Can you catch fleas from your cat? The short answer is no, you can't catch fleas from a cat. However, you can be bitten by cat fleas.
The flea is a wingless parasite which is found throughout the world. There are several species of flea all of which have a preferred "host". Ctenocephalides felis is the flea to affect cats and is the most common species of flea.
The flea has a 4 stage life cycle, egg, larvae, pupae and adult flea. Only the adult flea lives on the cat (feeding on his blood), the other three stages of the flea life cycle are spent in the environment.
From time to time, opportunistic fleas will bite a human, but they generally prefer to stick to their natural host. However, adult fleas can survive for many months in the environment and off their host without feeding. When humans are bitten, it is generally on the lower limbs. Symptoms of a flea bite include a small, red bump and extreme itchiness. So while it is possible to be bitten by a flea, cat fleas do not live on humans. In my experience, there has to be a fairly heavy flea infestation in the house for a human to be bitten.
What about human fleas?
There is a species of flea to infect humans and pigs known as Pulex irritans. This species of flea is found throughout the world except the Arctic. Pulex irritans is mostly found on pigs and pig farmers and is rarely rare elsewhere.
Treating flea bites:
If you are bitten by a flea, do not scratch the area, that will just make the bite worse and possibly introduce an infection. Apply some antiseptic or anti-itch cream on the affected area or ice it.
My child has head lice, did they come from the cat?
No, head lice are a different species of parasite. They live on the scalp of humans, feeding on the blood. Fleas spread by jumping from host to host (note the long back legs on the flea image), head lice are spread by close contact with an infected person. Head lice do not live on cats and cat fleas do not live on humans. So, if your child has head lice, he caught them from an infected person, not the family pet.
What's the difference between head lice and nits?
Head lice are the adult parasite, nits are the eggs of the head louse. Nits can be found glued to the hair shaft, head lice live on the scalp.
If you have been bitten by a flea, then it is necessary to treat your pet(s) and the house at the same time. The most effective flea preparations for cats are available from your veterinarian. Foggers can be used to treat the house.