How far and high can fleas jump?

picture of cat dandruff

FleaScience

Img 1 Cat fleas jump an average distance of 8 inches, and an average height of 5.2 inches.

Summary

Cat fleas jump an average horizontal distance of 8 inches (20 cm), and an average height of 5.2 inches (13.2 cm). At a maximum, the best performers can jump as far as 19 inches (48 cm), and as a high as 7.9 inches (20 cm).

Details

Flea Jump Distance

Ctenocephalides felis

One study observed the jumps of 450 unfed cat fleas Fig 1. On average, the fleas covered a horizontal distance of 8 inches (20 cm). The furthest leap was recorded at 19 inches (48 cm). With adult cat fleas being less than 3 mm long, a distance of 48 cm is equivalent to 160 times their body length. The shortest observed jump was around an inch (2 cm).

C. felis (cat flea)
C. Canis (dog flea)

Fig 1 Percent of adult fleas (y-axis) which complete jumps at varying distances in centimeters (x-axis).

Other Flea Species

Ctenocephalides canis

Dog fleas can jump slightly further than cat fleas Fig 1. They leap an average distance of 12 inches (30.4 cm), and a maximum distance of 20 inches (50 cm).

Pulex irritans

Human flea and cat flea jumps are comparable.

Xenopsylla cheopis

Oriental rat fleas jump an average distance of 7 inches (18 cm).

Desert Rodent Fleas

Jumps of seven species of fleas from desert rodents were recorded in one experiment. The horizontal jump distances were similar, ranging from 3 to 5 inches (7.8 to 12.8 cm). All species combined, the average leap distance was 4 inches (10.4 cm).

Mole, Bat, & Bird Fleas

Certain flea species can’t jump well at all. Through the course of evolution they’ve lost the body parts needed to perform jumps. Typically, these species parasitize hosts that live in high aerial roosts or underground nests.

Flea Jump Height

Ctenocephalides felis

In the past, it was believed that cat fleas could leap up to 13 inches (33 cm) into the air. Newer evidence, studying the jumps of 1500 unfed fleas, shows that this was high a estimate Fig 2. Half of the fleas could complete jumps at a height of 5.2 inches (13.2 cm). This is just above the human ankle. At a maximum, one flea jumped 6.6 inches (17 cm) into the air. In another study, flea jumps were recorded as high as 7.9 inches (20 cm) from the ground, equivalent to 66 times their body length.

C. felis (cat flea)
C. Canis (dog flea)

Fig 2 Percent of adult fleas (y-axis) which jumped above a certain height in centimeters (x-axis).

Other Flea Species

Ctenocephalides canis

Dog fleas can jump higher than cat fleas Fig 2. They leap to an average height 6 inches (15.5 cm), and can reach a maximum height of 10 inches (25 cm).

Pulex irritans

The human flea has similar jump performances as the cat flea.

Xenopsylla cheopis

Oriental rat fleas jump to an average height of 2.5 inches (6 to 7 cm). The highest jump of this species was recorded at 3.6 inches (9 cm).

Mole, Bat, & Bird Fleas

Certain species of fleas which parasitize flying or underground hosts can only perform feeble jumps.

References

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