By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM
There are a lot of different options available for cat owners who are being faced with fleas. But not everyone is interested in using chemicals to deal with these pests. In fact, a growing number of people are trying to avoid chemical solutions. There are some options available that are considered more nature-based. For those who want to go the less-toxic route, here are a few of the options to consider.
You may find that some of these "home remedies" work great the first year and then become less effective over time. Depending on the level of flea infestation you are experiencing and your diligence in combating the critters, you may have to work harder one year versus the next. While these methods are safer, you will find that they are more effective at preventing flea problems than eliminating established infestations. Also, no single method is going to work 100 percent, so it may be necessary to combine a few different methods to reduce the level of infestation present in your home and on your cat.
If your cat spends lots of time outdoors, you will probably have more difficulty controlling fleas naturally, since they may be strongly established in the yard (or wherever your cat frequents) as well as in the home. Be aware that not every flea control method will work for every situation. You may need to use one method for the yard, another for the home and yet another for your cat’s body.
Caring for the Cat
Your cat can benefit from a simple and thorough rinse with cool water to expel fleas from the body and hair. Following the water bath, using a cedar, eucalyptus, lavender, or citrus-infused shampoo may help to keep fleas at bay -- they are all known flea repellants. Cedar can be used in the home to repel fleas from areas where your cats sleep, and some people have found that fennel leaves rubbed into the cat’s coat can discourage fleas as well.
Keeping your cat’s haircoat and skin healthy is important. Adding extra omega-3 fatty acid supplements to your cat’s diet will improve skin health. This is especially helpful for protecting the skin from drying out when you are using regular shampooing for eliminating fleas from the haircoat.
If your cat hates water to the point that it is all but impossible to bath him regularly, using a flea comb (made with very close-set teeth) will physically pull the fleas from the cat’s body. You will need to make sure the comb gets down close to the skin, but you will need to work slowly, as the comb may pull on the hair while you are dragging it through. Have a bowl of soapy water nearby when you use the comb so you can drown the fleas as you remove them. They can’t be squashed with your fingers and will jump quickly away if you are not fast. While combing, concentrate on the areas of your cat’s body where fleas like to hide, like the groin, armpits and base of the tail.