Ctenocephalides felis

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Ctenocephalides felis head (click on image to enlarge it)
Source: Pest and Diseases Image Library IPM Images

Ctenocephalides felis (Bouché, 1835) - (cat flea)

The flea has a cosmopolitan distribution and is common on cats, dogs, humans and other mammals. It feeds on the blood of its host, causing irritations and it can transmit various diseases.

Bartonella henselae, causing the cat scratch disease, is often transmitted by the flea among cats which then pass it on to humans. Especially children become infected with this bacterium. Infected cats are usually asymptomatic but can experience re-occurring bacteremia, which can last for months or even years.

Other microbes transmitted by C. felis are Yersinia pestis, Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis. The flea also causes hair loss and allergies.

The cat flea is more common than the dog flea and in many countries around 20% of the cats and dogs are infested with this species. The flea spreads to a new host during contact between pets. It jumps over distances of 20-50 cm.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Katzenfloh
• English: cat flea
• Español: pulga del gato
• Français: puce du chat

The female lays its egg on the fur of infested pets. However, these drop to the ground after a few days. The larvae are worm-like and feed on various organic matter, including the feces of the adult fleas. They hide in cracks and carpets. The total development time from egg to adult lasts around one month under favourable conditions. There are a variety of different insecticides suitable for control. However, resistance to a given pesticide may be encountered.

The following features distinguish the cat flea from the dog flea (see illustrations below). Females are 2-3 mm long, males about 1 mm. The colour is brown to reddish brown. The head is distinctly longer than wide. It has a comb of 7-8 head teeth (genalctenidium) with the 1st and 2nd teeth of similar length. The prothorax has 16 teeth (pronotalctenidium). The hind tibia has 6 notches.