Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.