If your pets have ever had fleas before, you know what a huge pain they can be. I recently made the unfortunate discovery that we have a flea problem. Since then, I have been in battle mode, unleashing a full-out offensive attack on the large flea population that decided to take up residence on our feline companions (and perhaps our entire home). Let me tell you – it hasn’t been easy or pretty, waging war on who knows how many fleas… tens, hundreds, thousands?!?! There’s no way to know, but I like to think that I single-handedly brought about the demise of MILLIONS of fleas!!! *cue evil laugh
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t millions, and maybe I didn’t do it single-handedly… I did employ the use of several helpful flea-fighting tricks and tools. As a fan of homeopathic and all-natural remedies, I wanted to fight these fleas without the use of topical flea treatments and bug bombs. While it might have been easier and less time consuming to do so, I did not want to subject my cats to those toxins. Instead, I used all-natural, homemade flea treatments. Let me share with you my top 8 all-natural flea-killing tools!
1. Flea Baths
This could perhaps be the most unpleasant step in the War on Fleas; however it is definitely not one you want to skip. I don’t know about bathing your cats, but bathing mine is at least a two person job! You may want to grab a buddy before embarking on this task too…
I recommend using Dawn dish soap for flea baths. It is inexpensive, safe for pets, and effective at killing fleas. When giving a flea bath, it is very important that you start with the pet’s head and neck, as that is where the fleas will run to when the scrubbing starts. Make sure that you cover every inch of your pet with the shampoo, including their paws and between their toes. Scrub the shampoo in really well too, and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before rinsing. Repeat as necessary, though keep in mind that the dish soap can strip your pet’s fur of the natural oils and can dry out their skin, so you don’t want to give them baths too often. After the bath is over and your pet’s fur has dried, comb through their fur to remove any left over dead (or live) fleas.
I was blown away by the number of fleas I found during the baths. When the cats’ fur was wet, I could more easily see all the fleas on them, which gave me insight as to how bad the infestation really was. I noticed that the majority of the fleas were under their chins, on their necks, behind their ears, and on their bellies.
2. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
While killing the fleas on your pet is all well and good, you’ve got to do something to treat your home as well. Those pesky critters lay eggs all over the place, not just on your pet. Diatomaceous earth is an effective all-natural product you can use to treat both your home and your pet. It is a fine, dusty powder that can be sprinkled on anything that needs to be treated – your carpet, your furniture, your pet, etc.
WARNING: Be sure that you get FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth. There are several different kinds, but the food grade kind is what you need, as it is safe for consumption in the case that your pet ingests it.
I went to Tractor Supply and got a big bag of DE for next to nothing. I used a sifter to sprinkle it around everywhere – the carpet, the couches, kitchen table and chairs, even on the cats. This makes for a very dirty looking home, as DE looks like, well, dirt. Also, because it is so fine and powdery, it can be kicked up into the air very easily.
*I highly suggest wearing a mask while distributing DE around your home to prevent inhalation. Your pets should be put up in a different room while you are distributing it as well so that they don’t develop any respiratory issues from inhaling the fine powder.
Before I vacuumed the DE up, I let it sit overnight. You can leave it down for as long as you’d like and it will continue to work, as long as it doesn’t get wet (water renders DE ineffective). I’d recommend leaving it down along the floorboards and by the doors for as long as a week even. If you put DE on your pet, you can rub it into their fur. I’d leave it in for at least a few days, but you actually don’t have to wash it out at all. I just left it on my cats indefinitely, and it eventually worked its way out or got groomed out.
Two things to keep in mind — 1) DE only kills adult fleas, so you may need to repeat the application process, and 2) a little bit of DE goes a long way…
3. Vacuum Cleaner
Your vacuum cleaner will be your best friend during this terrible battle! It’s important that you vacuum at least once every day. It is also important that you empty your vacuum or change the bag after each time you vacuum. The vacuum bags should be immediately removed from inside your home, not just thrown in the trash can. Unfortunately vibrations trigger flea eggs to hatch, so, while vacuuming is an effective tool for sucking up fleas and their eggs, if you don’t empty your vacuum afterwards, you will end up with a vacuum full of fleas that will just escape right back out into your home.
To help control this problem, you can cut up a flea collar and put it in your vacuum cleaner beforehand. I got a couple of them from PetSmart. I definitely don’t recommend using them as they are intended, as they can make your pet sick, but putting them inside your vacuum cleaner will help to kill the fleas and eggs as they get sucked up. The diatomaceous earth that gets sucked up into your vacuum will also help kill them. However, even though I put flea collars in my vacuum and had DE, I still threw out my vacuum bags immediately after vacuuming. I didn’t want to take any chances!
4. Flea Traps
Did you know that you can make your own flea traps? I was surprised when I read about these, and even more surprised when it actually worked! All you need is a shallow dish, a lamp, dish soap, and water. I visited my local Ace Hardware to find a clamp lamp (so that I could clip it on to anything and move it around easily from room to room) and a light bulb. I then went to Kroger and bought a couple of those cheap disposable aluminum baking trays.
To set it up, put some soapy water in the tray, clamp the lamp so that it points right at the tray, leave it in a room overnight, and you’ve got a flea trap! The idea is that the heat from the lamp attracts the fleas, then they fall into the water and drown. The soap creates a layer on top the water that makes it impossible for the fleas to escape. You have to be sure that the lamp is the only light/heat source in the room though.
This trap is really easy to make, it’s portable, and it works! I have put it out every night since I discovered the flea infestation, and I have caught several fleas (and some other random bugs) each time – as many as 20 at a time. It is suggested that you continue to put out the trap every night for a few weeks, even after you stop seeing fleas in the trap. Fleas lay eggs, which will hatch at some point – you want to make sure you catch those suckers too! I recommend moving the flea trap around to different rooms as well.
5. Washer & Dryer
I can’t tell you how many loads of laundry I did over the course of the war. I threw everything in the wash – blankets, sheets, clothes, pet beds that are washable. EVERYTHING! After a load finished, I would put it in our guest bedroom closet, as this room is closed off to the cats, so I knew that the clean laundry would be safe there from re-infestation. I’d recommend running the wash with hot water as well, as long as you aren’t worried about anything shrinking or bleeding.
6. Vinegar + a Flea Comb
It’s no secret that most bugs hate vinegar, fleas included. You can actually mix equal parts water with equal parts white vinegar, put it in a spray bottle (make sure you don’t use a spray bottle that used to contain bleach or any other kind of chemical – you don’t want to harm your pet!), and spray your pets with it. I tried this, but it didn’t go so well. Sophie pretty much just laid there and let me soak her, but Delilah and Sampson HATED it. That’s to be expected – cats are notorious for hating water. I decided to regroup and come up with a different approach.
I got out the flea comb, filled a glass with soapy water and another glass with water and vinegar. I held down one cat at a time, dipped the comb in the vinegar, ran the comb through the cat’s fur a couple of times, quickly dipped the comb in the soapy water before any fleas escaped off the comb, and repeated. I killed a lot of fleas this way! I repeated this step twice a day, every day, even after I stopped finding fleas. I wanted to be sure that they hadn’t returned.
7. Flea Spray
While you can use the vinegar and water combination mentioned above as a flea spray to treat your home, I recommend another homemade, all-natural flea spray recipe. It doesn’t smell as strongly as the water/vinegar combo, it is highly effective, and it is cheaper and healthier than store bought flea sprays!
Mix the following ingredients:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1/2 gallon of apple cider vinegar
- 16 oz. lemon juice
- 8 oz. witch hazel (can be found in the Walmart or CVS pharmacy section)
The recipe can be halved, quartered, etc. to suit your needs.
Put in a spray bottle and spray on your carpets, couches, other furniture, and anywhere your pet goes or lays. You can apply it as often as you need to. I suggest doing it at least once or twice a day for the first few days, then maybe just once every few days.
This is where my all-natural approach wavered. I struggled with the decision about whether or not to use this product. It’s a pill, and it’s definitely not all-natural. You give one Capstar pill to your pet, and it works for up to 24 hours, killing any fleas on your pet.
I did a lot of reading online about this product before I gave it to the kitties because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t giving them something that could make them seriously ill or even kill them. I’ve heard so many horror stories about other flea products out there. I only found one negative side effect online – one lady said that it made her cats pant a lot. Since a Capstar only works for up to 24 hours, I took some comfort in knowing that the chemicals in it aren’t as strong as in other flea medications. In the end, I decided to give each of my kitties a Capstar pill as a final nail in the fleas’ coffin.
Because I used so many different tools and products in my War on Fleas, it’s hard to say which one(s) worked the best. Maybe it wasn’t necessary for me to use so many different methods, but I believe that they all did their part in killing the fleas. Who knows? What I do know is that having a flea infestation isn’t any fun, and I wanted to be certain that I got rid of them all the first go around. And I never want to have to do it again. I can say, though, that the kitties and I came out of this war VICTORIOUS!!!
If you’re in the middle of your own war on fleas, good luck to you! I hope that my tips and tricks may be helpful to you!
What methods have you found work best for fighting fleas? Please share below!