Can Fleas Live in Cat Litter?

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Even if you clean your cat's litter box regularly, it may contribute to the population of fleas in your home. When fleas hitch a ride on your cat, they feast on your cat's blood so they can mate. After a day or two at the bacchanal buffet, each female lays up to 25 eggs a day in your cat's fur. Many of the eggs fall off as your cat visits his favorite spots in your home. The litter box provides an ideal environment for eggs to hatch and the pupae to develop into adults. Adult fleas can live up to five days in the litter box waiting to join the party on your cat's skin.

How Fleas Grow in the Litter Box

Fleas thrive when the relative humidity in their environment is greater than 50 percent. Your cat's urine provides the moist climate needed for egg hatching and growth. Your feline's feces provides organic material upon which the hatchlings feed. They'll also eat adult flea feces, which drop off into the litter box along with the eggs. The flea feces contain your cat's blood, a necessary nutrient for the flea at this stage of his life. The flea finds an undisturbed spot in or around the litter box to spin a silky cocoon. If your cat continues to frequent his litter box, the flea can hatch in three to nine days. He'll then jump back onto your cat to join the feast.

Lying in Wait

A tiny, sticky flea cocoon can elude visual detection when you clean your cat's litter box. If the litter box is seldom used -- such as at a vacation home -- the pupa can lie in wait for more than a year. Once she senses the presence of a host in her environment through carbon dioxide emissions, she hatches in as little as 10 seconds. She's then ready to infest your cat as soon as he sets foot in the litter box.

Ending the Cycle

Litter Box Cleanup

Getting rid of most of the fleas in the litter box is as easy as disposing of the litter in a sealed plastic bag. Vacuum the box thoroughly to suck up any pupae clinging to the sides, bottom or lip. Wash all surfaces of the box with hot water with mild dish detergent. Using flea sprays and other chemicals in the box may irritate a cat's nose and cause him to take his bathroom routine elsewhere. Sprinkle food grade diatomaceous earth over cat's litter box to help break the life cycle. The tiny sharp edges of skeletal diatoms abrade and dry out the pupae and adult fleas that come in contact with it, making it difficult for them to survive. The powder has no smell or taste, so it won't be offensive to your cat.

Thinking Out of the Box

In addition to treating your cat and litter box, you'll want to focus on the places your cat likes to spend his time. Wash your cat's bedding and vacuum his favorite places to lounge, such as the top of the refrigerator, window sills and furniture.