Thinking Woman’s Weblog

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Fleas – How to treat naturally July 19, 2008

Filed under: health — Thinking Woman @ 6:26 pm

A long time ago, when I was a different person and I had different cats, I dealt with fleas for the first time. In those days, while the idea of using toxic chemicals bothered me, I felt that there was a need for them. So I used toxic shampoos that caused my poor sweet furry friends to foam at the mouth and seriously scary bombs that spread poison into every nook and cranny of my house.

Did this work? Well, yes, and no. At first, there were no fleas. But then, suddenly, they were all back and with a vengeance. Super fleas! It was impossible to set foot indoors at all. And so began a cycle of frequent vet visits that were traumatic for my cats and more toxic bombing. The whole summer went on like this until we gave up and moved.

So when we noticed the cats scratching this year, I immediately called the non-toxic bug service. I was shocked and horrified when I found out that they were not going to help. I was told to not even bother with natural methods because they just don’t work. I was advised to go straight to the vet to get prescription drugs as they are the only thing that does actually work. Time would show every single vet in town taking advantage of this years flea epidemic as they all have huge signs out regarding the flea situation and recommending drugs for the poor innocent cats and dogs and other innocent furry friends.

I admit in a moment of weakness and flashback to my previous experience, I did consider taking that route. Luckily, fate and logic intervened (it was after hours) and so my resesarch began. I found great articles right away on the Only Natural Pet Store website and I did buy a few products from them. They highly recommend diatomeceous earth, and they have a form that is much safer than what you’d find in any garden supply store. This I sprinkled lightly on my cats and generously on my flooring. I swept it into the carpets so it would suffocate tiny fleas. I also combed my cats with a flea comb and dropped the fleas I found directly into the toilet, and flushed.

My older daughter in particular eventually developed a serious rash from the bites, which she must love picking. She is now wearing cotton knee length socks all the time, even while she is sleeping, and putting Rescue Remedy cream on the bites at least twice a day. The rash looks much better, especially below the sock line!

We all try to remember to put strong smelling essential oils on our feet and calves when the fleas are biting – peppermint and tea tree oil are my favorites. I’ve tried putting this on the cats but they really hate it. Besides, it is not the cats that host the fleas most of the time; my understanding is the fleas live most of the time in other places. There, they relax and lay eggs. Sometimes when we comb the cats, we find almost no fleas, or one cat seems free and clear and the other not. Apparently, the cats visit a “flea bus stop” and get loaded up again. Where that bus stop is in our house, we are not sure!

Every few days, we vacuum all the carpets and then put the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and put that in the freezer. That way, any newly hatched fleas will die.

Two ideas I have yet to implement are to use beneficial nemetodes outside and also spread diatameceous earth all over the yard. The nematodes will eat harmful insects. It is important to buy ones that are for your area. A research university might be the first place to go for information on which ones you’d need. I have noticed the squirrels stopping to scratch so I know I need to do this. Even though our cats are indoors only, the fleas are probably jumping in the door or catching a ride on a human bus or maybe they come in on other things? I am not sure how that works. But I am sure the squirrels and other creatures would appreciate a break from the itchies.

Here is an interesting tidbit. We have been dealing with this for at least two months. So has everyone else in town. When I talk to other families, at least the ones who are honest, I learn that the mainstream drugs are not working any better than what we are doing! I know from my research how horrible these chemicals are for the pets (and people too) and how they beat down the immune system, thereby excaserbating the problem as fleas like a weakened host. That makes it easier for them to penetrate the skin and get their meal of fresh blood.

Our experience this year is nothing compared to what I dealt with years ago. Yes, the fleas are annoying, particularly to the poor cats. But they have never reached epidemic numbers. It is sort of like when the first mosquitos start biting but you’re still having a great time and stay outside for another hour. Still, the battle has never consistently swung in our favor. About two weeks ago, I read the label of a pest control product I had kicking around and saw it was for fleas so I sprayed it all over the carpets and it does seem to have helped a lot! It is Orange Guard and the key ingredient is d-Limonene (orange peel extract) so that seems okay. I bought it from a reputable source.

I hope to have great news to post soon on this situation, but for now, we are resigned to just fight the good and slow fight and not add to our bodies unavoidable toxic chemical load.