriously harm or even kill your cat? Can you get fleas from your cat? Let’s nip these questions in the bud before we get into the business of killing fleas.
Now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time for the fun part: killing fleas on your cat. You may be tempted to put your cat out of its misery right away. You may already be on the verge Google-ing home remedies for fleas on cats. And why wouldn’t you be? You want to provide some immediate relief. STAT!
But not all home remedies for fleas are safe for cats. And as we already mentioned, you do need to tread carefully about what you put on your cat since felines tend to be more sensitive than canines.
Here’s what you need to know about home remedies for fleas on cats.
It’s not a home remedy, but if you’re looking for immediate relief for your cat, one of the easiest ways to quickly and effectively kill off the majority of fleas living, breeding and feeding on your cat is to use a flea shampoo.
But of course, flea shampoos are far from the only option.
There is a huge range of flea products for cats on the market so to make life easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best ones. Check it out to find out how each one works and its various pros and cons.
Best Flea Treatment for Cats: Top 9 Options Reviewed and Compared
WARNING: If your cat is still a kitten, you should avoid many of the typical flea products for cats. Cats in general are more sensitive than dogs and kittens, with their underdeveloped immune systems, are even more at risk of harm. Here’s a guide on how to treat kittens for fleas.
On a similar vein, if you have an older cat or an immunocompromised cat, you may be wary of using any pesticide-based flea products on your vulnerable feline. Lucky for you, there are a couple completely natural options to get rid of fleas on your cat.
We should tell you, though, that most of the natural options are not a speedy solution. But they are completely natural and safe so there is peace of mind.
Last but not least, once you’ve fought the good fight and freed your cat of fleas, you’ll want to make sure they never return. Whereas flea collars and spot-on flea treatments will do the trick, it never hurts to have some natural options as well.
Where do fleas hide?
As soon as you’ve confirmed that you have fleas, the bloodbath can begin. But first, you’ll have to know where the fleas are hiding so you can wage battle in the most strategic places.
Duh, you say. It’s your pets that are ground zero, right?
Where Do Fleas Hide? 5 Most Common Flea Hiding Spots
Sure, pets are a common flea hiding spot. But when it comes to most flea infestations, the population of fleas will have spread far beyond your furry friends. And there are some surprising spots you may overlook to your detriment.
How do you repel fleas?
Before we go on the offense and start killing fleas, let’s take care of defense first. Because if you’re living with fleas, you’re probably very, very itchy.
And it’s hard to think straight when you constantly just want to scratch yourself.
Best Flea Repellent for Humans: 5 Perfect Ways to Prevent Flea Bites
Once you’ve put a stop to flea bites, you can focus your energy to bringing the war to these bloodsucking pests.
How do you kill fleas?
It is not hard to kill a flea. They’re tiny and defenseless.
Soapy water will kill fleas. Heat will kill fleas. Extreme cold kills fleas (but it needs to be very cold). A handful of home remedies kills fleas. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas. In fact, a couple powders are very good for killing fleas.
The true challenge to killing fleas is killing them ALL – and that means every flea, in every life stage. And that’s where things get tricky.
How to Kill Fleas: 12 Most Effective Ways to Kill Fleas in All Life Stages
That’s because the best flea killers for adult fleas often don’t work on juvenile fleas. And flea pupae? Forget it, those buggers are resistant to most pesticides and nearly impossible to kill.
In fact, one of the only weapons that works against flea pupae is the humble vacuum.
So to really kill fleas, you need a multi-pronged strategy that combines several flea killers in order to kill fleas in all life stages. We list all the best ones above. Enjoy the ensuing carnage.
How do you get rid of fleas permanently?
Killing fleas requires a multi-pronged solution that targets fleas in all life stages. And getting rid of fleas permanently is the same – you need a holistic plan to purge fleas and their spawn from everywhere they may have set up camp.
That means it’s not enough to just treat your pets.
Even if Ozzy Pawsborne or Chairman Meow were the original source of the flea infestation, the flea eggs that were laid on their furry bodies have already rolled off and scattered the flea population all over your home.
So to really and truly get rid of fleas, you’ll have to treat everything.
Let’s start with the easiest – yourself.
Then let’s secure your most sacred living space: your bed.
Now, we’re ready for the big battle: the carpet. If you have a carpeted home, it’s very likely that a large number of flea eggs have ended up there. And carpet makes the perfect home for newly hatched flea larvae and flea pupae to hide.
In fact, the majority of your flea infestation may be in your carpets. So this is one battleground you cannot afford to lose.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in Carpet and Kill 95% of the Flea Infestation
We’re not quite finished yet. Got a lawn? A backyard? If you let your pets frolic in your yard, there’s a good chance your outdoor spaces are harboring a flea infestation as well.
How long does it take to get rid of fleas?
We live in a culture of immediate gratification and if there’s any time you could use some immediate relief, it’s when you’re covered in itchy flea bites.
So you’re hoping we’ll say you’ll be rid of fleas before you know it.
How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Fleas?
We hate to disappoint you but the truth must be said. The battle against fleas won’t be a quick one – read the article above to find out exactly what to expect.
That being said, it will be worth it.
More Flea FAQs
Fleas have been around for awhile – centuries. So there are almost as many flea facts and questions as there are fleas.
Here are a few more queries you may have: