Where Do Fleas Come From (And What You Can Do About It)?

Whether it’s the first time you have experienced a flea problem, or if it has happened many times before, you may often wonder where the “bleep” these little pests keep coming from. This guide explores this topic in detail, and I have included some actionable tips for locating the source of these pests and getting rid of them. Let’s get started!

  1. If you are short on time, click here for a summary of this guide.
  2. If your dog or cat has fleas, where did these pests come from?
  3. Where are the most common places that they like to hide?
  4. If you have no pets (or indoor only), how did you get fleas?
  5. Can eliminating the source completely sort out an infestation?

If your dog or cat has fleas, where did these pests come from?

Although we typically notice fleas when they are on our pets, they usually come from the great outdoors. This is their natural habitat, but they need to find a warm-blooded host to survive (preferably with fur so they can hold on). This means that if your yard has an infestation, they will likely target your dog or cat. Once they attach themselves, fleas rarely leave, and that’s when your pet will need some help.

Of course, other reasons could explain the sudden appearance of these pests on your furry friend, such as visiting an infested area (such as a dog park) or getting a certain type of flea from another animal. However, since I advise against stopping outdoor excursions (they love the exercise and change of scenery), rather continue your regular routines and just use a 30 day spot on treatment to protect them.

PRO TIP: Never ignore fleas on your pet, even if your budget is stretched thin. If you do, it can end up costing you much more, as a single female (who has recently fed) can lay up to 20-30 eggs! If this new generation is left unmanaged, they can also reproduce, leaving you with a huge problem that can take weeks to rectify. At the same time, please don’t panic. Just treat them as soon as they are found, and spend some time finding out where they originated from (so that you can do something about it, more on this later).

Where are the most common places that they like to hide?

Even if there’s a small possibility that your pet has been in contact with fleas, always take a moment to check them. If you do this diligently (ideally with a comb), you can often avoid an infestation in the first place. Even if you already do this, please start by looking in the fur of your dog or cat (especially their “dirt”) before investigating where else they could be coming from.

Kennels and bedding: If you found these pests on your furry friend, I recommend that you also check their sleeping areas. Warm, dark places are heaven for fleas, and if you find anything, throw it all into the wash. Also take a few moments to check your bed for them, as although they don’t really like human blood, they will take what they can find if you don’t have any pets.

In carpeted bedrooms: Unfortunately, they love to hide in carpets, and the fibers can even be keeping their eggs (which easily fall off pets) nice and warm until they are ready to hatch (yikes). I recommend putting a flea trap (that you can make yourself) out at night to see if you catch any adults. If you do, this will likely be where the next generation will come from!

Hiding out in your yard: The yard is often overlooked (or even ignored) when it comes to dealing with fleas. This is partly due to people not realizing that they live outdoors, but also because of the difficulty in knowing if this is the source. I have comprehensive guide on nematodes, which can help you do this affordably and without the use of chemicals.

PRO TIP: This list is ordered from easiest to hardest, but please don’t stop when you find fleas, as they could be coming from multiple locations. One of the major reasons why people fail at defeating an infestation is because they didn’t treat all affected areas at the same time. If you need help identifying them (in all stages), use that link and review all the included images. Lastly, if you have bedding/linen that’s not easily washable, put it outside in the bright sun for a couple hours and they will vacate.

If you have no pets (or indoor only), how did you get fleas?

Although it is rarer (in comparison to dog or cat owners), even if you have no pets, you can get fleas due to them thriving on wild animals such as rats, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and possums. If these animals frequent your yard, live under your house, or even in your roof, you will likely get a couple of fleas from them from time to time, and this could cause an infestation if left unchecked.

Another possible source is your neighbors garden, especially if they have pets who constantly bark at the perimeter fence. I don’t recommend that you start inspecting their dog or cat yourself, or ask them about their pets. From my personal experience, people immediately presume you are accusing them of neglect. Instead, put a row of cedar wood chips (about 2-3 foot wide) at the fence, as this will repel fleas.

PRO TIP: To avoid any sort of panic, after learning this, please don’t start trying to exterminate every little animal that pokes its head into your yard. Except for rodents, I enjoy having all sorts of critters around, and I don’t have ongoing flea problems (even with pets). My advice to you is to make sure that your outdoor areas inhospitable to these insects by letting in lots of sunlight and keeping it maintained. As always, I am here to help you, so please leave a comment (or drop me an email) if you any questions about this.

If you find a few fleas, are there others hiding in your home?

Picture of a home that could have fleas hiding in itIn my experience, if you find a couple of fleas (5-10), it’s very unlikely that they are all males. If there is even a single female and she manages to have a blood meal, she can lay up to one egg per hour shortly afterward. These will eventually become adults, and will also reproduce, turning a tiny problem into a big one pretty quickly.

So yes, this means that there are usually fleas already in the juvenile state (eggs/larvae/pupae) hiding in your home by the time you see the adults. When they are in this stage of development, they can lie dormant for over 100 days while they said for conditions to be right (availability of a host, etc.). If you go weeks without any sign on these pests, only to have them come out without any warning (in large numbers), this is likely the reason.

If you research how to interrupt this cycle, you are likely to come across something called an “IGR” (Insect growth regulator), and it is usually part of a chemical spray. If time is an issue, feel free to give it a try. However, I recommend that you at least take a look at a few natural options (some listed here), as they are potent and require little effort.

Can eliminating the source of the fleas sort out an infestation?

Although sorting out the source of the problem (e.g. your yard) will prevent the infestation from reoccurring, it will not make it go away. For example, if you ignore your poor flea-ridden dog, already treated areas can get continuously reinfested if you don’t deal with that. The key to winning the war is to treat all affected areas at the same time, and here are some non-toxic ways to go about doing that:

On Pets – Use dawn soap and ACV: While you can get creative with essential oils, some are toxic to cats and incorrect dosages can even put your dog’s health at risk. With that in mind, rather give your pet a bath with some gentle dish soap and add some apple cider vinegar into the mix. The Dawn will kill the fleas instantly, and the ACV will repel them.

Indoors – Use salt, DE or baking soda: Although they all work when fleas come into contact with them, these natural products are great at killing them (especially the food-grade DE) and are entirely safe to use inside your home. Using a plastic container with holes in the lid, you can shake the powder over problem areas to get some quick results. Don’t forget to brush it in, and to disturb the area once a day.

Outdoors – Use beneficial nematodes: I have often used cedar wood chips to keep fleas out my yard, but nothing really beats nematodes for their ability to hunt them down and kill them. I know that sounds awfully bloodthirsty, but let’s admit it, you don’t like these pests anymore than I do. You can get a large bag that can treat around 600 square feet for less than $25, so it is also very affordable.

PRO TIP: Don’t get rid of your pets because they have fleas! If you follow these steps, and those in my articles, I promise that you will get relief from these pests. If you have a terrible infestation, feel free to repeat the treatment in these areas every 14 days. If you are still having problems after this, reach out to me, and I will help you personally, but trust me when I say that these methods work, and you can win the war against fleas. Lastly, stay away from bombs and foggers due to their general lack of effectiveness and chemical residue.

A quick summary of this guide if you are short on time:

Picture of a dog playing outside where fleas could be coming from.

Although your dog or cat could get these pests from another pet, fleas usually come from outside, where they actively seek to find a warm-blooded host. This may not start in your yard, as they often feed on other animals (rats, etc.). If they (or their eggs) fall off, this can start of an unexpected infestation.

Once you have ruled out your pet as the source of fleas, look for signs on them in common areas like pet bedding (including kennels), in carpeted rooms, and in the yard (their natural habitat). Even if you locate them, I recommend completing your investigation, as they often are in more places than one.

If you have pets, start treating them by putting them in a bath with dawn soap and apple cider vinegar (a spray bottle works well for cats). Once complete, apply something like DE on your carpets, and then move onto using beneficial nematodes in your garden. I have tested these steps, and it works!

Since a female flea starts breeding almost immediately after she feeds on blood, if you have found adults, there are likely to be eggs, etc. hidden from sight. If these mature, this can be the source of these pests in your home.

A couple of popular FAQs, and my concluding thoughts:

Is it true that feral cats usually have fleas? While it is not a hard and fast rule, since they spend all their time outdoors, they are much more likely to have encountered these pests and often get them. If you adopt stray, I always recommend that you take the cat to the vet to get a checkup.

Do fleas come from different places in winter? No, they still originate from outside, but usually stay snuggled close to their host (be it your pet, or another animal) as they are sensitive to extreme temperatures. Due to this, you might actually have less of them during very cold months.

Is it true that cat fleas only come from cats? No, they are not fussy and are happy to attach themselves to any warm-blooded animal. Cat and dog fleas can infect dogs or cats, and because it is not species-specific, it is a pest to a wide range of wild animals and rodents as well.

Can a vet sort out where they are coming from? While they will help you with your pet, that is usually where their expertise ends. As you have read in this article, fleas can breed indoors and out, and unless you deal with these areas, you will have an ongoing problem with these pests.

I hope that you have found this article useful in determining where these pests originate from, and if you have any questions, I would love to hear from you (leave your thoughts in the comments section). If you want to support my work, please share this article with your friends, and consider getting my flea removal book (fully guaranteed to help, or your money back). Stay pest free!

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