If your home is host to a furry roommate, chances are at some point you are going to do battle with fleas. Proper preventative care can dramatically lessen the likelihood of an infestation, but in the cool, humid weather fleas love, even this can fail.
Summer here in Florida is so muggy you can’t go into your back yard without getting bit by fleas, so it wasn’t surprising when my roommate and I saw our cat Sigmund scratching. We waged an all out war on fleas and I am happy to say we emerged victorious, although this came at a cost of lots of time, energy and money. In case you find yourself caught in the midst of a similar battle, here are some tips for fighting fleas.
Firstly, apply preventative care year round. The two most popular brands are Frontline and Advantage, but make sure you consult with your veterinarian to see what’s right for your pet. Don’t bother with an off-brand flea medication or a flea collar—saving a couple dollars in the short term just means you will spend much more in the long run fighting a full flea infestation when these treatments fail. Make sure your veterinarian stands behind whatever treatment you choose. Proper preventative care can mean you will never have to deal with fleas, so take this seriously.
Now, if despite your best efforts your pet has gotten fleas, you will have to act quickly and ruthlessly or you will have a much bigger problem on your hands. Don’t bother with flea bombs—these costly treatments will only kill adult fleas, not the eggs, so in a couple weeks you will be right back where you started. Your best weapons in the war on fleas are a good vacuum cleaner, flea treatment, and lots of time and persistence. This war won’t be won overnight.
Your first step is to either shampoo your pet or give it a Capstar. I have used both methods on Sigmund and found them to be equally effective, although shampooing a cat can be an absolute nightmare and is not recommended for anyone who doesn’t own thick gloves and a lot of catnip. Once your pet is flea free, get them out of the house as quickly as possible while you complete the treatment.
Second, gather all the bedding that your pet sleeps on, including your own, and get it into the washing machine. This includes your pillowcases and blankets if your pet sleeps with you.
Next, vacuum the whole house thoroughly, including furniture, carpets and drapes. If you are in the market for a new vacuum, invest in a bagless model as these are more effective. If you have a vacuum with a bag, you will need to replace it immediately after vacuuming, as fleas can live in the bag. Make sure to replace it outside of your home as they will jump out.
After vacuuming you will need to apply flea treatment. You can buy cans of flea spray for around $20 at most pet stores, but make sure to read the label carefully to be sure it kills eggs as well as adult fleas. Many people have found Borax powder to be highly effective as well, although it is not designed for use as flea killer and not , so apply at your own risk. Whatever flea killer you use, get the rest of your family and your pets out of the house for the evening and apply it liberally, over all of your carpets, drapes and furniture. Then, leave the house. Let the treatment for four to six hours and then vacuum the entire house again, once more as thoroughly as you can.
This sounds like enough of a hassle, but if you want to really ensure that your flea problems are over, you will want to continue vacuuming your entire house every day for at least the next two weeks. This way you are sure to eradicate all the eggs as well as the grown fleas.
If this all sounds like a huge hassle, I can tell you that that is because it IS a huge hassle. The war on fleas is not unwinnable, but it will take patience, persistence and thoroughness. Your best strategy would be to invest in Frontline or Advantage and avoid engaging in combat altogether with this hostile and resilient enemy.