Tuesday 15 September 2020

Are cat fleas and dog fleas the same?

No, cat fleas are a different species of ectoparasite to dog fleas but they act very similarly. The dog flea's scientific name is: Ctenocephalides felis and the cat flea's scientific name is: Ctenocephalides canis. I think that you'll find that dogs suffer from cat fleas more than dog fleas. 

Ectoparasites live outside the body as opposed to those that live in the gut such as tapeworms.

This foul parasite that so blights cat owners homes and cats. Image: public domain.

Dangers of treatments

The most important point to make about cat and dog fleas is not that they are a different species but the way that you eradicate them. You absolutely must not use dog flea treatments on cats. There have been cases of cats being killed by dog flea treatments. You must always read the label and never use these pesticides in the wrong way. I can't stress strongly enough. Particularly with kittens.

The best way to deal with fleas is to deal with them physically which is to flea comb and kill the flea physically as it is much more controllable. Using sprays and insecticides is potentially very hazardous. Spot on insecticide treatments are safer than sprays but read the label.When you read the label you can tell why they are dangerous because the manufacturers say that you should not get the product on your hands. I find this extraordinary because we are putting the product onto our cat's skin so were doing something which the manufacturers say is forbidden! On the face of it it looks completely mad.

Some dog flea treatments contain permethrin, which, for me, is a nasty insecticide and a toxic chemical cats. One reason why you can't use dog treatment on cats.

The dog flea lives on the cat as well as the dogs and other animals. The cat flea does the same. I think they were named almost arbitrarily because they appear to be quite interchangeable in terms of their host and their behaviour. They certainly look very similar. You won't know the difference unless you're an expert and you'll have to look at them under a microscope. 


It is said that cat fleas are more versatile than dog fleas. They can infect at least another 50 types of animal species. Both these fleas can jump onto people and bite them. You'll see flea bites on people's ankles for example. Although it's rare in my view. And there's nowhere for the flea the hide because we don't have fur like cats and dogs. Therefore the human can't be a very suitable home for an adult flea and they probably jump off and then back onto a cat or dog if they live in the home.

Dog or human carrying fleas

If you live in a home with a cat and a dog it is more than likely that the dog will bring fleas into the home particularly, of course, if your cat is a full-time indoor cat. Even if you don't have a dog and your cat is inside all the time she may get fleas because the owner can bring them into the home. The default situation is to always check your cat for fleas, and if you have to do it daily using a flea comb. This is vital. You don't want fleas to take hold in your home. It requires vigilance to eradicate them completely and on an ongoing basis.

Safest insecticide

What is the safest flea treatment? The safest flea treatment is to use the flea comb and kill the parasite manually. If you want to use an insecticide apparently pyrethrins or natural pyrethrum is the least toxic insecticide used on cats and dogs. You will find them in natural flea-control products and the conventional varieties.

Flea dirt

In addition to flea combing fleas out of a cat's fur (which is pretty obvious because you can see them jumping out) you might see what is called flea-dirt at the base of their tail. This is also indicative of the presence of fleas on your cat.


If you feel that you have removed all the fleas from your cat with great commitment and they still come back it is because they are in your home. You have to take what is called a holistic approach meaning a total approach to remove fleas. You can't do it on one and not the other. You can help prevent fleas taking hold in the home by removing those places where fleas like to live and wait before they jump onto your cat such as carpets. A more sheer living area with less clutter and less rugs and carpets is better in my view.

If you want to get rid of your fleas from your home fast you'll have to work at it fast and furiously! I would recommend vacuuming everything, steam cleaning everything, washing your pet's bedding thoroughly, perhaps using diatomaceous earth at entrances and exits of your home as well. This is a naturally occurring product which is a very fine white powder. It slices through the shell of the parasite destroying the creature. You can even dust your cat with it provided it is human grade although it looks very messy. It is relatively safe compared to the insecticides.


The cat flea transmits tapeworms to cats. The eggs inside of saliva and it delivers these eggs into the cat's bloodstream when they feed on the cat. Yes, they are a particularly unpleasant creature. So if your cat has fleas they may also have tapeworms. When you treat your cat for fleas also treat them for worms. You can get a deworming product from your veterinarian or online these days from for example Amazon but you have to be really careful again. All medicines are poisons and potentially dangerous. Never be careless and bypassing your veterinarian is okay provided you know exactly what you're doing but if you are unsure then ask your veterinarian.

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