Monthly topical treatments have been a godsend for those of us who remember trying to battle flea infestations with sprays, collars, powders, and even nasty and toxic "flea dips." But if you have a chronic health problem, chemical sensitivity, young children in your home, or kittens with fleas — or even if you just want to go easier on your cat and on the Earth — you might want to use less toxic alternatives to keep the pests at bay. Here are some cat-safe ways to de-flea your cat, your home, and your yard.
Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but if your cat has a lot of fleas, bathing your cat with a non-irritating product such as unscented castile soap diluted fifty fifty with water will be very helpful. Before you bathe your cat, lather up some soap around his neck and ears to keep the fleas from fleeing to the dry ground of his head. Follow the bath with a thorough combing using a fine-toothed flea comb.
Make sure you pay extra attention to the neck, stomach, and the base of the tail, because that’s where fleas are most likely to live on your cat. Dip your flea-filled comb into a jar of water with a film of dish detergent on the top. This will drown the fleas.
Put a dish of soapy water under a night-light near where your cat sleeps. Fleas will be attracted to the warmth of the light and drown in the soapy water. If you’d rather not put water dishes near where your cat sleeps, electric flea traps are another option.
By washing your cat’s bedding and blankets you use on your furniture in hot water and drying them on high heat, you’ll kill flea eggs and larvae. Wash any cloth throw rugs, too.
Vacuum your entire home, including the furniture, at least once a week. Some experts recommend putting a mothball in your vacuum bag to kill the fleas. When you’re done, take the bag right outside. If you have a bagless vacuum, empty the dust receptacle outdoors and wash it thoroughly with soap and water before bringing it back inside.
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) on your carpets and floors, leave it down for as long as possible, and then vacuum it (and the dead fleas) up. Do not use diatomaceous earth designed for use in pools, because pool-grade DE has been treated with toxic chemicals. If you have breathing issues, you may want to use a mask when you sprinkle the DE around, because it is a light powder that could trigger respiratory problems.
Keep your lawn mowed short, remove debris such as brush piles, and sprinkle lots of beneficial nematodes — special roundworms that love to eat flea larvae — around your yard.
A lot of natural living sites recommend that you give your pet garlic as a flea control tool, but garlic is highly toxic to cats and can cause life-threatening anemia.
Another widely touted option for flea control is the use of essential oils, either in your cat’s food or on her fur. But many essential oils contain substances that are toxic to cats. Do not use any essential oils on your cat unless you’ve been advised to do so by a cat-savvy essential oil practitioner. For more information about aromatherapy for cats, check out this post by Celeste Yarnall, author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care.
Have you used these or any other non-toxic methods for flea control? How did they work for you? Please share your experience in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
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