How to Get Rid of Fleas

Asked July 28, 2016, 1:41 PM EDT

Hello, I have a three-part question: 1. How can indoor cats get fleas? I have two indoor cats who are never outside, but they both have fleas. How is this possible? 2. What is the best way to get rid of the fleas? 3. I have bites all over my body, but especially on my feet and legs. Should I see a doctor, and is there anything that she can prescribe to treat them? Or are there OTC remedies that I can use?

Polk County Iowa insect issues

1 Response

Fleas prosper during those hot, humid days of summertime, although they can certainly persist through the winter in our homes.

The fleas you see on your pets or jumping onto your feet or legs are the adult stage. Adult fleas are the biters, the blood feeders. Females lay their eggs in the 'nests' or beds of their hosts. The legless larvae feed on digested blood in the feces of adult fleas---again in the 'nests' or beds of the hosts. The pupae are immobile, non-feeding transitional stages between the maggot-like larva and the laterally flattened, jumping adults. Multiple generations can occur annually, and as flea populations rise, so do irritations for both cats and humans---and often other vertebrates in the household.

As for indoor cats getting fleas---the fleas don't just appear magically, they come from somewhere. They can hitchhike on your clothes or belongings or maybe suitcases if you stayed in a hotel/motel room where an infested pet stayed. Similarly, adults could be hitchhiking on your clothes or possessions if you visited another location where an infested pet lived. The fleas could have been on a chair, couch or bed---where that pet may have rested or had its own bed. If you were given anything or bought anything---like a 'free' pet bed or clothing or bedding---that could be a source for a new flea infestation at your house.

Have you bought or received any used/antique furniture or similar household furnishings at a thrift shop or yard sale? That's another possibility.

Your cats are just 'handy hosts' for the fleas, but you will 'do,' also, as will your dogs or dogs of people you may have visited. Cat fleas are the most common species of fleas in US homes; there are dog fleas (another species), but they aren't as common or have as broad a host range as cat fleas.

Not only do the bites irritate when they occur, it's the saliva of the adult flea that generates those red, raised itchy spots on your pets as well as you.

Flea control has changed a lot in recent years. One of the best publications that I have found on the subject comes from Texas A&M University (Michael Merchant is the author). It's called 'Safer Flea Control' and can be found in the 'Insects in the City' series that he writes.

I hope this helps. Fleas are awful, indeed.