If you have pets, then you know all about the potential irritation (literally and figuratively) fleas can cause.
These teeny, tiny little biting insects (fleas are literally only 1/12 to 1/6-inch long) can wreak havoc on your pets, children or you. The damage, however, is not just physical — the constant itching and scratching can also take a psychological toll.
First the basics: Fleas are parasites whose means of sustenance is the blood of any warm-blooded animal (they’re like vampires in that sense). The species most homeowners encounter is the cat flea, which, sadly, aren’t exclusively found on cats. These are the fleas you treat all pets (cats and dogs, primarily) with a once-a-month treatment.
Fleas’ lives last a little over three months (100 days), and female fleas spend the vast majority of that time birthing baby fleas. A female flea can give life to 400 to 500 babies in those 100 days (for those of you scoring at home, that’s 4 to 5 offspring per day).
Like most bloodsucking parasites, fleas hitch rides on rodents and other mammals, and cling to their hosts like a drowning man to a life preserver. Which is odd, because fleas can jump as high as eight inches vertically. With those kinds of jumping skills, you’d think they could get a gig with an NBA team, right? We pondered the fact that if humans could jump 150 times their own height like fleas, they could leap over skyscrapers (and Superman would become just another guy — but we digress).
Now we don’t mean to alarm you, but fleas can transmit the bubonic plague that killed 25 million people in a five-year period. OK, so it was in the 14th century and it was in Europe, and we’ve basically eradicated the disease everywhere through better sanitation. But still — be careful out there.
Flea spit can cause serious flea allergic dermatitis in pets and sometimes cause similar reactions in humans. They can also transmit tapeworms and cause anemia in pets, which is why flea treatments are vital to your pet’s health. Finally, their bites commonly cause painful, itchy red bumps. Wow, fleas are really bad news. So don’t get them.