Monday, April 14, 2008

Fleas, dentists and other pests

My kitty has fleas. She had some when we first got her a year and a half ago and we treated her with Zodiac Spot-On, which is an over the counter once-a-month treatment that goes on the back of the cat's neck and is absorbed into her blood stream, thus killing the fleas that feed from her. It contains 3.6% of the active ingredient (S)-Methoprene, which is about a third of what is found in Frontline Plus, another much more expensive over the counter spot on treatment ($50 for three months). So this time we have been treating her with Zodiac again but we did not catch the infection early so I think our house is now full of flea eggs, which frankly grosses me out a lot.

Fleas are wicked. They can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which when dry fall out of the fur onto carpets, couches etc. The eggs hatch in 1 to 12 days into larvae that do not like light, so they borrow deeper into the fibers of your carpeting/upholstery and feed on the feces of their parents (digested blood, which you can see as small black specks and curls when you brush your cat) as well as other dead plant and vegetable material. After a week or two the larvae spins a cocoon and becomes a pupae, where it will stay until stimulated to hatch, such as by vibrations of either you, your cat or your vacuum cleaner passing by. They can stay as pupae for over a month, but once hatched will begin to jump and eat right away. They can bite humans, but really they do prefer cats and dogs. In fact if you get rid of your pet you will most likely find yourself the target of all their angry little attacks.

So now we have been treating our cat with Zodiac for a few months, and the fleas on her sure reduce after a while but they come back and she needs re-treating. Cleaning the house by thoroughly vacuuming and washing is a must but the bastards cling to the carpet and there are always more than you can get out. So this weekend I devoted some serious energy and time in investigating all the possible solutions to our problem.

Two things need to be accomplished to get rid of fleas. One has to treat the cat, and treat the house. To treat the cat, Frontline and Advantage are certainly the most successful methods. Collars emit toxic fumes or dust particles, combing alone is not enough, and washing our cat would be a remarkably suicidal venture. But is it good to put so much chemical into our kittens blood? I got super excited when I found Sentry's all natural "Natural Defense" which contains all kinds of plant oils and is supposed to do the same thing as Frontline but without the pesticide. Fortunately I decided to do some research before buying it. It turns out that cats are extremely intolerant of essential oils. Not only can they have severe allergic reactions, and the strong smell would torture them all day long, but they are actually incapable of metabolising and excreting the oils, meaning that overtime they would build up in her system and eventually possibly kill her. This Eartheasy article describes it all very well. So since that was out of the question our solution for the moment for treating the cat is to groom her with a flea brush as much as possible and continue treatment with Zodiac, or the more concentrated Frontline Plus. Unfortunately she does not use the litter box at home and poops outside so we can't check her feces for tapeworms. Perhaps we will have to take her to a vet for that.

For the house there are many pesticide solutions, such as sprays, powders and flea bombs, which cover your house with pesticide from top to bottom. I find this entirely terrifying and just can't do it. Natural Defense also has some of those powders with the essential oils or what not, but I don't know now if I should put that on the carpet. Also it contains d-Limonene which that article specifically says is toxic to cats. I may consider diatomaceous earth, sodiumpolyborate or vermiculite to rub into the carpet and vacuum up, which is certainly less toxic sounding than pesticide. More research on that. So the plan is to vacuum very frequently, disposing of bags right away, since fleas can come out of them, and not using the flea color in the vacuum bag as suggested by some because of the noxious fumes. Wash all the couch covers every week, since that's where the cat sleeps mostly. Fortunately we got couch covers a long time ago so that makes things easier. We will also either build flea traps or buy some. These have a light that attract the fleas with it's warmth and a sticky tape section to which the fleas then get stuck. One can also use soapy water I heard, but that sounds too bulky. We thought about treating our lawn with nematodes, since they kill the larvae, but she really goes all over the place so I don't think that will benefit us unless our neighbors don't mind their lawns being sprayed. So that for now is the plan, let's hope this works!!!

Some good websites to check out are and wikihow.

On another note I am very frustrated with the dental insurance that I get through my work, which gives me the option of just two very lame dentists who do more damage than good. I tried going to one that was recommended to me and was an hour away, but he was so old his hands were shaking, he kept spilling the amalgam all over my mouth, and now the filling has fallen out. I am afraid I will have to go to a good dentist and pay full ridiculous price.

Update: Methoprene is apparently bad for cats, though the EPA hasn't finished it's investigation yet. And boric acid and all it's derivatives are toxic to humans, so there goes that idea...


El said...

Following her outside to see where she does her business isn't an option? Tapeworms are much more easily treated than fleas. Unfortunately there really isn't any over-the-counter treatment for tapeworms (general de-wormers don't treat tapeworms) but there's a once-only pill your veterinarian can prescribe you if you find out she does have them.

As for fleas, Frontline really is the most effective treatment, although I understand that it is a little pricey. As far as treating your house, perhaps you could just call your veterinarian's office to see if they have a treatment they reccomend? Then you could check out the price/toxicity/etc online?

I worked at an animal hospital for two years when I was in high school, so I know all the dogma you're supposed to spew when a client calls about fleas. You should do whatever feels right to you, but some professional advice never hurts!

Paulina said...

Thanks El. As soon as she gets outside she becomes 'wild beast' and won't let anyone near. She spends most of her awake time out and mostly, I think, in the little woods near our house. So I can't follow her practically.
I think you are right that I should talk to a vet about the meds. I was coming to that conclusion myself as I was reading all that info on the various compounds. Price isn't really an issue, so if Frontline is better we'll go with that.