As a follow-up to my recent post about the EPA’s increased scrutiny of spot-on flea and tick control products for pets, I tried to find natural alternatives that are equally as effective as the chemical-based products. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that I’m comfortable recommending without reservations, but I thought I’d share my findings with you so you can make your own informed decisions.
Many natural products contain essential oils such as Pennyroyal, Tea Tree or Citrus oils. Essential oils are generally not safe to use around cats. This has become a hotly debated topic in holistic circles. Even though some practitioners or suppliers of essential oils will claim that their products or techniques are completely safe for cats, the fact remains that cats have a unique physiology and process these oils differently from other species. Some oils can even be deadly to cats. I do not recommend the use of any essential oils around cats.
It seems that the only safe natural flea control methods are as follows:
- A good flea comb with tightly spaced teeth. Comb your pet daily during flea season and drop any fleas you find into a bowl of soapy water to kill them.
- Bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo such as oatmeal. Don’t use harsh flea shampoos, most of them have chemicals in them.
- Vacuum vacuum vacuum. I came across one suggestion to cut up a conventional flea collar and put it inside the vacuum cleaner’s bag – it reportedly will kill any live fleas, eggs and pupae you vacuum up. I don’t know for sure that this will work, but it made sense in a strange kind of way.
- Adding Brewer’s yeast to your pet’s food may help deter fleas from attaching to your pet.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your yard to cut down on the flea population. Diatomaceous earth also makes a great natural pantry bug killer, it works for all insects. It’s reported to be safe around pets, but don’t sprinkle it directly on your pet!
I’ve been unable to find any information on natural tick repellants.
Ultimately, it comes down to weighing the risks of conventional flea and tick products against the risks of the health problems caused by fleas and ticks. Many pets have been using chemically based flea and tick products safely and without any problems for many years. Flea contact dermatitis and anemia are unpleasant health problems that definitely compromise a pet’s quality of life. Lyme disease can be crippling, and, in its worst form (Lyme nephritis), it can kill.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.