Remind Me…

Next time I offer to take care of someone’s pet, and it comes wearing a flea collar and with a bottle of flea spray in its box of earthly possessions, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have fleas.  It means that it has had fleas, and it may presently have fleas.

I guess I was a little bit of a dope for not thinking a little more clearly about why there were little black specks coming out of the cat’s fur when I brushed her (on my bed!  Ugh!).  I thought that was dead fleas, probably trapped in her thick long hair for some time after they were killed by the flea collar.

And those fleas may have been dead, but the ones now infesting my home and my dog are most definitely not dead.  I discovered them on Thursday night, when the dog flopped over on her side to expose her belly for rubbing, and her belly was a very active black-speckled place.

I’ve never had a flea infestation in my house before, but it didn’t take a ton of research (or any, actually) to realize that since the cat (and now the dog) had fleas, those fleas are probably now spread throughout the house–including my bedroom and even (the horror!) my bed.

Straightway, I stripped off the comforter and sent H off to wash it at the laundromat, and then removed every piece of bedding and clothing and bureau scarves and you-name-it to the basement to be washed.  Yes, I understand this will bring fleas to the basement, too, but the cat’s been hanging out down there anyway.

I pretty much have to assume the fleas are everywhere at this point.

Then the dog went into the tub.  Then the cat.  When I first found the fleas, I started spraying the cat with the flea spray that came with her–but that stuff creeps me out, and I didn’t want her licking it off her fur.  So, despite her furious protestations, she got a “nice” lavender bath, too.

Of course, as anyone who has had a full-scale flea infestation in their house knows (and I’ve now read about on the internets), that really doesn’t come close to solving the problem.  In fact, it can take months to get rid of them–especially if you’re not one to fill your house with toxic chemicals.

My next line of offense was to head off to the store for a bottle of diatomaceous earth–not the pool-grade stuff, but the stuff I use in my gardens for pest control.  You can rub it into your pet’s fur, and it won’t hurt them if they lick it off. It abrades the insects’ waxy coating and causes them to dry out and die.

You can also dust your house with it.  Unfortunately, dusting the entire house with a fine white powder and then cleaning it up doesn’t sound like something I want to do the day before the custody evaluator comes to do a home visit. Though, you know, I’d prefer she didn’t end up with flea bites all over her, either.

I’m also washing every bit of my bedding and clothing (as usual) with Irish Twins handmade laundry soap (thanks, Erin!), which contains borax.  Borax is also toxic to fleas–and the lavender scent of the soap is a repellent as well.

And I guess I’ll be dusting the dog again because I just checked her belly, and there they are–running all over the place.  Ugh.  And then when I catch the cat (she’s more than a little suspicious of me after the flea spray and bath adventures), I’ll dust her, too.

I’m looking into other natural and non-toxic measures as well, but many of those (essential oils, mostly) are repellents rather than killers.  I’m getting the feeling that a good portion of my Christmas break is going to involve full-scale war on the tiny black beasties in every corner and crevice of my house.

At least my house will be clean.  And it’ll smell like the purple-hazed lavender fields of Provence.

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6 responses

  1. Sorry about your infestation 😦 I remember once when I was a kid, my cousin and I used a lice comb on her long haired cat to get the fleas and eggs off of her because the chemical stuff really didn’t work. I think we used vinegar to rinse the comb in between swipes. It was kinda gross, but it was effective. It’s very time consuming though, which is probably not practical, but we were kids and it was summertime 🙂 Nothing but time on our hands 🙂

    • Well, I’ve gone ahead and ordered some treatment (a six-month supply of BioSpot) for both the dog and the cat. I’m not going to bomb the house, but I am going to get a spray for the baseboards my mom recommended, and vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. And toss the bags. What small amount of carpet I have got sprinkled with my friend’s homemade borax and lavender laundry soap and vacuumed, too. Ugh. This is going to be a lengthy process.

  2. bad news. those black specks are NOT dead fleas. they are the castings (to keep it polite)from active fleas. you may need capstar for the cat. it works instantaneously, but you must follow up with treatment of the house. and some bombs in the basement, now and again when the current eggs are due to hatch.
    be sure kitty isn’t in the house for a few hours after you bomb.
    i know. this contradicts your lifestyle. but an infestation of fleas does too, especially if you’ve got wood floors. they hide in the joints between the boards, just waiting for little boy flesh to feed on.
    you might ask your vet about the new product that sterilizes the fleas via an oil you use on or in the cat. not sure of the name. the product starts with a P.
    good luck w the battle you’ve got ahead. they aren’t going easily. and remember, no good deed goes unpunished.

  3. Reading with interest your cat-and-dog-and-fleas saga. So sorry to hear about the fleas. I’ve heard that the daily fine-tooth combing can be effective, but that certainly takes time and patience (and I’m not sure why the fleas don’t just leap away from the comb)…

    We brought my husband’s two mature cats into a house where a dog was already in residence, though she spends most of her time outdoors or on the porch. The cats were initially fearful but after a few exploratory sniffs the dog was mainly oblivious — focused on her food or her desire to go back outside. Recently we got two young cats: same situation. They were initially terrified of her, but she hasn’t paid much attention to them so they are becoming calmer around her. Maybe one day we’ll find them snuggling together…

  4. I’ve never had a flea problem either. I always assumed that it was because we never had carpet and there was less places for them to hide. I would like to hear more of this diatomaceous earth. Which store do you pick it up from? Grocery Store? Health Food Store? Tractor Supply or Campbell’s?

    • A.–
      Don’t count on the hardwood floors from saving you. I have no wall-to-wall carpet in my house and very few (one) area rug. My dog has never had fleas before now–they came in on the cat and now the dog has them, too.

      Diatomaceous earth is a mechanical insecticide–ground up shells of diatoms that abrade an insect’s waxy outer coating and cause them to dry up and die. You want the grade that is used for that purpose and not pool-filter D.E. I bought mine at the local Ace Hardware–they have an employee (manager?) who is good about ordering some organic garden pest controls. The D.E. I bought from them is a Safer product and is OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed. I use the same stuff for flea beetle, cuke beetle, and cabbage moth caterpillar control on brassicas and cucurbits in my gardens.

      It’s non-toxic to humans and other mammals, but you still don’t want to breathe in the dust. You should also be careful of where the dust goes in your gardens if you use it there–it’s not species-specific after all, and will kill other types of caterpillars (Monarch, Swallowtail, etc.) as well as bees. I don’t dust cucurbits when their flowers are open, and I don’t dust when it’s windy, either.

      Basically, I’m using it right now to gain some measure of flea control until the treatment I ordered gets here–rubbing it into the animal’s coats. I’m also using borax powder, but I wouldn’t directly dust the animals with that–just around baseboards and in the one area rug (which then gets vacuumed).

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