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S. August Abbott, CAS
S. August Abbott, CAS, Own Animal Care/Rescue Org.
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Experience:  Up to 300 cats saved each year; Animal Care author; Behavior & Nutrition Consults
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How to prevent fleas from spreading and how to kill

Customer Question

How to prevent fleas from spreading and how to kill them on your clothes?
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  S. August Abbott, CAS replied 10 years ago.

Fleas can't live long on anything that doesn't provide a blood meal. Hang them out in the sun (and shake them out regularly) or just wash them . The fleas aren't interested in staying where there is no proper food.

It's important to treat all areas to really get rid of them:

To treat the outside of your home for fleas, just keep the area mowed, weeds pulled and well watered. Fleas hate water. Set up your sprinkler system to go off every other day long enough to really soak the area. Fleas won’t be breeding or entering your home from your yard.

To treat the inside of your home it’s going to take more diligence, but forget the bug bombs, flea sprays, powders and carpet treatments. Save your money (you’ll need for vacuum cleaner bags!).

Vacuum daily (we actually do it every morning and every evening) to remove flea larvae and eggs from the carpets.

Wash bedding or other fabrics where pets frequent, every couple of days. This insures that you not only remove the flea eggs, but the larvae and any adult pests.

Wash your pet! You don’t need fancy flea soap or shampoos. Any mild (baby, no tear formula is what we use) shampoo will do. Lather up your pet (avoiding the face! If you see fleas go onto the face, just pick them off and drop them into the soapy water) and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This may be the hardest part. Then rinse a couple of times and repeat every 2-3 days to be sure you break the flea life cycle.

When you vacuum, you need to change the bags every other day or fleas will just breed and escape from there. No, flea collars in vac bags do not work. Nor does flea powder in vac bags. You need to change them. If you have a bagless vac you should empty the container out into a bucket of soapy water every time. Let it stand for 15 minutes and discard outside (or flush if you’re sure it won’t clog anything).

Flea adults are prolific little pests and drop round, smooth eggs that typically hatch in carpeting, bedding and clothing - where the larvae can find a meal of skin flakes, dander and such. The adults need a blood meal (dog, cat, rodent, human, etc.) and just keep on making more.

By following the steps outlined above, you should be able to naturally rid your home and surrounding area of fleas in about a week or two. Diligence and persistence are necessary.

Also, the vet prescribed flea treatments are by far the only truly effective methods of immediate care (you can try the costly over the counter brands, but we’ve never found that they really work).

If you use the vet prescribed treatment, you still need to eradicate them in your home or you’ll just be having the pet treated again when the original Rx wears off.

Good luck! Fight the fight and win the war on fleas!

(References: Entomology & Nematology Dept., University of Florida; U.S. Dept of Agriculture; U.S. Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others)