A common myth about bed bugs is that they often hitchhike into homes on our pets. That stereotype is likely generated by considering what pests our furry family members bring into our homes. In addition to joy and loyalty, pets are known to carry home fleas, ticks, and, on those truly special occasions, live rodents! So, it’s no surprise that if pests are suspected to have settled into our home, we may instinctively cast glaring eyes on our beloved fur-babies. But, when it comes to bed bugs, we shouldn’t assume that Mr. Scruggles, who’s currently cleaning his nether-regions on your bed, is at fault. Frequently, upon discovering evidence of bed bugs, pet owners will assume they have a flea infestation. Many pet-parents tend to think the issue is fleas, likely brought in by their pet, and not even think to consider the possibility of bed bugs. However, according to the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA) 2018 Bugs Without Borders Survey, 71% of pest control specialists responding to complaints of suspected flea bugs.
Sorry Mr. Scruggles, my bad! I’ll go take down that flea-shaming pic of you….
In defense of the oft mistaken identity of pest invasion, most people in North America today don’t know the signs and symptoms of bed bugs. That’s because bed bugs became a non-issue in North American homes post WWII. A 2013 community fact sheet about bed bugs published by the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program states, “In the mid-1900s, [bed bugs] were a common pest, but their populations declined so dramatically after WWII that today, many people have never seen a live bed bug.” It goes on to attribute the reason for the bed bug’s population decline as being linked to DDT, a commonly used pesticide at the time, “One of the most significant causes was probably the widespread use of DDT to control cockroach populations. Although not the target, bed bugs were also killed by DDT.”
With bed bugs being off the pest radar for decades, North American homes haven’t had to deal with these human-specific pests but, have continued to deal with other common household pests, such as pests that prefer cat and dog blood for their meal times. So, it makes sense to assume our animals have gifted us with the latest pest-craze that’s inundating urban hubs from Vancouver to New York City. But, our pets haven’t.
Bed bugs really love people, so much so that they like to be within two meters of where people sleep. They prefer the sweet smell of a human’s sleeping-CO2-infused-breaths over puppy snores. They delight in the taste of human blood, not feline. If anything, humans are the ones sharing the bed bug love with pets!
That’s not to say that bed bugs won’t bite pets, they will if a human host is not readily available, but they won’t be happy about it. Humans are the preferred primary source of blood meal for Cimex Lectularius, aka, bed bugs. So, in addition to being a nuisance and a modern-day scourge, bed bugs appear to have quite discerning tastes. When a pet owner suspects their furry companion is suffering from bed bug bites, it’s time to put down the flea collar and carefully inspect the home they live in.
Ultimately, bed bugs are not a pet pest. They are a people pest.
Do bed bugs travel on pets?
The short answer is NO. There is no evidence to suggest bed bugs are using our four-legged family members as personal chariots. There is, however, evidence to suggest they do enjoy riding the city bus.
Although it’s not impossible for bed bugs to ride in on a pet’s back, it’s not a common or even likely way for bed bugs to travel into our homes. Bed bugs love people. They like to stay as close to people as they can, even when traveling. Plus, their bodies aren’t built to climb on furry mammals easily. They have flat, oval-shaped, wingless bodies, that don’t allow for easy maneuvering through thick fur. So, it’s physically inconvenient for bed bugs to Uber up on Mr.Scruggles’ back.
Other factors explaining why Poochie and Garfield aren’t good candidates for bed bug transportation is the class of pest bed bugs belongs to. Bed bugs are a type of ectoparasite, meaning they are a parasite which lives outside of their host’s body. Bed bugs are also a unique kind of ectoparasite as they do not live and nest on a host’s body. Other common examples of ectoparasites are fleas and lice; which differ from bed bugs in that their entire life cycle is spent on the body of its host. Bed bugs just enjoy quick visits to their unsuspecting hosts for dinner.
Dr. Araceli Lucio-Forester, of Cornell University, sums up in, “Bed Bugs, They’re Ba-aack” why the bed bugs unique behavior discounts furry pets from being a reasonable mode of transportation,
“Bed bugs do not live on animals the way fleas do. They are hidden in the environment and come out only at night to feed. Thus it is unusual for pets to carry bugs on them.”
Bedbugs sleep, digest, mate, lay eggs, shed their exoskeletons, near where their hosts are but are not on their hosts, except at meal times. A bed bug’s lifestyle isn’t about lounging about in one spot for their life’s entirety, they like to move around! They want to check out the latest hot spots! Which they do when it’s time to seek out their human host for a warm, tasty, snack.
When on the move, bed bugs are just not that into cats or dogs.
We hope your curiosity brought you on this webpage. Anyway, just in case you’ve got a bed bugs infestation, we put together a lot of useful information on how to get rid of bed bugs. Check it out!