Blood consumption and feeding behavior of the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche 1835)

Michael Wayne Dryden, Purdue University


The major objectives of this research were to determine the volume of blood consumed daily, using dual-radionuclide blood tags and observe the feeding behavior of the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis, while feeding on cats. A confinement feeding system was developed to observe fleas while feeding on cats and yet allow them to feed optimally. The cats' hair was clipped to a length of 2.5-3.5mm and a glass cylinder 5.0cm high by 5.2cm in diameter was attached to the skin using a surgical adhesive. Cats were restrained using halothane gas anesthesia. Fleas feeding on cats anesthetized with xylazine/ketamine or ketamine/halothane combinations consumed a volume of blood that was similar to those fleas that fed on manually restrained cats. The volume of blood consumed by actively reproducing female fleas, while feeding in confinement feeding chambers for three hours, was investigated using two radionuclide blood tags ($\sp{51}$Cr-erythrocyte tag and $\sp{125}$I-albumin tag) and the gravimetric method. One hundred actively reproducing female fleas consumed an average of 0.110ml ($\pm$0.026ml) of blood as determined using the dual-radionuclide system. In these investigations the single $\sp{51}$-Cr-erythrocyte tag overestimated blood consumption by 11.3%, while the single $\sp{125}$I-albumin tag underestimated consumption by 6.4%. The gravimetric method underestimated blood consumption by 72.2%, as compared to the dual-radionuclide value. An additional study showed direct exposure to 40khz ultrasound did not affect feeding behavior or blood consumption. Investigations of blood consumption, during a 48 hour period, of non-confined actively reproducing female fleas were conducted with cats housed in specifically designed metabolic cages and restricted from grooming. These investigations were conducted using the single $\sp{51}$Cr-erythrocyte tag. The data obtained were reduced by 11.3% to compensate for overestimation using a single erythrocyte tag. Actively reproducing female cat fleas consumed an average of 13.6ul ($\pm$2.7ul) of blood per day which was equivalent to 15.15 times their body weight. Investigations were also conducted to observe various feeding behaviors of male and female cat fleas. These behaviors included: length of time to initiate feeding, duration of blood meals, frequency of feeding, rate of defecation and rate of weight gain. Investigations revealed that the cat flea feeds directly from the capillary.




Gaafar, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Veterinary services|Entomology

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