Help me win the Flea War (not just the battle)!
October 19, 2014 6:27 PM   Subscribe

I returned from a three-day trip out of town yesterday to find both cats infested with fleas. This is our third round with fleas since late July/early August. I made a trip to Petco and applied Advantage to both cats. My question is, what else can I do to make sure the fleas don't come back this time? A few key details inside.

Both cats (Scout and Lincoln) are indoor-only cats, so I know they're not bringing fleas in from outside. The two previous outbreaks I treated with a cheaper alternative over-the-counter flea medication; this time I sprang for the vet-recommended Advantage (incidentally we have a vet visit scheduled for Saturday for unrelated booster shots, etc.). The good news is that today I'm not finding any adult fleas on either cat, but we've had that victory a few times already this season.

I've vacuumed the apartment and laundered the bedding. This is the first time in the two years I've been in this apartment that we've had any significant problem with fleas. Lincoln brought some with him when he first moved in (Feb. 2013) but those were vanquished quickly and never returned.

These fleas are persistent little bastards and I'd like to get rid of them for good. Any suggestions on wiping out the next generation and making the apartment flea free once more?
posted by stennieville to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Any chance that rodents are bringing them in? I know from sad experience that my current pair of indoor cats are no hindrance to the odd mouse coming in to check the place out; a previous indoor-only cat had a strong hunting instinct that seemed to keep them away.
posted by padraigin at 7:04 PM on October 19, 2014

Is it possible that you are getting rid of all the live fleas, but missing some of the eggs, giving you the appearance of having gotten rid of the fleas only to have the next generation show up a little while later? Have you tried treating your carpets with something that kills eggs, in addition to the laundering and vacuuming? Also, are the cats wearing Advantage, or similar, continuously for a few month? APologies if you're doing these things already; I couldn't tell from the post.

Also along the lines of helping you to figure out your source, here is our anecdote. Our cat is indoor too, sort of. She spends time on the three-season porch, which seems to bring her into the flea ranges from other animals; it was necessary to put her on Advantage full time, and that has prevented the reemergence of the fleas at our house (we also initially treated all our carpet with a flea spray and vacuumed everywhere
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:18 PM on October 19, 2014

Try Comfortis. It's an oral anti-flea med given monthly. It's pricey but works SO well. As your cats don't go outside, just a month or two on Comfortis would probably be enough to get rid of the fleas for good. I've found that some fleas are unaffected by Advantage.
posted by anadem at 7:47 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To add to the other advice here, we had good luck (in a similar situation) placing a desk lamp on the floor a few inches over a pie plate full of soapy water, for about a week. Fleas jump at the light and drown in the water. Seemed to have gotten the fleas that were around that were hatching from eggs we missed. If you google the general idea there may be tweaks that are better than what I've described.

Plus, you can see how many you catch (gross).
posted by BillMcMurdo at 8:03 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you used Advantage then your cats have become mobile flea-killing units. Just touching a treated cat kills adult fleas, flea larva and flea eggs. That's why my vet suggested it for my cat with flea allergy.
posted by irisclara at 8:32 PM on October 19, 2014

Best answer: A few things:

1) I have heard that the petco versions of flea meds like Advantage are different than the vet ones. Don't know if that's true, but it may be worth it to go to the vet next month.
2) give flea meds like advantage with a dose of capstar to immediately kill the fleas on your cats.
3) vacuum. Every. Single. Day. Put diametaceous earth in the canister or vaccum bag to kill the eggs that may hatch inside
4) if fleas might be in the couch or chair, cut up a flea collar and put it under the couch or chair cushions
5) did I mention vacuuming every single day?
6) there is also a permethrin spray if the fleas are concentrated in one area. Mine were in the living room, so I locked my cat away with me one night in my bedroom and sprayed the living day lights out if that one room. The next morning, we could both go in and it was fine.

Side note- comfortis made my cat horribly, horribly ill. She was panting, completely unable to get up, etc. I didn't give her the whole dose and I was afraid she wouldn't make it until morning. It was awful. I looked it up and it's very common in the cat formulation. Dog one seems to be far less problematic. Feel free to try it though because every cat is different. However, just beware that that might happen.
posted by superfille at 8:43 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fleas have developed advantage resistance in a lot of places. Go to a vet and get a revolution prescription (or order it online from Australia, where no script is needed). Use it every month, religiously.

While you're waiting, try capstar - it kills all fleas within 24 hours and works very well. Costco has it.
posted by zug at 8:47 PM on October 19, 2014

This may be old info but when I worked for a vet we'd usually dispense both Frontline or Advantage plus what I remembered as a treatment that attacked flea eggs or flea fertility, called Program. It might be another tool in your arsenal.
posted by PussKillian at 8:49 PM on October 19, 2014

We avoided giving our cats neck treatments for a while because one of them is highly neurotic and hates to be touched. We hadn't had a flea problem for many years, till late August whereupon the place turned into a flea circus.

We tried spraying the house with Acclaim but the little bastards have too many places they can hide. Still you could start with that, make sure you do the whole house and make sure you don't vacuum for 24 hours. When you do vacuum, take the bag out and put it in the freezer for a few weeks, or the vacuum will just become a way of distributing and harboring flea eggs. Give the flea lifecycle four weeks to die out as vacuuming, sweeping and moving furniture can disturb unhatched eggs and induce them to hatch.

Meantime, treat your cats monthly with Advocate (prescription only, kills worms too) or Advantage (OTC) in the right size per cat (over or under 4kg) but NOT MORE OFTEN THAN MONTHLY as overdosing on flea meds will poison them. But also not less often as failing to maintain the dosage will undermine the effort. While we waited for the month to be up we gave them oral treatments from johnson&johnson, which did work according to their lights.

In the end we had to get an exterminator in as the flea problem was the worst we'd seen in decades. This meant no vacuuming for three weeks, plus patience. The flea population gradually declined over four weeks. However the cats were still bringing fleas into the house three and a half weeks in, whereupon the window for Advocate/Advantage treatment reopened and this banished the last of them. The exterminator guaranteed a revisit if there were still fleas after 4 weeks, but only if we kept up maintenance. The neurotic cat HATED me for it and I had to sneak up on him while he was asleep, which I don't think will fool him again, but what can you do.
posted by tel3path at 12:29 AM on October 20, 2014

Thirding Capstar as an important part of the eradication plan. We had our first flea infestation (cat and dog) last summer, and only got rid of it with a Capstar-Frontline-exterminator combo.
posted by underthehat at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for your replies. I've set up a home made flea trap per BillMcMurdo's suggestion and have also ordered some diatomaceous earth from Amazon per superfille. Thank you for the "vacuum, vacuum, vacuum" instructions, helps in my case to hammer it home because the cats really hate the vacuum cleaner and I'm exceptionally lazy regarding chores. But I will do it! Just finished today's vacuuming session.

Meanwhile I'm obsessively flea-combing both cats on the lookout for more critters and haven't found any so far, but hopefully the comb is helping with the eggs/larvae/whatever. The cats seem relatively content, aside from the vacuum cleaner.
posted by stennieville at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2014

came into say what billmcmurdo said.. a low-sided dish full of soapy water and a lamp... worked like a charm for me and it was FREE!! Took a week or three, but it worked and worked well.
posted by goml at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2014

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