Some pet parents have this notion that flea infestation is never a problem if they keep their cats indoors. This is not 100% true. While keeping cats indoors can help protect your cat from a number of health hazards, they are still at risk of flea infestation. This begs the question, ‘how do our pet cats get fleas?’
Things About Fleas Every Cat Parent Should Know About
In identifying the possible reasons as to how indoor felines can get fleas, it is important to learn a few things about these pests.
They’ve Been Around Since the Ancient Times
No one can be sure about the exact origins of fleas. However, archaeological findings reveal the existence of pre-flea organisms dating as far back as the mid-Jurassic Period, some 203 million years ago. Biologists say that the modern flea has its origins in the Paleogene Period, about 66 million years ago. Regardless of which is accurate, there is only one thing that is certain. Fleas have been around since the ancient times, long before man began to rule the earth.
The implication of this fact is immense. It shows how resilient fleas are. You can get rid of them today. Tomorrow, one can always expect them to come back. It is for this reason that flea infestation continues to be a major health concern in animals. This is despite advances in flea treatments. One can protect one’s pet, but there will always be other animals playing host to fleas.
Fleas are Exceptional Jumpers
Fleas do not have wings. However, they do have a pair of large and very powerful hind legs to help them jump great distances and heights. These pests may only be 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch long. In spite of that, they can jump a distance of 13 inches and a height or 7 inches. What this means is that they can jump as much as 200 times the length of their body.
This is a very important characteristic of fleas. It allows them to move from their hiding places and onto unsuspecting animals and persons. When you consider the fact that their body comes with backward-facing short spines and hairs, you know that they are very good at latching onto almost anything.
Fleas are Very Prolific
Half of all fleas at any given time are in the egg stage. Only 5% of fleas are in their adult stage. The rest is either larvae or pupae. In normal conditions, adult fleas can live anywhere between 2 and 3 months. During this period, they can produce at least 5,000 eggs. In ideal conditions, however, adult fleas can live up to 18 months, producing at least 30,000 eggs.
You may kill adult fleas but if you do not address the eggs, each egg has the ability to produce at least 5,000 new eggs once it reaches adulthood. This is the reason why it is very difficult to eradicate fleas. Not being able to get rid of all the eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults can still result in more flea infestation.
Flea Pupae are Very Hardy
In case you haven’t noticed, many flea products on the market do not kill flea pupae. They only kill flea eggs, larvae, and adult fleas. The reason is simple. Flea pupae are very hardy. They form a protective shell that is resistant to temperature, pressure, and chemicals. One has to understand that 10 percent of all fleas at any given time are in their pupal stage.
This is another reason why flea treatments seem to be ineffective. Despite the effectiveness of these pesticides, there will always be 10 percent of the flea population that survives. They can become adults that can produce thousands of eggs in their lifetime.
How Indoor Cats Can Get Fleas
The characteristics of fleas we discussed in the previous section should provide you clues on how these pests can get on your feline pet. Here are some of the more common ways by which an indoor cat can get fleas.
Through Another Animal
There are more than 2,500 different species of fleas that can live in almost every other animal on earth. About 94 percent of these pests live on mammals as definitive hosts. What this means is that there are so many species of fleas that can live in the animals that our cats can come in contact with.
The most common culprit for such modes of transmission is the domestic dog. Many dogs are not kept indoors in an exclusive basis. They need to go out for their everyday walk as well as the need to defecate and urinate. They also have to go to the dog park and socialize with their fellow dogs. Unfortunately, during these outdoor activities, fleas can get on the dog and hitch a ride back home.
Sometimes, you also have visitors who bring pets with them. Being their guests, you do not ask them whether their pet has had its flea preventative. As such, it is always possible that the visiting pet has fleas.
Your house is also not a fortress that other animals cannot enter. Squirrels, chipmunks, and other creatures can climb trees and move through branches to access the roof or the walls of the home. They, too, are potential carriers of fleas. Birds can also deliver fleas to the house. And if you have a rat infestation, then it is still possible that fleas can get inside the house.
It is important to remember that fleas can jump up to a hundred times their body length. As such, any animal that enters your backyard can leave fleas behind. From here, these pests can start jumping onto the next moving object or animal to gain entry to the house. There are also small entryways in the house where fleas can access. Small cracks in the walls or the gap under the door can be access points for fleas to enter the house.
Keep in mind that a single flea can lay hundreds of eggs. You do not need an entire colony of fleas to enter the house to begin infesting your cat. It only needs one viable adult female flea to perpetuate the flea cycle.
Through a Person
Your house may not have small cracks and openings which fleas can enter into. But did you know that you can also carry them?
Adult fleas come out of their respective pupae whenever they sense vibrations or warmth on the ground. When you walk from the gate to your front door, fleas can already jump onto the lower section of your pants. They can also jump onto the fabric upper of your shoes or your socks. They will hitch a ride so they can enter your house undetected.
If you went to a place that has fleas, then there is also the chance that you will be carrying these pests back home. Unless you have an isolation and a disinfectant chamber in front of your house prior to entering the door, then there is no way you can get rid of these pests.
The main issue is that most of us are not aware that we are already carrying fleas on our clothes. When we go to the park, there are no signs that tell us to beware of fleas. We walk on or near grassy terrain, not knowing that there are fleas underneath our feet. Some of us have weekend adventures every spring and summer. We appreciate the blooming fields and that distinct scent of summertime. However, this is also that time of year when fleas are at their peak. While we enjoy the scenery, fleas may already be hitching a ride with us.
The same is true whenever we have guests in the house. We do not quarantine our visitors before we entertain them. We do not check whether they carry adult fleas, flea larvae, or flea eggs. People never think that their guests may already be carrying fleas into their respective homes.
During a Trip Outdoors
It is impossible to restrict your cat’s existence to the indoors. There are some activities that will require you to bring your pet outside the home. In such instances, it is possible for the cat to get fleas on its way to your destination.
For example, cats need regular veterinary checkups to help establish their state of health. A trip to the veterinary clinic can also help determine if there are health concerns that you should worry about. This is in addition to the mandatory vaccinations for felines. There will also be instances when your cat needs emergency veterinary services.
During these instances, your cat will be traveling from the house to the clinic. You can put the animal in a pet carrier before you ride in your car. However, fleas can jump onto the crate and get on your cat.
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At the clinic, it is also possible that one of the animal patients has fleas. While veterinary clinics will do everything they can to sanitize their floors and walls, there is still a chance of an animal getting fleas from other animals in the clinic.
This also happens in pet grooming salons. There may be cats or dogs being groomed that have fleas. These pests can jump onto the different surfaces in the grooming salon, where they will wait for their next host.
If you are fond of feline play dates, it is possible for the cat to get fleas. It is not necessary that it will get it from its kitty date, but from the environment where the cats will be playing and socializing. Every time you take an indoor cat outdoors, there is always the risk of the animal getting fleas.
Moving Into a New House
Adult fleas can live up to 3 months. In an ideal environment, however, they can live up to 1.5 years. Flea pupae are very resilient and can lay dormant for several months. They can live without eating for as long as they stay in their puparia.
What this means is that the new house you are moving into can already have pre-existing fleas in it. This is worse in communal buildings where the upkeep of the surfaces is often questionable. Flea pupae can hide in hall carpeting, underneath wallpaper, and crevices in the wall. They wait for the right trigger for them to come out from their protective shell.
If you are moving into a newly-built house, then the risk of flea infestation is not that high. However, there is still the possibility of having fleas in the backyard or the area surrounding the property. Remember that fleas are everywhere. They have been on the face of the Earth for millions of years. They did not survive this long if they did not have the capacity to thrive amidst adversity.
Preventing Fleas in Cats
Indoor cats are not immune to flea infestation. That is why it is important to use flea preventatives and institute environmental control measures.
These products will not eliminate the whole population of fleas. There will always be that 10 percent waiting for the right opportunity to come out from their puparia. However, you can still protect your cat by using flea collars, shampoos, soaps, sprays, and spot-on topical applications. These can deter fleas from getting in your cat while also killing those that are already in the cat.
Cleaning the environment is crucial in controlling fleas. These pests live in areas where there is plenty of organic matter to feed on. Having a professional perform deep cleaning of your house can help. Vacuum the floors, upholstery, and carpets. Keeping your backyard rodent- and critter-free can also help prevent the transmission of these pests into your backyard. Applying natural flea treatments like diatomaceous earth in your house can also help kill existing fleas.
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Cats can still get fleas even if they live indoors. They can get fleas from other animals and other people who enter the house. They can also get it when they go outside the house for some activity. Moving into a new property can also contribute to the presence of fleas in your cat.