This article is from the In-Depth Report Scratch 'n Sniff: A Guide to Cats and Dogs
60-Second Science

Cat Fleas Abhor a Vacuum

Vacuuming not only sucks up cat fleas, it kills them in the process. Karen Hopkin reports

If you don’t subscribe to the Dutch journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, you might have missed the news about fleas: the best way to get rid of a house full of cat fleas is to reach for the vacuum cleaner. The old upright is not only lethal to adult bugs, but it completely wipes out their young. Scientists from Ohio State University had set out to determine what additional measures might be needed to kill a bunch of Hoovered-up fleas: burning, freezing, poisoning, maybe even a little good old fashioned stomping. But it turns out that getting sucked into a vacuum bag does the whole job.

The researchers were so surprised by the results, they repeated the study several times. In each experiment, they sprinkled a kitchen carpet with 100 cat fleas, either adults or juveniles. And they found that the vacuum snuffed out pretty much all of them. What makes vacuuming so deadly is hard to say. The researchers admit that they did not conduct a postmortem on any of the deceased. But they think it was the physical trauma of being sucked through the brushes that gave fleas a one-way ticket to the chitin-yard. Now, if only scientists could come up with a safe way to vacuum the cat.

--Karen Hopkin

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