Best flea control for cats while pregnant
February 14, 2015 4:24 PM   Subscribe

We have two cats that sleep on our bed. I would love to know the safest flea control method to use during (human) pregnancy (not pregnant now but planning ahead). We've been using Advantage II, but it looks like prenatal exposure to one of the main ingredients - imidacloprid - by parents using the flea treatment in fact - was associated with autism spectrum disorders. What safer options are there? Thanks!
posted by slidell to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
By the way, we're willing to put a little time into this; I'm not necessarily looking for something as easy as the once-a-month stuff.
posted by slidell at 4:26 PM on February 14, 2015

I've had indoor-only cats for nearly 20 years and we've never had a flea problem and they've never been on flea control. Would it be possible to keep your kitties strictly indoors?

The other option would be diatomaceous earth. It's a mechanical killer -- it has little sharp edges that break through an insect's exoskeleton and dehydrates it, so there's no pesticide residue or anything like that. You can dust your pets directly, or sprinkle it on the carpet overnight and then vacuum it up. It can also be used outside.
posted by Ostara at 4:32 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well the most natural solution possible is to keep them strictly indoors. Problem solved. (Which, by the way, we chose to implement 1 year ago and my four free-ranging cats have adapted really, really well. Not the heinous difficult thing I thought it'd be.)

2nd best solution: lots and lots of flea combing + frequent vacuuming + regularly laundering all bedding including quilt/comforter (and pillows if you're seeing that you're not getting all the eggs). Even cats who don't love the comb can grow to love it, and may happily spend lots of time on your lap being combed. You have to be willing to kill the fleas, though. So, killing the fleas + getting rid of eggs via vacuuming & laundry will usually take care of all but the worst infestations.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:45 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

To be honest, nothing is going to work as well as the chemical treatments. Dusting diatomaceous earth directly onto pets... not a good idea... because it can cause respiratory issues if they breathe it in.

Keep them indoors as they ought to be kept, and the problem will be solved.
posted by Nyx at 5:20 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers so far. I'll give some thought to keeping them indoors, but if I don't go that route, what else could we do?
posted by slidell at 5:53 PM on February 14, 2015

I use a DIY rosemary, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar spray on my cats and dog for flea prevention and it works very well. It won't be enough to kill an existing infestation though.

I agree that frequently brushing your pets (using a fine comb with soapy water to pick up and kill the fleas), vacuuming, and laundering are the most essential steps to battling and preventing a flea infestation. I have also used diatomaceous earth on my floors, but it was really difficult to get 100% of it back up with a vacuum and was almost not worth the hassle.

Advantage and Frontline products stopped working for my pets. If you do get to the point where you need another solution, I would see if a monthly Comfortis pill will be safer for you when you are expecting. That, and the frequent cleaning, were the solution to a challenging flea issue my pets had last summer.

Also, my indoor cat always has more fleas than the indoor/outdoor cat and my dog. The fleas seem to come in with the animals that go outside but jump onto her and hide in her fluffiness! Indoor pets need to be checked and treated for fleas just as much as outdoor pets.
posted by Katie8709 at 5:53 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Comfortis is oral and fleas drop off dead half an hour later! Disgusting but satisfying. We alternate it with Advantage/Frontline because they get the fleas at different points in the cycle, but I imagine you could just use comfortis during the pregnancy.

We used Advantage/Frontline during our pregnancy not having heard the link, but my husband applied it and I waited a few days to pat them anyway (because chemicals + ew). Baby is fine! Make sure hubby scoops the poop, too. There's a nasty parasite that can be an (unlikely, but nonetheless) issue.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was pregnant from Jan-Sept of 2014. I have two cats that go outdoors during the day. I also have two dogs that are outside much of the time. I live in North Carolina. I am a scientist, and was unwilling to use pesticides on them during my pregnancy. So I just stopped all flea control methods, for all of my pets. I was finishing my dissertation and didn't have time to do shit like combing them out. And guess what? Never had a flea problem. So maybe you could try just living on the edge for 9 months?

That being said, I would feel terrible if you got infested because you took my advice, so ymmv. :)
posted by corn_bread at 6:10 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ask your vet about oral flea control. There are definitely a few options.
posted by tweedle at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2015

Even on a regular basis we usually just apply flea meds once, and then wait until we see any signs of fleas again. It's typically more like 3 months vs. every month, so just consider that you can postpone any dosing for a while without any issues. that's also with our dogs, who go in and out of the yard. One note -- in the article it says that in 75 percent of the households the expectant mother was the one giving the medication. I didn't find any analyses splitting findings by that variable, but it seems relevant.
posted by bizzyb at 6:51 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

We quit with the treatment awhile ago, and they're definitely acting itchy. I'll do some combing tomorrow, and we already vacuum and launder bedding a lot. The oral stuff is sounding like it might be worth doing at least once. Has anyone with a skeptical mind like mine read up on it? Thanks for the close read of that study, bizzyb!
posted by slidell at 7:12 PM on February 14, 2015

Yeah, we definitely weren't managing to give the meds every month. I was exhausted and hubby was picking up alllll the slack and every few months when it was getting really obvious was good enough. It was over winter, which helped too (our fleas are always worse in summer).
posted by jrobin276 at 10:12 PM on February 14, 2015

Just an FYI- my cat got incredibly sick from Comfortis. It was honestly frightening. There are a lot of reviews online saying the same thing happened in cats. I know it works for some though.
posted by superfille at 10:28 PM on February 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Personally, I'd try to avoid pesticides of all kinds while you're pregnant - especially in your bed. But I want to also mention that you do know that you need to assign the litterbox-cleaning task to someone else while you're pregnant, right?

As for the fleas, are you sure that fleas are the problem? I read recently about yeast infections in pets - itching and skin sores, hair loss, etc - and how they're almost invariably diagnosed as something else, often parasites.

If they ever figure out all the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, I think we're going to be in shock. But the chance of that ever happening is one in a kazillion because Dow/Monsanto/Dupont/Bayer - the agrochemical business owns us.
posted by aryma at 10:34 PM on February 14, 2015

I have no idea if this is available in the US (I am in the UK), but my vet friend mentioned to me a flea and worm treatment for cats that is injected into the animal once every six months. Obviously still uses chemicals, but at least they would be internal and therefore presumably safer for you.
posted by schmoo at 2:45 AM on February 15, 2015

Would it make a difference if you gave them the oral suspension in their food instead?

Because one of my cats is touch-phobic, it became so traumatic to give him the neck treatment that we avoided it. This worked fine until last summer when suddenly the whole house turned into a flea circus and the only thing that solved it was getting an exterminator in, at great expense I might add. NEVER AGAIN will I be lax about flea treatments.

But, if you do go the combing and vacuuming route, remember to freeze the vacuum cleaner bags and then dispose of them after each vacuuming, otherwise the vac will just become a breeding and spreading ground for the little fuckers.
posted by tel3path at 3:34 AM on February 15, 2015

Just a datapoint: keeping them indoors is not a guarantee against fleas. Our two have been indoor-only since we brought them home from the shelter six years ago, but for some reason this winter we've been dealing with a bad flea infestation. Not sure how the fleas got in (hitchhiking on one of us? we've never seen mice or fleas in the building) but boy howdy are they here now.
posted by Lexica at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The parasite mentioned by jrobin276 is toxoplasmosis. This might be another reason to keep your cats indoors. This CDC website has some info.
posted by H21 at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2015

Thanks for all the help. Does anyone have a remedial "how to use a flea comb" link? This cat is crazy itchy, but I haven't found a single flea. All the YouTube videos and Instructables seem to think it's obvious. "Brush your cat with the comb, and dispose of the fleas you find in soapy or boiling water." Well... found zero so far.

I also don't even understand the theory. I read that it's an environment problem -- that fleas live in bedding, etc., jump on, take a bite, lay eggs, then jump right back off. Is it the eggs I'm trying to remove? We already do laundry and vacuum frequently, and we never see fleas. The cat mostly hangs out on the deck (again, never see a flea there). So I feel like maybe I'm missing some key principle?
posted by slidell at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2015

The exciting conclusion is that we went with a thirty-day pill. The combing, as I mentioned, seemed to be getting me nowhere (aside from lots of purring). There were no stomach problems in our case, though we were super careful both cats had full stomachs before taking it. Thanks for the help!
posted by slidell at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2015

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