fleas in my apartment from cat
March 11, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Cannot get rid of fleas in my apartment from my cat who is now sequestered on the patio

My cat WAS an outdoor cat until we realized she had brought home fleas...suddenly they were everywhere. We live in a carpeted apartment. I very much didnt and dont want to turn to poisons and pesticides such as bombs and sprays to get rid of the fleas due to many reasons so we have tried Borax twice which didnt really do much. We then vacummed 100 times and that didnt do much. Lastly we have steam cleaned all carpets, washed everything that is material and could be put in a washing machine, however all this time the cat was still on the patio with some fleas on her (the medicine we put on the back of her neck didnt seem to kill all the fleas). Anyhow there are still a very few fleas here and there in the apartment probably just from going out to the patio once or twice to care for the cat. what can I do to the cat, the patio and the apartment once and for all? I really really dont want to bomb with pesticide! Thank you.
posted by cerebral to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get a bunch of bowls of water. Put dish soap in these bowls. Put them around the house. Maybe one per room, more if the rooms are large. If you have night lights, put the dishes underneath them. The fleas will jump into the bowls. This process may take weeks & you'll need to change the bowls fairly often, but it's helped me.
posted by dragonplayer at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: And I give the cats flea collars and daily brewers yeast pills. I haven't had success with Frontline or Advantage in the last few years.
posted by dragonplayer at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: Get a bunch of bowls of water. Put dish soap in these bowls. Put them around the house. Maybe one per room, more if the rooms are large. If you have night lights, put the dishes underneath them. The fleas will jump into the bowls. This process may take weeks & you'll need to change the bowls fairly often, but it's helped me.

My parents' cat had fleas, and I can say that this does help at least a little bit. If you're totally adverse to bombing, then I think this is a good next step. Can't say anything about treating the cat, but the bowls with soap do work. My dad used lights like this: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100664506/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053 over top of the traps, and that attracted a lot of the little suckers.

Best of luck to you, it's an irritating process.
posted by codacorolla at 8:05 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for these replies so far. Actually I had read about the bowls of water and lights and have a few out every night and still catch fleas in them. The bummer is that I dont think that will do anything for eggs that embed themselves in the carpet....Thanks for the link to the lights....this is such a drag, its like chasing dust around! I havent tried brewer's yeast but I will now, thanks all.
posted by cerebral at 8:09 PM on March 11, 2011

Well, you said you already tried borax and Fleabusters powder is mostly borax, but I have to say it worked for me when carefully applied, painstakingly following all package directions. The difference was dramatic after 48 hrs to a week. You really do have to get it into every nook and cranny to get them in the larval stage but leave no excess which is easier said than done.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:46 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: Dose the cat with Frontline Plus (or similar) and give her access to your apartment again. The fleas will hop on her and die. Her presence will also cause eggs to hatch, adults to develop, and they will hop on her and die. Developing fleas can
otherwise lie dormant for a long time, so encouraging them to become adults is one way to
get rid of them for good. Be sure your flea medicine contains something to cause infertility so
new eggs won't hatch. Also use FleaBusters or other low toxicity carpet treatment and vacuum often. Put a flea collar in you vacuum bag, too. Keep your cat on the medicine every month until she helps you catch all the fleas. If you don't let them hop on your cat, they will eventually hatch and hop on you. Carbon dioxide and vibrations from walking are what trigger hatching, so let your cat be the preferred host. She's lower to the ground. Repeat the medicine as often as your vet will let you. I know it says 30 days, but our vet let us redose after 2 weeks during a flea crisis.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

The Good News:

I heartily emphatically recommend Revolution.

It has a gentler pesticide than the other brands, kills ear mites, and I only used it once every 3 or 4 months instead of monthly because it just wasn't necessary for some reason (very effective! Supposedly the more common flea meds are less effective because fleas are becoming resistant... I dunno know about that, just know the Revolution is stellar. Also, one of my cats had a very adverse reaction to Advantage. Never had issues w/ either cat using Revolution for 6+ years.)

You can order it online fairly inexpensively.

Please be careful of the flea meds you can get off the shelf at Petco, etc. They're pretty dangerous, or so my research reveals (lots of bad internet feedback there.) FWIW, my past research indicates collars don't work, either.

If your cat is still infested and/or not properly protected, it'll be an infestation feedback loop within your apartment.

The Bad News:

I've seen apartments with infestations that no longer had pets. This happened when the apartments were on the ground floor and fleas were present under the building (no basements, dirt crawl space.)

Could this be your issue?

Otherwise, I can't see how another steam cleaning once the cat is properly treated won't solve the problem.

Conclusion: Treating the cat is 99% of the battle.

Good luck.

Upon Preview: I think it was Frontline Plus that got one of my cats sick. YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, what knowyournuts says.

Also, really, just flea bomb the apartment once (before you bring the cat inside!), and bring the cat to the groomers after you start the Frontline/Revolution/whatever treatment. Is your time and peace of mind not important? You can then go into your apartment, open the windows, and wash all the surfaces. Takes a couple of hours and then you're done.

Not wanting to use poisons is admirable, but sometimes you just shouldn't mess around; you could be putting down gritty Borax for weeks, and bowls of water also for weeks. Ugh! How is that any better than a flea bomb? Fleas can be very hard to get rid of unless you take action. And they're parasites! I can't bear the idea of bugs nibbling on me for any longer than they have to.

You don't mention if you have children or other pets. That might make me reconsider flea bombing, but with proper precautions it really shouldn't have any lasting effects.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

also, a less bombastic but less immediate results fix: fleas supposedly don't like eucalyptus so you could put some essential oil in the steam cleaner or a few drops in the washer when you launder things like rugs, pillow covers, etc. i use this regularly to keep down the flea population in my house.
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:40 PM on March 11, 2011

We've gotten rid of fleas successfully and without too much grief by first having our cat dipped (at the vet) and then giving her oral flea medication (I think it was Capstar).

I agree with Knowyournuts that you should let the cat back in, once she's medicated. It may take a while to work through the remaining fleas' life cycles. But if she's on Capstar or something similar, any fleas that she attracts will die... so it's just a matter of time.

(I've had the same experience as dragonplayer, fwiw, with the ineffectiveness of topical stuff such as Advantage or Frontline.)
posted by torticat at 9:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

BOMB THEM. Treat your cat and let her back in. As long as you keep her treated, you should not have this problem again. Stop pussyfooting around with methods that don't work. So sorry, I could not resist.
posted by cyndigo at 10:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade used in the house. When I had a bad flea infestation in a house with wall-to-wall carpet, this worked well. But you must properly treat the cat.

SO, use Revolution used on the cat.

I have also found that pyrethrum, used as a barrier insecticide/repellent, has pretty much eliminated fleas from my cats. I do not use an insecticide on them. I have 10 indoor/outdoor cats (mostly outdoor) in a tropical area. They do not have any fleas at all. Which is pretty amazing.
posted by fifilaru at 10:30 PM on March 11, 2011

agreeing with knowyournuts. Growing up, we had 4 indoor cats, and one summer a flea must have hitched a ride in somehow...the vet gave us Revolution (or similar, it was a while ago) to use for at least 2 months on the kitties. the fleas were gone pretty quick, though, with no food source.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:49 PM on March 11, 2011

Listen to cyndigo. I went through the same thing while living in Florida. Everything else is a bandaid. Flea bomb, dose kitty with advantage or revolution (frontline doesn't do shiz), vacuum everything, and wash all your bedding in hot water. Repeat the process in two weeks, because within those two weeks more flea eggs might hatch. It's really not worth the grief of natural treatments.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:07 PM on March 11, 2011

Couple things-
Buying Frontline Plus off ebay is insanely cheaper than buying it elsewhere. MeMail me for help on this---basically you're going to buy a larger-than-normal container and get more doses per dollar. Do this now. PLUS is better than regular Frontline, as it works fast and kills eggs and juveniles, not just adults. (Meaning you break the lifecycle fast, you're not waiting 2 weeks.) Revolution is great too, but it's a prescription only product.

Next, vacuum twice a day, every day. You've got to break the lifecycle and this is the best way to get rid of the ones who have already fallen off the kitty.

Do the bowls of water w/ dishsoap in them too.

There isn't one thing that is going to make them go away quickly, you're going to need to do multiple things.

(Also, once on FLP or Revolution, you can let your cat back outside w/o worry. Some may hitch a ride on her, but they won't feed.)
posted by TomMelee at 7:00 AM on March 12, 2011

My indoor kitty became an indoor/outdoor kitty for a couple of months, and brought home the gift of fleas. I gave him a dose of Revolution without expecting too much, but three weeks later: flea-free apartment.

You don't say which back-of-the-neck treatment you used, but I've had three different vets tell me Frontline is useless. Definitely try Revolution if you haven't already.
posted by Georgina at 7:16 AM on March 12, 2011

In addition to treating the cat (with a product like Revolution, Frontline, or Advantage, no OTCs from pet stores or Walmart), vacuum the hell out of everything, and make sure that you throw out the vacuum bag. Fleas can and will crawl out of the bag and back into the environment, so it is imperative that you throw it out and put it in a dumpster or outdoor trash can. Repeat many times. It will work.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2011

Revolution has an additional bonus that it protects against heartworms, which cats can indeed get.

We had flea issues a while ago. The feral cats were carrying them into the backyard as they went through and the dogs would pick them up. We laundered EVERYthing--not just dog bedding, but EVERYTHING CLOTH IN THE HOUSE--and vacuumed EVERYthing repeatedly (to get rid of the live fleas and flea eggs), got the dogs treated, and it just wasn't clearing up. Eventually I managed to get Revolution on some of the feral cats and put my dogs back on Sentinel, finally got rid of the fleas. That was a horrible life chapter.

We hadn't needed flea treatment for the dogs for ages, but we'd used Sentinel in the past when we fostered rescue dogs and they'd often come in full of fleas. Sentinel is something entirely different from the topicals; it works differently and I haven't seen any hint of resistance to it. Putting the dogs back on it made a huge difference while we were fighting those fleas.

You can use Program on cats along with Revolution to get the same effect as Sentinel. The ingredient in Sentinel/Program is really, really effective.
posted by galadriel at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's that bad, it may not be your cat alone that is bringing them in to the building. Other people's pets, rats or other animals getting into the building will do it as well. You should give your cat Advantage or Frontline, and if that doesn't solve the problem, let your landlord know.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:50 AM on March 12, 2011

Just an added vote for Frontline/Revolution/Advantage: whatever you choose. If you don't eradicate the fleas, your cat will probably get tapeworms, and then you'll have to treat that as well.
posted by cooker girl at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2011

I know you said you are very against sprays or bombs but I have to say that I had this problem and it absolutely never went away until we used frontline spray on the floors and furniture. I know its gross and concerning, but I have seen reps drink frontline from the packages so they must be pretty convinced. If it gets to the point where you really can't take it anymore please consider. Hopefully you will not have as serious an infestation as was going on at my house (I had flea bites everywhere for 8 months).
posted by boobjob at 1:29 PM on March 12, 2011

Seconding Diatomaceous Earth - you can dust it into the carpet, in the cracks and crevices, etc. It has been very effective for us and kills mechanically, not chemically.

Torticat mentioned Capstar - that can be very useful for certain circumstances. Capstar kills all the fleas on your cat (also made for dogs) in about 45 minutes time and is effective for 1 day. If the cat is still on the porch and you are ready to move the cat inside, you could use the Capstar a few hours before the move. Read the directions so you don't overdose cat with multiple medications. I am pretty careful with chemicals, don't use preventative pesticides and can't imagine myself using a bomb on the whole house, but I have used Capstar in some circumstances.

Best of luck!
posted by Agatha at 5:17 PM on March 12, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are amazing. This was my first post here on meta and I am amazed!! What great advice, I am going to do a little of all the above except bomb, I have a son, he has autism, I am paranoid of pesticides etc. But I will relent and take her to the vet for a dipping and an Rx of the flea killer. Thank you very much. I would reply more specifically but I am not sure there is a way to respond to indvidual comments here.
posted by cerebral at 5:33 PM on March 12, 2011

Response by poster: And yes I had used an OTC flea med and I do live on the second floor though which is good. Never thought to dose her and let her in....will try it.
posted by cerebral at 5:35 PM on March 12, 2011

Response by poster: Well I ended up steam cleaning like a bat out of hell and vacuuming a lot and that appears to have done the trick. I have seen one to two wayward fleas but thats it. I have also taken the advice and bathed the cat, applied a new dose to the back of her neck and am waiting a few days for it to kill and fleas on her then I'm letting her in and she can pick up any remaining fleas in here. Thanks everyone!
posted by cerebral at 2:29 PM on April 11, 2011

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