I thought this was why we had an indoor cat!
July 6, 2011 5:48 AM   Subscribe

It seems we have fleas. We've started the treatment and process recommended by our vet, but is our problem getting worse or better? What should we expect next?

Our cat Nick has fleas. (He's our only pet, and indoor-only.)

Tl;dr version: Applied Advantage II, vacuumed and cleaned thoroughly, flea combing frequently... what to expect/look for next?

Full version: We discovered the fleas by seeing a bunch of flea dirt on his usual hangouts. Only saw one or two live fleas at that time.

Yesterday, we applied Advantage II (from the vet), which is supposed to kill all the live fleas in 12 hours. 24 hours later, we're still seeing live ones (about 20-25 this morning), but they're falling off of him and sort of slow and half dead. That's good? Should we expect more of this? For how long? (Or if this isn't good enough and they should have all been dead much sooner, what next? Could I have applied the Advantage wrong? Nick's fur is extremely dense, but I parted it to get it on the skin. A lot still got on the fur, but I tried to poke it back into the skin really well with the tip of the applicator and a Q-tip.)

We also vacuumed the house like supercrazy (and disposed of the spoils outside in plastic bags), and washed all bedding, curtains, pillows, etc in hot water/hot dryer. Assuming we "got" all the eggs, do we need to do this over and over again until we stop seeing fleas? Or is their near-deadness a sign that they're not laying eggs anymore?

We're not really sure what to expect next and we're (well, mostly I'm) really freaked out about the whole thing (as evidenced by this mishmash of questions). Hope, please!
posted by dayintoday to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It takes a a day or two to kill em all. We prefer Frontline Plus over Advantage for our dogs.
posted by lobstah at 6:00 AM on July 6, 2011

It takes time to really kill everything. You have eggs that are about to hatch all the time. Fleas hide in places like baseboards and cracks and all manner of teeny tiny hard to clean areas. You could bug-bomb the house, but that is just all sorts of annoying and it fails as often as it works.

The advantage will eventually kill them all off, but you're looking at several months of applying the advantage.

This isn't one battle wins the war sort of fight.
posted by royalsong at 6:25 AM on July 6, 2011

Best answer: We had a bad flea infestation (like, they were jumping on our legs when we got out of bed, euch) earlier this year. You'll be seeing dead and dying fleas falling off your cat for a few days yet. Keep hoovering and washing until you don't see any live fleas off your cat. Also allow your cat to wander around the house as much as you can - as he's been nuked with Advantage, he's essentially a walking flea trap. They'll jump onto him if they're still around anywhere, bite him and die, so you'll keep finding dying ones on him (the slow, non-jumpy ones that are easy to catch) as long as there are live adults in the house.

If you caught it early and you're not seeing live adults anywhere but your cat, you should be fine - just keep treating until you don't see them anymore and then treat monthly thereafter. Also consider switching back and forth between different brands; our vet told us they can develop local immunities if everyone is using the same flea treatment. We switched from Frontline to Advantage and it seemed much more effective.

If you've got live adults hopping around the house (get down at floor level with a torch and shine it across floorboards/carpet, you'll see the little bastards), get an exterminator in. Seriously, it's not worth screwing around with bug bombs and flea traps and all that nonsense, just get a professional.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:28 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our cat had fleas last summer. They can be very difficult to get rid of. Frontline and a flea collar were ineffective. In the end, it took three products and a couple of weeks to get rid of every trace of them. We used a flea dip on the cat, which was effective. I think we dipped him twice, about a week apart. Then we used a bug bomb on the house, and Rid spray for any residual bugs we saw after that. You might not need such extreme measures, but these are some things that worked for us if you continue to see fleas. It's terrible if they get into the carpet.
posted by catatethebird at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2011

I had major fleas a couple years ago. Did the Frontline Plus thing on the big kitties and thd dog and Capstar on the kitten. By then end of the summer, no fleas.
posted by PJMoore at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2011

Best answer: I would also get your carpets cleaned. You don't really have to use shampoo, just really really hot water.

Also clean your car(s) if Nick has been in your car recently (vet visit?), or if you suspect you might have carried a flea or flea eggs on your clothes. Other places to check: stuffed animals, upholstered surfaces (Does Nick like to sit on the back of the couch?), the corners where your floors/carpets meet the walls, and of course any favorite napping spot.

Seconding the sentiment above - it will take a few weeks or more to be sure you've gotten them all, and then you should use a monthly flea & tick medication on your kitty. We use Advantage right now, but as others mentioned, we switch it up from time to time. It probably doesn't need to be mentioned, but just in case, obviously be sure to use medication that is specific for cats. I think what you did with the Q-tip was absolutely fine.

The SuperSquirrel household is currently at 13 months flea-free, but prior to that we've had several nasty outbreaks. Mr. SuperSquirrel tried a number of different "natural" remedies he found online before we gave up and went to the chemicals. YMMV.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:01 AM on July 6, 2011

I did what you're doing and it eventually worked, except I added a bombing of one room that was jumpily infested; that seemed to speed up the cure. Took about a month in all.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:05 AM on July 6, 2011

Best answer: Generally, it'll all be over in 4-6 days. You don't have a household infestation, and with just the one cat you can expect that the Advantage will nuke 'em all. When I had cats I would just treat one cat, the one allergic to bites, and it would kill the fleas on the other two cats in a couple of days. I think technically the Advantage kills each flea within 12 hours of its exposure, so you have to get through a couple of hatchings, but you've been flea-combing so each batch will be smaller.

You're fine. If it is quite hot where you are, fleas will come inside on their own and/or ride in on the shoes and legs of people. You can try putting on long white socks and walking/standing around the outside entrances to your residence and see if you get any stowaways. If it's really bad you might look into treating those areas.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:21 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use Revolution when I've needed to - it's a gentler pesticide and the fleas don't have an immunity to it.

I also think it sounds like it will be fine in a couple of days.

What is the structure of your house like? (if you have baseboards over a dirt foundation (highly unlikely) then the fleas could be infested under your house and you should have the dirt there sprayed by an exterminator. Otherwise, just wait for the Advantage to do what it does.
posted by jbenben at 8:48 AM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your help (and hope!) everyone! I'm feeling better about it.

jbenben, thankfully no baseboards/dirt foundation situation. That sounds awful!
posted by dayintoday at 9:38 AM on July 6, 2011

I prefer Frontline Plus to Advantage.

That said, whether you use Advantage or Frontline Plus, you MUST treat every month for at least 3-4 months. Most of the people who complain that the good flea treatments don't work simply don't use them properly or long enough, they can only kill certain life stages of the fleas. If the infestation is bad, you may want to treat every two weeks, alternating a topical like Advantage or Frontline with an oral like Capstar (talk to your vet).

Wash all the bedding you can (including sofa cushions) in hot water weekly. Vacuum weekly. Get a good spray like Vet Kem or Zodiac to treat your house.

And discuss treating your cat for tapeworms, since tapeworms are carried by fleas.

You may have brought the fleas into your house yourself! It just takes one or two on your clothes.
posted by biscotti at 5:59 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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