One flea on your cat is no big deal, right? Wrong. Seeing just one flea can signal one huge problem, because a single flea can lay up to 50 eggs on your cat in one day.1 That means just a few fleas can quickly become hundreds and infest your pet.
If you’re in the unlucky situation of dealing with fleas that seem to keep coming back, one part of the problem may be that you’re only treating the fleas you can see. Visible fleas are just a piece of the whole flea issue. Adult fleas you see on your pet make up only 5 percent of the total flea infestation problem. The other 95 percent are in immature stages that will develop into adult fleas that jump onto your cat.2 Understanding the four stages of the flea life cycle can help you stop the continual invasion.
Stage 1: Eggs
Just one female flea can lay up to 50 eggs in just one day.1 Those tiny white eggs fall off your cat and get onto your furniture, carpet and pet’s bedding. So, essentially, wherever your cat goes, flea eggs go too.
Stage 2: Larvae
Flea larvae hatch from the eggs in 1 to 10 days. These larvae need to eat flea poop to continue to develop. (Yuck.) They need to live in moist, dark areas, so they hide in your carpet, under your furniture, under your baseboards and in your cat’s bedding.
Stage 3: Pupae
Larvae eventually turn into pupae by enclosing themselves in a sticky, silk-like cocoon. Usually an adult flea will emerge one to two weeks later. But if there’s no host to live on — like your cat — they can stay in the cocoon for weeks or months. This waiting game is the reason some people experience flea infestations soon after returning from vacation or moving into a house that’s been unoccupied.
Stage 4: Adults
Full grown fleas are the ones you normally see. These adults begin feeding almost immediately after getting onto your cat. Once there, they basically become permanent residents. Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not jump from pet to pet. Instead, they set up camp for the long run on one pet, biting, feeding and laying eggs for potentially several months.
Help stop the growing problem
You can understand why killing fleas at all life stages can be a piece of the puzzle in helping prevent fleas from overtaking your cat. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your cat’s excellent grooming to take care of the problem. Cats’ sandpaper-like tongues won’t remove all the fleas.
That’s why it's important to use flea prevention and treatment products. Think about applying a treatment to your cat that kills through contact, where fleas don’t have to bite to die. Biting fleas can make your cat miserable.
Also keep in mind that it’s important to kill flea eggs and larvae before they grow into adults. To do this, consider using a topical flea-control product that breaks the flea life cycle by killing adults, eggs and larvae. Fight the misery of biting fleas. Look for a product that kills fleas through contact, so fleas do not have to bite your cat to die.
1. Dryden MW. Host association, on-host longevity and egg production of Ctenocephalides felis felis. Vet Parasitol. 1989;34:117-22
2. Grace SF. Fleas. In: Norsworthy GD, Crystal MA, Grace SF, et al, eds. (2006). The Feline Patient. 3rd ed. Ames, IA: Blackwell Publishing; 106-107.