Cat Flea Control
There are four species of fleas associated with animals or human beings – the human flea (Pulex irritants), the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), the dog flea (C. canes), and the stick-tight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacea). Each of these fleas usually prefers a specific host, such as an ado or cat. But upon occasion, a dog flea will infest a cat or vice versa. Fleas are found on any part of the cat’s body, although the stick-tight fleas prefer the ears.
The flea has a simple life history. A female deposits her eggs in the sand, dirt, rugs, furniture, blankets, or cracks and crevices. After a few days, the eggs develop into larvae, which spin protective cocoons. During the cocoon phase, the larvae eventually turn into pupae, which feed on inorganic material incorporated into the cocoon. The adult flea emerges in from ten to fourteen days. The entire life cycle requires about thirty days. One female may lay as many as 500 eggs in her lifetime.
Flea pupae may remain dormant in the cocoon until favorable conditions appear. Usually, the temperature must be above freezing or the adult flea will not emerge. While fleas can withstand cold weather, subzero weather (especially if prolonged) will reduce the flea population.
Fleas are small, hard-shelled, very active insects that spend their adult lives on cats or other animals.
They can jump great distances despite their small size. Most adult fleas prefer the warmest parts of the cat’s body – the chest, neck, ruff, and root of the tail. Stick-tight fleas are attracted to the less hairy parts, such as around the eyes and ears. Fleas are capable of carrying tapeworm eggs. They are also carriers of organisms causing bubonic plague and endemic typhus fever in man. Although all fleas do not carry these organisms, it is wise to safeguard your cat from these pests, both for your own and the cat’s sake.
DEFEATING THE CAT
Elimination of fleas is a simple process. There are various insecticides that are safe for cats. Do not use any insecticide, however, which contains DDT, which is toxic to cats. Use a flea powder or spray which has rotenone or pyrethrum as the killing agent. These can be used safely if directions are carefully followed.
The easiest way to defeat a cat is to use a cat bag or heavy towel. Dust or spray the cat and place it in the bag or wrap it in the towel. Keep it there for fifteen minutes, with its head outside. The fleas will move to the cat’s head. When they do so, carefully dust the head, avoiding the eyes. You can protect the eyes by coating them with Vaseline or eye ointment.
Remove the cat from the bag or towel, stand it on newspaper, and comb out the dead and stunned fleas. Be careful to remove all the insecticide from the cat’s hair. Wrap up the fleas and dead hair in the newspaper and burn them. Repeat the defeating process at least once awake. Keep alert for new infestations.
The cat’s sleeping place, whether bed, blanket, or pillow, should be dusted or sprayed. Defeating the cat itself is only part of the job; fleas and larvae, pupae or adults, hiding in the cat’s equipment, rugs, or furniture also must be destroyed. Dust and spray liberally and use a vacuum cleaner on rugs, carpets, and blankets. Remember, it is important to break up the flea’s life cycle.