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Will Cat Fleas Bite Humans? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQs

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your cat has fleas, you may be wondering if the fleas will start to bite you as well. Yes, cat fleas can and do bite humans. Flea bites are typically itchy and painful, leading to discomfort and even a serious skin rash in some cases. Knowing the signs of flea infestations and understanding how to prevent them is essential for pet owners in order to keep their family members safe from these parasites.

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Signs of Flea Bites

Flea bites on humans will generally appear as small, red bumps sometimes with a halo around them. They most commonly occur on people’s legs- especially their feet, calves and ankles.These bumps can be intensely itchy and scratching them causes more damage to the skin meaning bacterial infection can develop in the area. Flea bites typically last around one to two weeks, depending on the severity of the bite. If you have severe reactions to the bites or suspect an infection, contact your doctor for advice on treatment.

close up fleas on cat
Image Credit: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock

How to Prevent Flea Bites

The best way to prevent flea bites on humans is to make sure your cat is regularly treated for fleas. This can be done with topical treatments, shampoos, and oral medications. Regular grooming and vacuuming of the home are also important steps in controlling fleas and making sure any other pets in the household are up to date with suitable flea control. Contact your veterinarian for advice on the best treatment options.

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How to Treat Flea Bites

Treating flea bites on humans can be done with anti-itch creams, cool compresses, and over-the-counter antihistamines.  It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect an infection or you have a severe reaction to flea bites.

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How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

Adult fleas are the only part of the life cycle that lives on your cat. Unfortunately most of the flea infestation is living in the house as eggs,larvae and pupae, so it’s important to treat your house as well. Vacuuming will help reduce flea numbers and a household flea insecticide spray is usually needed. Follow all treatment guidelines from your veterinarian and the manufacturers carefully to avoid any toxic effects.

vet holding magnifying glass searching cat fleas
Image credit: lev.studio, Shutterstock

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Can Fleas Cause Diseases in Cats?

Cat fleas can carry tapeworms and cats can become infected by eating the fleas while grooming. They can also transmit Bartonellosis also known as ‘Cat Scratch Disease’, which is a bacterial infection and is spread when fleas feed on blood.  It is important to get rid of fleas as soon as you notice them and keep your pet up to date on flea treatments.

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Can Cats Die from Fleas?

In severe infestations, fleas can cause anemia in cats which can lead to death. They literally drink too much of the cat’s blood. This is more common in kittens, but it can happen in older cats, too.

Cat with fleas
Image Credit: Maja Marjanovic, Shutterstock

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FAQs About Cat Fleas and Flea Bites

How can I tell if my cat has fleas?

Check your pet for signs of itching or biting, and also look for small black specks on their fur. These black specks are sometimes known as ‘flea dirt’ and are fleas feces consisting of digested blood. You may also see fleas themselves in the fur. If you suspect your cat has fleas, contact your veterinarian for help with treating them.

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How do cats get fleas?

Fleas can be contracted through contact with other animals, exposure to infested areas, or even from their environment. Keeping your cat up to date on flea treatments is the best way to prevent fleas.

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Can fleas spread diseases to humans?

Fleas can carry diseases that can spread to humans. Tapeworms can be transmitted to people if they accidentally swallow an infected flea. Fleas are also important in the transmission of  Cat Scratch Disease between cats and to humans.

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How quickly do flea bites appear?

Flea bites may appear as soon as a few minutes after the bite has occurred, though it can take up to 24 hours for them to show.

cat and flea comb
Image Credit: Simone Hogan, Shutterstock

How can I tell if my flea bite is infected?

If the area around the bite is red, hot, or swollen and there is pus coming from the bite, then it may be infected. Contact your doctor for advice on treatment.

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How can I make sure my cat doesn’t get fleas again?

Keeping your cat up to date with effective flea treatments, vacuuming regularly and keeping bedding clean can help reduce the risk of a flea infestation.

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Should my flea bites itch?

Yes, flea bites can cause itching. Applying anti-itch creams and taking over-the-counter antihistamines may help reduce the itchiness. Contact your doctor if you have severe reactions to the bites or suspect an infection.

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Can I use cat flea shampoo on myself?

Cat flea shampoos are not safe for humans to use and should only be used on cats.

applying flea treatment to cat
Image Credit: Csaba Deli, Shutterstock

How can I tell if my cat is allergic to fleas?

Some cats have an allergy to flea saliva and will develop intense itching and a rash every time they are bitten. If your cat is having a severe reaction to flea bites, book an appointment with your vet for treatment and advice.

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How do fleas negatively impact my cat’s health?

Fleas can cause anemia in cats, as well as skin irritation and hair loss. They may also transmit diseases to your pet, so it is important to get rid of fleas as soon as you notice them. Contact your veterinarian for advice on treatment options.

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Are fleas contagious?

Yes, fleas can be transmitted to other animals, as well as humans. Flea infestations can spread rapidly, usually through flea eggs.

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When should I see my doctor for a flea bite?

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience severe reactions to the bites, such as an infection or extreme swelling and itching. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and provide the best treatment for you.

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Image Credit: Monstar Studio, Shutterstock

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Cat fleas can and do bite humans, leading to itchy and painful bites. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of an infestation and taking steps to prevent it are essential in order to keep your cat and family members safe from these parasites. If you suspect your cat may be infested with fleas, contact your veterinarian for advice on the best treatment options.

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Featured Image Credit: noa.rotem, Flickr