How to get rid of fleas in the house
Treating fleas on your cat and dog is necessary but if you don't also get rid of fleas in the home then you will never succeed in getting the house free of fleas.
Prevention is the best treatment
Avoiding getting any fleas in the first place is the most effective way of controlling fleas. Don't let your animals out or let them come in contact with other animals. Treat any new pet before bringing it in to meet your existing animals.
If your animals go outside then you most likely have fleas.
You must kill all the forms of the flea, in all the spots the cat likes.
In order to succeed in eliminating fleas in your home you must KNOW THE ENNEMY. Fleas have take several weeks or even months to complete their life cycle.
Besides the jumping-biting adult flea, they can be found as eggs, larva, and pupa (cocoon). Adults are most likely to be on the cat but eggs, larva and pupa are most likely to be off the cat. To eliminate fleas you must get rid of all the phases of the life cycle in all the spots your cat likes. You might want to check out my Life Cycle of the cat flea. If you only kill the adult flea, the other forms will become adults and re-infect your cat.
There is more need for flea control in the warmer months since conditions are better for flea development. Fleas can multiply very quickly so quick action once you spot a problem can prevent a much larger problem just a few weeks later.
Because of the ability of the flea to slow down its development in poor conditions, a flea infestation can persist for several months even when no animal is present. A cat flea can dine on cats but also on many other animals including dogs mice and raccoons. Although they will bite humans they cannot lay eggs easily after a human meal.
First, treat your cat and dog and any other animal that can carry fleas.
The so called "cat flea" is an equal opportunity biter and can infect a large number of different animals. Luckily treatment is pretty much the same for all household pets. My page on treating fleas on cats. Don't use dog products or any other animal products on cats. They can be poisoned very easily.
Although fleas can happily bite humans, it's almost impossible them to get enough nourishment from human blood so that they can lay eggs. You can still get bitten but it won't do the fleas much good. Flea bites look like red spots on the lower legs. Sometimes they are itchy. Flea bites are not harmful in themselves but fleas can carry diseases. Remember the bubonic plague of the middle ages? It was carried by rat fleas. My page on Diseases you can catch from cats, some are transmitted by fleas.
University of Kentucky has a good article on flea control. It is not specific to cats so before you use some of the suggested flea control insecticides, CHECK THAT THEY ARE SAFE FOR CATS. Permethrin is not safe for cats.
What are the preferred methods of flea control in the home?
The adult fleas are the simplest to deal with because they need blood. By treating the animals you will get a lot of the adults. Eventually, if there is no re infection most of the fleas will die. It will take quite a long time for all the eggs, larvae and pupa to complete their life cycle though so you need to deal with them. The eggs, larvae and pupa are the real problem.
- Insect Growth Regulator
- Sprays and powders for the interior
- Exterior treatment
Cleanliness is next to Flealessness
Your vacuum is your best friend when it comes to cat flea control. Vacuuming will remove many eggs, larvae and some pupae. The flea cocoon, the pupae, can sit for a long time, even several months, if conditions are not good. When they are exposed to extra carbon dioxide, heat and vibrations, exactly like a nice tasty cat was around, they are stimulated to come out as hungry adult fleas. The process of vacuuming will stimulate new fleas to emerge faster. For this reason, vacuuming more than once with a few days in between is useful. Wash your cat's bedding in HOT water and dry in hot dryer if possible, and make sure you clean between cushions, carpets and in the car if your cat goes in the car.
Before you vacuum and treat an area remove toys clothing and other stuff so you can get into the corners, if you can't reach the fleas you cant' treat for them.
Vacuum between the cracks on the floor and along the baseboard.
When a pupa gets vacuumed up it often hatches in the vacuum bag. The bag should be closed and removed or the canister emptied every time you vacuum your pet's areas, otherwise the fleas might hatch and find their way out of the vacuum.
Although your cat probably does not approve of frequent vacuuming it is a highly effective and harmless way of controlling fleas in cats. Some cats actually like being vacuumed.
Spray Insect Growth Regulator
Some insect growth regulators have been developed which are sprayed in areas where the cats spend time. This does not kill fleas on contact but rather prevent the flea from completing their life cycle. It is often used alongside a spot treatment that kills the adult fleas on the cat. This IGR is then sprayed on the bedding and other spots you have identified as areas where the cat likes to hang out.
Many IGR are not specific to fleas but rather will also work on cockroaches and other insects. Some crustaceans are also affected by IGR. Precor Insect Growth Regulator concentrate, 1oz.
Insect growth regulators usually work by interfering with the chitin making process. Chitin is what insects use as their hard skeleton. Since mammals, like your cats, dogs, or humans, don't produce chitin then they are not really affected. Don't assume that any product is completely safe and read the instructions, get your glasses, they always make them so small.
Sprays and Powders
Sometimes the infestation is so large that you have to resort to spraying an insecticide. When you do, get your glasses and read the instructions and warnings, clear the area of stuff, including toys, remove the animals food (and human food) so that nothing gets in the food or water and spray. Don't forget to spray under cushions, carpets, and in any cozy cracks. Many flea spray have a combination of insecticide and insect growth regulator.
Sprays and powders have the added disadvantage that breathing them in or getting them in your (or your kid's) or the cat's eyes or mouth can be dangerous. So get everyone out when you spray insecticide. Stay out for at least the length of time suggested, and longer. There are many warnings that people have gotten sick after treating their home for fleas.
There are many formulations of sprays and powders. Some as dangerous and toxic, others are more benign.
Diatomaceous earth with or without pyrethryn has been used and is relatively non toxic. However, other stabilizer are added to the mix and these are often quite dangerous to cats. Use food grade formulations from reliable companies. Pyrethrins degrade in sunlight and has a relatively short life, but is fairly safe for cats. Flea will be affected quite quickly but sometimes recover. The cats bedding should be vacuumed soon after it's been treated.
Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade 10 Lb
Diatomaceous earth can safely be used in the vegetable garden to control various insects as well as fleas.
Pyrethrin is NOT the same as permethrin. Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethrin, and is less easily broken down than pyrethrin. Although its toxicity is relatively low, it is higher than that of pyrethrin. Pyrethrins can be used on cats; permethrins should NOT be used on or near cats and can be deadly.
Use only cat products around cats. Sprays and flea powder aimed at other animals can kill your cat.
Borax based powders have been used successfully. Put the powder down, let it act for a couple of days and vacuum everything up. Salt has also been suggested. Vacuum it up after a day or so otherwise it will attract moisture.
Fog Bombs don't work
Fog bombs, such as Raid's Hot Shot. They do not work well. AVOID. They can be dangerous and don't get in the cracks where the insecticide needs to go to get to the fleas.
You should avoid doing this if at all possible. There are many reports of people and kids getting sick even after several days and the house having been declared "safe". Avoid foggers.
Many versions of flea traps have been devised and they will attract and kill fleas. Typically a sticky sheet is positioned under a light that produces heat and light to attract a flea. It then gets caught on the sticky sheet.
Here is a link to a commercial flea trap, it seems to be getting good Amazon Ratings:BioCare Flea Trap
Placing a sticky sheet or a dish of water under a lightbulb on the floor can also work.
This will not rid you of fleas but will reduce numbers or adults. Larvae and eggs will not be affected. It is one way of figuring out if you have a large infestation and WHERE the fleas are.
Treating the yard, porch or balcony
By removing debris and keeping the grass and bushes trimmed this will help reduce flea population, it will also help control ticks. Some people will spray the yard but there is severe danger to helpful insects, animals including pets and birds around your home. Paving or putting down cobblestones around the immediate area around your house will help reduce flea infestation by removing areas where organic matter and flea dirt can accumulate.
It can also keep water away from the foundation.
The previous owner of my old house in the city has cemented the front and back and this has kept fleas away. Even the feral cats around my house are practically flea free.
Since wild animals will carry fleas then keeping them away from the house can help. Raccoons, opossums, foxes, rats, stray cats and dogs all can bring fleas. If you feed them put the food away from the house.
Nematodes work well in the Yard and are safe.
Nematodes are a living worm that attacks fleas. It is an effective way of killing fleas in the yards and is non toxic and harmless to your pets. To work the nematodes have to be alive so care must be taken when handling the nematodes to keep them alive until they are applied.
Summary on Treating the home for fleas
- Preventing fleas is easier than getting rid of them. My page on treating your cats for fleas. Between the shoulder drops are very effective. Chose a reliable brand. Some will also treat for ticks. Some cats are sensitive though, ask your vet for safe alternatives in your area.
- Vacuuming often and thoroughly is a very effective mean of control. It reduces all life stages of fleas. To be succesful you must clear off stuff on the floor where fleas can hide.
- Spraying insecticide works but can be dangerous. Most insecticide preparations for fleas include an insect growth regulator (IGR) which is effective and relatively safe. IGR can be purchased separately and control other insects such as cockroaches and ants.
- Carpets are particularly attractive to fleas. Vacuuming and insecticide powder often help in killing fleas in carpets.
- Fumigating Flea bombs and dips where the chemicals are allowed to remain, are dangerous and should not be used.
- Do not use Dog products around Cats. Some dog flea treatment products containing permethrin can kill cats. Even just being close to dogs that have been treated with it can be dangerous to cats.
- Garlic, nutritional yeast, and most essential oils don't work. Essential oil can poison a cat. See my Natural control of fleas and cats. Electronic flea killers DO NOT work, don't waste your money. Flea traps show you WHERE fleas are but don't capture enough fleas to be useful for control. Garlic is toxic to cats and dogs. It might repel fleas but it is poison. ASPCA info about garlic toxicity.
Ask your Vet or Public Health Department
Talk to your vet for the latest in flea medication and control. There is a large range of products available, some are very safe while many are quite dangerous to you and your cat (and other pets) if mis-used. Some products control fleas, ticks, mites, parasites and some even target heart worm. Once you have a plan you can do the work and don't need to see the vet again unless you have problems.
This article is provided for information only. It is not to be used instead of consulting a VET. If your kitty is sick get some help.