Natural, Non-Toxic Flea Control

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Many of the flea treatments available today contain toxic chemicals. Even when used according to the manufacturer’s directions, these products can be toxic for pets and humans. Thankfully, there are safer, natural ways to control fleas. They may require a bit more effort on your part, but isn’t that effort worth it if it’s safer for you and your cat?

Diet

Many cat guardians are not aware that feeding a high quality, varied diet can help prevent fleas. A stronger diet leads to a stronger immune system, which makes your cat more resistant to fleas. Cat guardians who feed raw or homemade diets have reported that their cats no longer have flea problems.

Combing and Bathing

Use a good flea comb with tightly spaced teeth. Comb your cat daily during flea season, and drop any fleas you find into a bowl of soapy water to kill them. Cats tend to not like to be bathed, although bathing can help get rid of fleas, since fleas dislike warm soapy water. If you are going to bathe your cat, make sure you use a mild shampoo that is approved for use in cats. Never use human shampoos on cats.

Vacuuming

Vacuum thoroughly, including on and under furniture and in crevices and near baseboards. Discard the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming to prevent fleas and eggs from reinfesting your home. Severe infestations may require professional steam cleaning.

Flea Traps

You can trap fleas by placing a dish of soapy water under a night light. Fleas are attracted to warm light and will drown in the soapy water. This works for adult fleas only, but can eventually reduce the flea population. Fleas already on your cat aren’t likely to be attracted to the traps, so you will still need to comb them. Electric or plug-in flea traps can also be effective.

Maintain Outdoor Areas

Keep your grass mowed and keep shrubbery trimmed short in areas where your pets spend time. This will increase sunlight and dryness, which will help reduce the flea problem. 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 said to be safe around pets, but don’t sprinkle it directly on your cat. Be sure to use “food grade” diatomaceous earth only.

Natural Flea Control Products

There are numerous natural flea control products on the market, but many of them contain essential oils. Essential oil safety for cats is a hotly debated topic, and even holistic veterinarians are divided on whether they’re safe for cats or not. I prefer to err on the side of caution and don’t recommend the use of any essential oils for cats. Some manufacturers of essential oils claim that their oils are pure and safe to use around cats, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t take any chances on statements of that nature unless they’re backed up by research by an independent toxicologist.

The National Resource Defense Council’s Green Paws website has a comprehensive directory of flea and tick products, including natural products, and lists ingredients and toxicity warnings.

A word on using garlic to control fleas

While it is true that fleas dislike the taste of garlic, garlic is toxic to cats. Garlic is a member of the Allium family. Other species in the Allium family include onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Cats cannot digest these plants as well as humans. Ingestion of garlic or onions causes hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by the bursting of red blood cells circulating through your cat’s body. Hemolytic anemia can be fatal.

Veterinarians aren’t sure exactly how much garlic will result in toxicity. Studies have shown that ingestion of as little as 5 g/kg of onions in cats has resulted in clinically important hematologic changes. Garlic is significantly more concentrated than an onion, so it’s likely that an even smaller ingested amount – as little as one clove of garlic –  will likely lead to toxicosis.

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20 Comments on Natural, Non-Toxic Flea Control

  1. Agatha
    October 2, 2017 at 4:56 am (5 months ago)

    Such a good and timely article, Ingrid, as we just picked up flea medication for our cats (as a preventative measure) a couple days ago. The vet office gave us Paradyne. In the past, our vets always gave us Revolution, so it surprised me. I’ve never heard of Paradyne. Do you know anything about it? I didn’t see it on your list, but from what I could tell, it looks like it might have the same active ingredient as Revolution.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 2, 2017 at 5:03 am (5 months ago)

      I believe Paradyne and Revolution both contain selamectin, Agatha.

      Reply
  2. Julie
    June 5, 2017 at 1:18 pm (9 months ago)

    Unfortunately I agreed to babysit a friends dog for “one day” who assured me his dog did not have fleas. That was the last peaceful day. Now my carpets are infested with fleas, my cats have fleas and I’m going crazy !! I use the flea comb multiple times a day, vacuum every day and I still can’t get any relief. It seems to be getting worse. A family member said to use “20 Mule Team Borax” on the carpet. I was afraid of it but considering her cat lived over 20 yrs, maybe I’m just being overly cautious. I bought “Advantage II for cats” but took it back for fear of false advertising about the safety of it. Help Help !! Any suggestions for carpet and cats outside of suicide ??

    Thank You,

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm (9 months ago)

      What a nightmare, Julie! Borax can be toxic to cats, and I’d discuss the use with your vet before proceeding. While none of the chemical flea products are without risk, with an infestation like you’re describing, you may need to resort to them.

      Reply
  3. debbie
    July 5, 2016 at 3:05 pm (2 years ago)

    I was wandering if anyone has tried this flea stuff called, Quick Tabs? For some reason fleas seem to be immune to the topical treatments n I’m vacuum the carpet every other day n take it out. I also treated yard n carpet with Advantage spray but it smells pretty strong. Just curious anyone have any luck with Quick Tabs?

    Reply
  4. kim
    April 2, 2016 at 8:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Aunt Jenni’s raw cat food has garlic in the recipe. For this reason, I am hesitant to use the product. Do you have an insight as to why they would use this in their product, due to it’s toxicity in cats?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 3, 2016 at 6:02 am (2 years ago)

      I’m guessing they probably use minimal amounts for flavor, Kim, but it would give me pause, too.

      Reply
  5. Juli
    March 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm (2 years ago)

    I am confused, I have been using Sentry Natural squeeze on for indoor cats. I thought it was the better way to go, less toxic. I read your article which says Essential oils may not be the better way to go. BUT I don’t see a list of “safe” flea/tick/mosquito repellant options??

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm (2 years ago)

      As I mention in the post, essential oils for cats are a controversial topic. Some believe they’re safe, I’m not convinced. The only flea products I consider safe are the ones mentioned in the post.

      Reply
  6. Lori
    March 28, 2016 at 11:37 am (2 years ago)

    I was always used baking soda (or powder?) on the carpet when you vacuum so it gets into the vacuum and smothers anything inside. This can help avoid having to use other chemicals around the house to kill the fleas.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Baking soda won’t kill fleas, Lori, but it is a nice and safe carpet deodorizer. I love using it.

      Reply
  7. Margaret
    March 28, 2016 at 9:16 am (2 years ago)

    Very interesting Post, Ingrid and thought provoking. Our cats have been used to monthly (and sometimes, I admit I lapse which is naughty) spot-on treatments, which do seem to work effectively. Strangely, one – just one – of our four cats has never had a flea in her life so I’ve never used anything on her. I don’t know if you can come up with any reason for this, I certainly can’t; I would have thought that as the others do need the treatment (and definitely the two that have “scabby bits” as I call them) then Ella would too……

    Reply
  8. Barbara
    March 28, 2016 at 9:11 am (2 years ago)

    What can you suggest for a feral cat that is living in my backyard I was told to buy a chemical I cannot touch this beauty any help would be appreciated

    Reply
    • Sheri
      March 28, 2016 at 10:15 am (2 years ago)

      You can get Program (Lufenuron) and mix it with the canned food. CapStar also kills fleas, but Program lasts longer. For generics online, there is a place called Little City Dogs. Hope you can also trap the feral cat in a humane trap and get him/her fixed.

      Reply
      • Julie
        April 16, 2016 at 11:57 am (2 years ago)

        The generic of Program from Little City Dogs worked on my four cats! I had to use a topical for a few months until it kicked in, but after that, we have been flea free.

        Reply
        • Sheri
          April 16, 2016 at 12:02 pm (2 years ago)

          As Ingrid pointed out, these aren’t natural flea killers, but not as toxic as the topicals. I’ve found them to be pretty effective, and I deal with ferals who aren’t too cooperative when it comes to topicals or any other method for that matter.

          Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 28, 2016 at 12:05 pm (2 years ago)

      Program or Capstar might work for your feral, Barbara. They’re considered medication, and while they may still come with some side effects, I consider them safer than the topical products.

      Reply
      • Sheri
        March 28, 2016 at 2:36 pm (2 years ago)

        Yes, I should have mentioned that these are not natural, but I get desperate with feral cats. I do trap-neuter-return. The cats are always treated with a strong topical like Revolution before being released (unfortunately due to the fact that many have ear mites), but ongoing flea/parasite control can be a challenge with a cat than can’t be handled.

        Reply
  9. Janine
    March 28, 2016 at 6:40 am (2 years ago)

    I appreciate the advice. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have fleas here this year. A few years back we ad a bad problem after visiting a friend at her house. I guess a couple hitched a ride home on our clothes. it took months before I got rid of them all and we were all miserable.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 28, 2016 at 12:05 pm (2 years ago)

      I hope you’ll be okay, Janine!

      Reply

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