Oriental Rat Flea

Xenopsylla_cheopis_flea_PHIL_2069_loresOf all the fleas in the world this is the scariest. You’ve probably heard of the bubonic plague or the black death. This little guy is the culprit. Many people  think rats caused the spread of the bubonic plague but that only partially correct. The bubonic plague was also spread by the oriental rat flea. This flea would bite rats that carried disease and plague then would bites humans. This spread the disease at a very rapid and terrifying rate.

It’s unlikely that you’re going to find a rat flea infestation in your house or on a pet. The most common types of fleas found in homes are dog fleas or cat fleas.

Scientific Name: Xenopsylla Cheopi

Size: 1.5 to 4 mm

Appearance: Dark Reddish Brown, wingless, hard bodies, three pairs of legs

Found: Typically found in tropical climates

Oriental Rat Flea Appearance

Larva left and an adult female right of the oriental rat flea xeThe Oriental Rat Flea is very small ranging anywhere from 1.5 to 4 mm making them difficult to see. The outside of their shells are a dark reddish brown with a very hard, narrow body. This is so that they can easily maneuverer through fur and hair.

Rat fleas have 3 pairs of legs that are designed to propel them long distances quickly so they can easily jump onto a host. Rat fleas can be differentiated from dog and cat fleas by the outside of its body. This is because rat fleas don’t have genal combs or pronotal combs.

Most fleas go through the same basic life cycle. The life cycle has 4 seperate stages. These stages are eggs, larva, pupae, and adult flea. You wont be able to tell the difference between a dog flea, cat flea, or rat flea until the adult flea stage. If you want to know more about the flea life cycle you can find out more by reading my Flea Life Cycle article.

The Black Death

Plague_-buboesThe bubonic plague is spread by infected rats, and fleas. The plague started in the late 1348 and ended around 1350. The plague killed an estimated 50 million people. This was around 60% of Europe’s population at the time.

The plague never fully died out after it ended. You can still contract the bubonic plague but it’s very rare and can be treated as long as you are quick to respond to its flu-like symptoms. If you don’t get treatment within 3-7 days it can be fatal


  • Headache
  • Chills and Fever
  • Exhausted
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Backache
  • Soreness in arms and legs
  • Swelling
  • Hard, Painful, Burning lumps on neck, underarms, inner thighs. These bumps will eventually split open causing puss and blood to leak. Sometimes these bumps would grow to the size of an orange.

Oriental Rat Flea Treatment

When trying to remove Oriental Rat Fleas from your pets fur or your home you’ll want to treat them like any other flea. This means killing them using the same methods as usual.

If you have a rat flea infestation you may want to check around the inside and outside of your house because this may mean you have rodents in your home. Rodents are a problem that should be taken care of quickly.

1. Vacuum your home to remove as many adult fleas as you can.

2. Put any bed sheets, blankets or clothes that are out in the open into the wash.

3. Spread Diatomaceous Earth throughout your homes carpeting.

4. While the Diatomaceous Earth is doing its job give your pet a bath using flea shampoo.

5. If you want to take extra precautions to prevent fleas from jumping back onto your pet you can also apply flea drops.

6. Vacuum the Diatomaceous Earth up from your carpet.

7. Continue spreading DE through your house and vacuuming it up for a few days until the infestation is gone. If they infestation persist you can try more aggressive tactics by using a flea spray or flea fogger.

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Oriental Rat Flea Bite Treatment

The first sign of a rat flea bite that may contain the bubonic or systemic plague will be swollen painful lymph glands. As soon as any sort of the above symptoms start to show you should seek medical treatment immediately even if the symptoms are minor it doesn’t hurt to be safe.

If you don’t show any symptoms of plague the bites will still itch. This can be taken care of by using calamine lotion or a basic anti itch cream.

It’s important to never scratch your bites no matter how badly they itch. Scratching may lead to infection and that is more trouble than its worth. If you scratch and the bite becomes infected you should go seek a medical help to receive that proper anti-biotics.

If you have any flea related questions feel free to ask using our contact page.