Most people have heard of fleas and probably know what they are. Those with pets may be particularly familiar with this pesky intruder.

What many people may not know is that there are several types of fleas found in the United States and throughout the world. The more common of these include cat fleas, dog fleas, human fleas, and oriental rat fleas. Cat fleas are the most common in North America, but they are found on dogs and cats alike.

Fleas are very small in size, usually about 1/8’ long or even smaller, and they are dark brown, reddish–brown, or black. They can appear reddish–black when they are full of blood. Fleas have a flattened appearance, as if they had been squeezed from both sides. Fleas cannot fly, but are able to jump great distances. They can transmit serious diseases, including plague and a variety of typhus.

Fleas will attach themselves to a host for survival. They will crawl through an animal’s fur and attach themselves to the host. In addition to household pets, this can also include wild animals, rodents, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, and even people. Pet owners will often observe a pet”s constant scratching when fleas are present. A flea infestation can also occur in a household without pets.

Female fleas lay up to 8 eggs after every meal. These are deposited on or between hairs of the host animal or in the animal”s bed. The eggs are not attached, but will fall off and land in carpets or on furniture. Within several days or up to two weeks, larvae will hatch and feed on fecal material from the adult fleas.

After a period of a couple weeks or months, the larvae spin a cocoon. They will emerge as adults many weeks later. At this point, the new adults repeat the same process of finding a host.

If a flea infestation is present, a homeowner will likely need to treat both the pet and the house.