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Fleas in general are bad news, especially out of control fleas. I will skip the horror stories and assume anyone reading this is aware of how unpleasant and unhealthy flea problems can be. Fortunately there is hope for even the most intractable flea crisis. After years of research on recalcitrant (but eventually grateful) feline subjects United Cats has investigated virtually every flea control product on the market.
The secret with fleas, like most pest control strategies, is to devise a program using several methods that best suits individual circumstances. There is not going to be one magic answer. Houses with carpeting are particularly vulnerable to flea infestation, people who live in such need to be vigilant about flea control.
As with any issue related to a cat's health, it is an excellent idea to discuss flea control with a veternarian. They will likely be familiar with advances in the technology, and what methods would work best with particular cats and in particular areas.
IMPORTANT WARNING: Never use flea control products intended for dogs on cats. Canine flea control products are much stronger than feline flea control products, using a dog flea shampoo on a cat can be fatal. Unless a product is clearly marked for use on cats, don't take a chance. Any pest control product must be used in accordance with its' directions, read labels carefully and use all precautions.
CLEANLINESS: High standards of cleanliness are an important weapon in flea control. Floors that are vacuumed or washed regularly will shelter far fewer of the blood sucking little monsters. Especially if lint and dust are not allowed to build up in out of the way places. As well, pet bedding should be washed weekly. If a cat likes to sleep on a particular piece of furniture, I try to place a towel or such for them to lay on. I wash this item regularly, which not only controls fleas, it keeps the furniture free (relatively speaking) of unsightly cat stains and fur mats.
BORIC ACID: This is old fashioned but can work like a charm in any carpeted environment. It is cheap, relatively non-toxic, and easy to use. With any luck in about six weeks the flea population will drop to near zero. If the cats don't go outside and get reinfested the flea population will drop to zero in a few months assuming that every inch of carpet was treated. It is available pretty much wherever pet supplies are sold, De-Lime-Inator® and Terminator® are a couple of brand names. It does have to be renewed about once a year if new fleas are being brought inside by the cats. As with any chemical control, there are always risks. For more information on the toxicity of boric acid see Boric Acid Toxicity
ADVANTAGE®, FRONTLINE®, PROGRAM® and other spot treatments: These are the ones where a drop of poison is put on the back of the cats' neck once a month. They can be completely effective. They are also expensive and toxic, be absolutely certain the product being used is appropriate for the pet it is being used on. Several web sites and a vet I know strongly recommend that cheap knock off products of this type not be used. I use Advantage® on my cats during the summer months, it is the only flea control product I use regularly.
FLEA COMBS: Old fashioned but they do work, or at least most of them do. Cheap flea combs sometimes don't work, if the fleas are slipping right through the comb go buy a better comb. Just set the cat down and comb him or her, often it is a very satisfying chore for both parties. Just wash the fleas down the sink or put them in a container of soapy water. A flea comb is the only product that can be used completely safely on kittens. In fact they are very effective on kittens, who have a small surface area and thin fur. This is very fortunate since fleas just love kittens, anyone with a kitten, especially a new kitten, should check it for fleas regularly. While flea combing won't eliminate a flea problem, it can reduce the numbers to a point where at least the situation is bearable. Flea combs are completely non-toxic.
FLEA POWDERS AND FLEA SHAMPOOS: If used carefully and thoroughly these will eliminate the fleas on the cat. I recommend them if bringing a new cat into a flea free environment. It is often a good idea to have shampooing professionally done at a reputable place. Properly treating a cat in this fashion really is a job for experts, see Cat Bathing as a Martial Art. Kidding aside, a neat trick to make this easier at home; place a metal window screen lying on the bottom of the bathtub. The cat will quite naturally latch onto it and hunker down, and is much easier to hold onto than a cat scrabbling frantically for purchase on a ceramic tub surface. A nylon or plastic screen would probably work too, but I would expect it to take some damage in the process.
FLEA TRAPS: This is where a small light is suspended above a tray filled with soapy water or sticky paper. At night the light is left on and fleas are attracted to it and jump into the tray. These can trap and kill large numbers of fleas, and are completely non-toxic. They are also good for determining just how severe a problem is.
FLEA COLLARS: I have never had much luck with them, so I can't really say much about them.
FLEA BOMBS (Bug Bombs, Foggers): These are pretty toxic, and I have never had much luck with them on fleas. They mostly seem to just kill the fleas in the immediate vicinity of the device. Be careful to use these in accordance with instructions, as is clearly illustrated by 19 bug bomb foggers blast a house apart.
PESTICIDES: I sometimes see flea control advice that recommends spraying entire yards and lawns with malathion or a similar pesticide. The invention of spot treatments like ADVANTAGE® has rendered this method of flea control essentially obselete. Only if a family member is severely allergic to fleas would I consider taking this step.
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