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What Do Fleas Look Like And How To identify Them

What Do Fleas Look Like And How To identify Them

What do fleas look like? And what should I look for if my pet is scratching more than normal? Will fleas bite me?

If you’re asking these questions, you have a big problem. Read on to learn how to fix it.

Fleas are very small, blood-sucking parasites that you usually find on your family pet. These insects can irritate you and your pets. They sometimes carry harmful diseases.

These tiny insects are visible to the naked eye, and they’re actually quite easy to spot.

Adult fleas look like dark specks, and you’ll usually find them crawling around in your pet’s fur or your carpet.

Often times, you’ll see them jump from furniture or even the floor.

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What Is a Flea?

Close-up of a flea on a white fabric carpet

Vera Larina/Shutterstock

Fleas are blood-sucking insects that carry diseases and are known to be pests. They are parasites that live outside of their host.

They’re known to be one of the main causes of the transmission of the Black Death plague that killed a quarter of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

According to the Medical Entomology Department of Purdue University, there are about 2,500 species of fleas. 325 of those species reside in the U.S.

The Cat Flea is the “primary flea that infests pets, livestock, and humans.” There are many different types of fleas, but the main ones you will run into are cat fleas and dog fleas.

Cat fleas feed on most warm-blooded bodies and are the most common flea. If your pet has fleas, chances are it’s a cat flea (even if you don’t have a cat).

It’s essential to watch for fleas and take measures to prevent them from breeding because they cause irritation and can spread dangerous diseases.

Let’s talk about what they look like so you’ll know one when you see one.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

To show what a flea looks like, close up of the insect jumping off a piece of carpet

Mi St/Shutterstock

Now that you know what a flea is, you should know what they look like. In short, there are a few key attributes that distinguish fleas from other small insects. These include:

  • One-eighth inch long
  • Oval
  • Reddish-brown
  • Wingless
  • Thin
  • Large hind legs
  • Jump high
  • Bury themselves in animal fur

If you’ve come across something that fits this description, keep reading to find out if you have a flea problem. 

What Do Fleas Look Like to the Human Eye

To the human eye, fleas are tiny insects that hang around on the surface of an animal’s skin. Fleas are usually less than 4 millimeters long.

Sometimes, you’ll need a magnifying glass to get a good look at one. They have a flat body shape and long hind legs. These legs allow them to jump up to 7 inches high.

You don’t need to consider the flea on your pet’s skin. All you need to do is get rid of these parasites on your pet as soon as possible.

How Do I Know a Flea When I See One?

For a piece on what to fleas look like, close-up of four fleas on a cat's skin


Fleas are small, but you can see them. Here is what you need to know to identify these tiny bloodsuckers. 

1. Size 

Fleas are about one-eighth of an inch long, or 2.5 millimeters. They are large enough to see with the naked human eye.

Male cat fleas are on the smaller side, measuring about 1.5 millimeters or around as big as the side of a penny (thickness).

The females are about 3.2 millimeters long, which is about the size of a large sesame seed. They are challenging to see from far away, especially if they are in your pet’s fur or your carpet. They will only look like specks, but you can tell they are fleas by where they are. 

2. Color

Flea colors can range from reddish-brown to black. Different species tend to be different colors: the dog fleas are usually darker, while the ones that affect humans (cat fleas) are reddish-brown.

Most full-grown fleas are within this range of colors, but the young flea larvae have a white hue.

3. Body 

Fleas fall into the category of insects, which have three distinct sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax has six legs attached to it. The back two legs are much larger than the other four, which allows the flea to jump very high.

They do not have wings, so (thankfully) they cannot fly. Its head has eyes and antennae, which help it to track down its next meal. The mouth has piercing and sucking parts that aid in attaching to a host and sucking its blood.

4. Activity

Fleas spend their time searching for a host to attach to and feed off of. The cat flea will stick to any warm-blooded body for blood. Most of the time, fleas live in the fur or feathers of animals. They can lay up to 50 eggs per day.

So your pet could be infested with fleas within a week. Since they are so hard to see, it could be a long time before you discover a flea infestation.

It’s a good idea to pay attention to the signs that there may be fleas in your house. These are bites on your feet and legs, pets that are scratching more than normal, and flea dirt. 

5. Diet

Fleas drink blood. They will consume blood from any warm-blooded body. While this description does include humans, they typically prefer the blood of hairy animals (cats, dogs, rabbits). This is why pets are one of the primary sources of fleas.

The hairy animals also include mice, rats, possums, and raccoons. This means that furry pests can be dangerous as well as annoying. The bubonic plague spread through fleas who had feasted on the diseased blood of rats!

Fleas vs. Other Bugs

to illustrate what fleas look like, a side by side image of a flea vs a bed bug

Vera Larina/Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock

Not every small jumping insect is a flea. What do fleas look like compared to other bugs?

There are a few different insects that resemble flea in size and color. The bat bug, the bed bug, and the flour beetle look similar to fleas but can not jump as high. Lice are similar to fleas in that they live in hairy places, but they are not the same reddish-brown color as fleas. 

Many (though not all) of the bugs that resemble fleas are harmless because their food source is plants or fungus. You’ll know when you’ve found fleas if you come across tiny insects that appear to be infesting your pets or biting your skin.

How to Recognize Fleas in Different Stages

To help answer what fleas look like, a graph showing the life cycle of a flea from egg to adult


Adult female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day which will hatch in 2 to 5 days. The flea eggs are tiny white ovals, smaller than a grain of sand. After the eggs hatch, the fleas go through three larval stages.

During these stages, they are challenging to see without a microscope, and they look like small white worms. After the third stage, the flea enters a pupa stage in which the flea remains in its cocoon for 1-2 weeks.

Because fleas hatch, grow, and lay eggs so quickly, it is vital to get rid of them as soon as possible. It’s also important to follow up and make sure you’ve gotten rid of the newly hatched fleas before they grow up and lay more eggs.

Things to Consider

  • Fleas are difficult to see, but you should check your pet or carpet for them often to prevent an infestation
  • Fleas can spread harmful diseases
  • If you find fleas, act fast to stop them from multiplying
  • Once you get rid of them, it’s a good idea to watch out for their offspring.

How to Get Rid of Fleas

To help illustrate what fleas look like, an extreme close up of such an insect sitting on skin


Fleas can bite the legs and ankles of humans, but their main targets are usually house pets.

Here is the list of the most common things you can use to get rid of fleas for good:

  • Vacuum your carpets, furniture, and mattresses
  • Wash all bedding in hot water
  • Vacuum and wash pet bedding
  • Get your carpets and upholstery steam-cleaned
  • Call an exterminator

Additionally, here is the list of things fleas don’t like:

  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree
  • Rosemary

How to Get Rid of Fleas From Your Pet

If you think your pet may have fleas, it’s essential to act quickly. Start by brushing and combing your pet with a flea comb to eliminate any adult fleas that may be lingering in its fur.

Next, wash your pet’s bedding with hot water and laundry detergent. Fleas can hide in carpets, furniture, and other soft surfaces, so vacuum these areas.

Consider using flea shampoo or powder on your pet and the areas they frequent. Afterward, you should watch for signs of infestation, such as tiny black specks (flea dirt) or bites on yourself or your pet. If the infestation continues, contact a veterinarian for further advice.

Finally, use an insecticide spray to prevent future infestations. Be sure to follow the instructions and avoid over-spraying because these chemicals can be hazardous if misused.

By following these steps and keeping your home clean, you should be able to get rid of any fleas or eggs in your house.

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Final Word

Picture of flea in a zoomed-in image on human skin

David Jara Bogunya/Shutterstock

Fleas are small, reddish-brown parasites that can infest your pets, carpets, and furniture.

If you have itchy, red bites on your legs and suspect you might have a flea problem, it’s a good idea to check your pet’s fur.

When in doubt, always call a pest control expert. They’ll quickly identify fleas and will provide an effective treatment plan to rid your house of them.