The Life Cycle of the Cat Flea

Control and Eliminate Fleas by Understanding the Life Cycle

The flea life cycle is complex and often difficult to stop once an infestation occurs. Fleas are tiny black and brown parasites, insects that survive by feeding on the blood of your precious dogs and cats.  The most common type of flea found on your beloved pet is the cat flea.  Tiny salt and pepper grains in the fur of your animal indicate that your pet has fleas. These grains are fecal material, or dried blood, of the cat flea.  To control and ultimately eliminate fleas, you must understand the flea life cycle.

 In order to reproduce and flourish, fleas need a warm and humid environment.  The higher the temperature and humidity, the more efficient these parasites procreate.  Fleas tend to increase in population in the late Spring and early Summer months.  However, fleas can live year round.  Fleas living in your home can go through the entire life cycle in approximately 18 days.

Cat Flea Life CycleCredit: Wikimedia


Fleas mate on the skin of your dog or cat.  A female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her short life span or 20 to 50 eggs per day.  The eggs are typically white, oval and barely visible to the human eye, often measuring approximately 1/32 of an inch long. The eggs fall off the skin of your animal and incubate in your clothes, sheets, carpet, furniture and cracks.  In only a couple of days, the eggs can hatch and become larvae. 


Flea larvae are slightly bigger than the flea eggs, and the larvae thrive and maturate quicker in more humid environments.  The larvae resemble worms, as they are hairy and long, and have a brown head. These larvae feed on debris, such as dust, skin cells, dirt and especially dried blood.  The larvae go through three stages in which they grow larger.  During this time, the larvae crawl and eat for eight to 15 days and move onto the next phase of the flea life cycle.

Flea Larva in the Flea Life CycleCredit: Wikimedia

Pupal Stage

The next step in the flea life cycle is the pupal stage. Shortly after debris feeding, the flea larvae spin a cocoon and go into a pupal stage. When the environment is between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and composed of 70 percent humidity, adult fleas begin popping up in two to three weeks.   Or, it is possible for the fleas to remain in pupal stage for several months if the environment is not conducive.

Adult Fleas

Once the fleas hatch, they begin searching for a host – your dog or cat. Shockingly, if a host is not found right away, fleas can live up to four to 12 months without a single meal.  At any given time, only one percent of the flea population is made up of adult fleas.  The other 99 percent of fleas are invisible eggs or are in the larvae and pupal stages.  Thus, to control fleas on your dog or cat, it is paramount that you not only destroy the adult fleas, but the incubating fleas in your carpet, bedding, clothes and cracks.

The average flea lifespan is approximately 35 days. However, if you fail to groom your pets, the flea can live up to 50 days.


Adult Fleas. The best form of treatment for killing adult fleas on your dog is dipping them twice a week for four to six weeks or until no noticeable fleas are present.  The best dipping solutions provide a knock-down effect, meaning that these provide a residual insecticide effect while repelling new fleas and contain low toxicity.  Acceptable flea dips include Adams Flea-Off Dip, Dermaton and Kem Dip.  After your dog‘s or cat’s last dip, place a flea collar around their neck and use it according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Larvae and Pupal Fleas. To kill fleas in the larvae and pupal stages, you will need to spray your home or animal habitat.  Otherwise, the fleas will continue to procreate.  Good insecticides or foggers for killing the flea cycle include methoprene.  Methoprene is a relatively new, low toxic and highly effective chemical found in some flea sprays and foggers.  Siphotrol Premises Spray and Siphotrol Plus II fogger contain methoprene to help get rid of the early-stage fleas. For outside usage, Vet-Kem Yard and Kennel Spray will kill the flea life cycle.

Flea Life CycleCredit: CDC