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Fleas - they’re almost too tiny to see, multiply like crazy, and can live way too long as far as people and cats are concerned. They can come into the yard on a squirrel, into the house on the dog or even hitch a ride on a human. It makes for a miserable situation all around. What can you do?
First, make sure Kitty has fleas. There are a number of reasons for cats to scratch—allergies, a bug bite or scratch from the other cat—so use a flea comb to check. If you don’t have a fine-tooth comb, part Kitty’s fur and look for little black specks. If they turn reddish when wet, that’s flea dirt (blood from Kitty). Time to go to work!
There are flea collars, sprays, powders, shampoos and monthly treatments available. Let's start with things you should avoid: flea collars, essential oils, products used for dogs or higher weight limits than your cat and pretty much any OTC flea treatment not specifically recommended by your vet.
Read more about natural treatments for cats: Alternative Treatments For Cats How To Minimize The Risk.
There are effective and safe flea treatments that you can use such as the feline versions of Advantage, Frontline and Revolution. Talk to your vet about specific local recommendations.
Homemade Flea Remedies for Cats Suggested by Our Members
Some of our members prefer to try other options first and over the years we've had discussions on several homemade treatments. If this is of interest for you, check out the following ideas and remember to always check with your vet before trying any OTC medicine on your cat. Read more about OTC medication and cats here.
Homemade Flea Spray
8 oz. apple cider vinegar 4 oz. warm water 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. baking soda
Mix the dry ingredients first and then slowly add the water and vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda will react (it will fizz!) so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. Once it’s mixed, put it in a spray bottle and use about once a week. If there’s any settling of the baking soda, stir to mix it up again. This can be sprayed around the house, on furniture or floors, but shouldn't be sprayed directly onto your cat.
Cat Flea Bath
While a lot of cats don’t mind playing in the drip from a faucet, they’ll object strenuously to a bath. It’s the fastest way to get fleas off Kitty, so be prepared before bringing Kitty to the water. Petroleum jelly around the eyes and inside the ears will keep fleas from running there to hide when the water and soap hit Kitty’s skin. A dab on Kitty’s butt is a good idea too. You want the fleas to head for safety down Kitty’s legs instead. If you’re quick enough, they won’t make it.
A mild cat shampoo is needed but only a bit - about the size of a quarter or an inch sized puddle in your hand. It might be handy to pour the shampoo out in a small plastic dish in advance, rather than mess with the bottle when Kitty is squirming. Our member Feralvr recommends adding ten drops of anise or grapefruit seed extract to a tablespoon of safe cat shampoo and leaving it on the cat for 3-5 minutes before rinsing.
Make sure the water is warm, not cold or hot, before putting Kitty in. A washcloth for him to stand on will make him feel more secure and keep him from sliding around. Get him wet all over as quickly as possible and then add the shampoo and sud him up. Fleas can live on a wet cat. What kills them is the shampoo because it breaks the surface tension of the water so they can’t float on it.
Now that Kitty’s clean and flea-free, what about the flea eggs on Kitty’s bed or in your carpet? There are a number of powders and sprays, bombs and more, that can be used but food grade diatomaceous earth is inexpensive, safe for pets, children, furniture and bedding. It feels like superfine talc but is deadly to fleas. It won’t hurt Kitty to get it on her paws and then lick them says MomOfMany, a Cat Site forum member. It’s safe to rub into Kitty’s fur after she’s dried from her bath too—only for adult cats, not kittens!
Sprinkle it on bedding, carpets, anywhere Kitty has been. Let it sit for a while so fleas have a chance to eat it and then vacuum. Throw the vacuum bag away immediately so all fleas are gone, including any eggs.
Treating Cat Fleas - The Outside
What you grow in the garden can help too. Make sure the plants you choose are not toxic to dogs and cats. These plants won’t kill fleas but they will repel them while being safe for pets to be around:
Mint—smells good, is easy to grow, inexpensive, grows like crazy so plant it in pots or it will take over the yard.
Catnip—there are obvious benefits to this one! Remember though, it will also attract stray cats so be careful where you plant it.
Sage—also part of the mint family, this one will grow big.
Lavender and Lemon Grass—plants that smell good but besides repelling fleas, will keep moths and mosquitos away, nice for the deck or patio.
Fleas can be a problem anywhere although areas that don’t get a hard freeze over winter or have a warm, moist atmosphere suffer more often. Have flea remedies on hand and use them at the first sign of fleas so you’re not dealing with an endless cycle. Remember, kittens or cats who have compromised immune systems can’t tolerate the same remedies a healthy cat can. A bath is the better choice for them.
With a little planning, you can win the flea wars.
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