What do you do if your cat’s flea preventative fails and results in an infestation in your home? SPS team member Amelia gives us the low-down on dealing with fleas in this week’s Best Pet Practices.
The truth is that fleas can live almost anywhere, especially in the humid heat of New Orleans. If they live outside, they can creep up through the floorboards and get into your house. Even if your pets are inside-only, we HIGHLY recommend treating them with preventative flea medicine for those pesky ones that do get inside. You can also carry fleas in from outside if they jump on you, so it’s better to use prevention rather than treatment for when they do get to your pets. If your pet isn’t being treated for flea prevention, or you happen to miss a dose and an infestation occurs, click below for a full guide to dealing with fleas in your house!
To deal with a true flea infestation in your home, Sarah The Pet Sitter recommends that you take a few simple steps. Firstly, if you aren’t sure whether your flea problem has gotten bad enough to need action, here are a few signs of an infestation:
- When fleas make camp in your kitties’ fur, they will begin to leave residue. In the early stages, the residue they leave will only be droppings, which look like small black specs, or pepper. This is undigested blood that the fleas excrete to be food for newly hatched eggs. Shortly after they begin dropping blood, they will begin to drop the eggs as well. These look like tiny white specs, or finely grained salt. Once the eggs appear, you probably have a fully fledged infestation on your hands. These eggs are able to lay dormant for weeks or months at a time, in the depths of carpet or the cracks between wooden floorboards, which makes it tedious to get rid of once they get to this stage.
Once you’ve determined how bad the infestation is, here’s how to rid your house of fleas:
- When they feel vibrations around them, which they think is a new animal passing, the eggs that fleas have dropped throughout your house will hatch. The best way to rid yourself of the pesky eggs is to vacuum heavily, wait 15 minutes, and then spray using a household flea killer. There are many options for different kinds of spray at pet stores such as PetCo. Spray across the entire space of the floor, and be sure to keep your kitties away until it dries completely. You will also want to wash or clean as many of the soft surfaces in your house, such as rugs, carpets, drapes, couches and cushions. If your infestation is bad enough, you can also use a flea bomb to get into all the nooks and crannies and really root out the pests. Be sure to read all the instructions for bombs thoroughly before using. Most will require that you and all pets vacate the house for at least 2-4 hours.
But getting the bugs out of the house isn’t enough, here’s how to rid your pet of fleas:
- (I went through this with my cat, so the instructions will be cat-oriented. These guidelines can translate to dog care easily.) Get the worst of the fleas off your cat by giving her or him a flea bath. There many different brands of flea shampoo some of which feature natural ingredients and some utilize chemicals instead. First fill the tub with a few inches of slightly warm water. Noisy running water can trigger fear in some cats, so it’s best if you can fill the tub and have cups nearby for rinse your cat before you bring him or her in the bathroom. Shampoo your cat’s neck first (gloves recommended for protection from bites and scratches), to prevent the fleas from crawling onto the cat’s face where it is difficult to shampoo. Gently lather the rest of your cat’s body, let the shampoo sit for the directed time, and then rinse thoroughly. It’s important to rinse all the product out of their fur, because they will lick themselves dry afterward, and you don’t want them ingesting any chemicals. Cats also have a hard time regulating their temperature when they are wet (especially tiny kittens!), so you can keep them warm in a towel to help dry them off once the bath is over. Make sure you reward them with treats and affection after! For the cat with sensitive skin, you can also dampen your cat’s skin and fur with a lemon solution instead of a chemical-based wash.
As with all health issues, regular flea maintenance can help prevent the need for drastic remedies:
- Because you cannot give your cat a flea bath (lemon or otherwise) on a regular basis, flea combing is a great option for regular maintenance. The best way to kill a flea is to drown it, so keep a bowl of water near to dunk the comb in and scrape the fleas off into the bowl with each pull of the comb. You can also put a drop of dish soap in the water to keep them from jumping out again. And just to be sure the fleas don’t survive in the sink pipes, empty the water bowl in the toilet and flush.
Again, the best way to prevent having to deal with a flea infestation in your house or on you pet is to treat them regularly with preventative medication. Sarah the Pet Sitter recommends treatments that prevent fleas and ticks as well as heart worms. For cats, Revolution is a great option, and for dogs Trifexis works well too.