How To: Combat Fleas

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Yesterday, we were sitting outside drinking our morning tea when a black cat sprinted across our apartment building's common courtyard. "C'mere cat," we whispered. He was so cute, and we wanted to pet him. He stopped at the sound of our voice, and then he started to scratch. Vigorously. He soon walked away, and we were glad he'd ignored us. Those were not casual feel-good scratches, but ones that spoke to a more common issue: fleas.

Humans get colds, pets get fleas. Sure we're happy when our dogs snuggle up to us after a romp in the dog park or when our cats are suddenly affectionate after disappearing for a solitary walk around the neighborhood. We're less happy when they've brought a load of ankle-biting fleas into the house. Before resorting to a truckload of chemical products, consider these tactics:

  • Keep your pet well-fed and well-exercised: A healthy pet is less likely to be a target. Add garlic to your dog's food; brewer's yeast to your cats. Both of these are rumored to reduce a flea's attraction to your pet.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed: Besides being a way to get quality time with your pet (many like to be brushed even if they may shy away from bathing), it's a good way to keep abreast of your pet's health, from possible flea infestations and other skin issues to dental problems. A little tea tree oil, strongly diluted, may kill off a flea infection on a dog. We recently discovered that diatomaceous earth, a product we've been using in our home for years to kill bugs, can also be used on pets. Made from the skeletons of crushed microscopic animals, it kills bugs by dehydrating them.
  • Keep your pet's bedding clean: You wash your linens every week, so why not take the same care with your pet's bed? Lavender has been said to repel fleas. It may also make your pet sleep more restfully at night.
  • Deep clean your home: Once the fleas get in, only a deep cleaning will get them out. Wash everything and thoroughly vacuum your carpets and upholstered furniture (then chuck the vacuum bag immediately). If your infestation is particularly bad, you may also want to sprinkle diatomaceous earth on your carpets and furniture and let it sit for a few days and then vacuum again.

Have you ever had a flea infestation? What were your tricks for handling it?

[image: homer4k's Flickr, with a Creative Commons License]