Her situation is so bad she has even tried tearing her fur out to get some relief. I won’t use the bee-killing flea meds. Yes, they work. But every time they are used we are breeding fleas that will eventually become immune to the neonicotinoids. Which means we will have to use stronger poisons in the future. And I did mention the bee-killing, right?
So what to do? Since my prayers went unanswered the job now falls to Science. I realized I have two problems here:
1. Controlling the flea population
2. Relieving my cat’s misery
If anyone has ANY Earth-friendly suggestions I am all ears. Here’s my plan so far:
Flea Life Cycle
What do I know about the flea’s life cycle? Fleas go through a complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. What is the weakest link?
Not the adult flea. It has a hard exoskeleton and moves very quickly.
The weakest link has to be the egg. How do you kill tiny flea eggs? I dunno but I do think I can remove them so I bought a flea comb a couple of days ago. At first Pyewackett was unimpressed and would only tolerate my administrations briefly but today I spent a good half hour gently combing her. She purred and purred. Though I do pride myself on knowing a few phrases of the cat language, I wasn’t sure if this was the masochistic purr of giving birth or the purr of pleasure. Let’s just go with the happy purr for now.
You can catch an adult flea on the comb and try to drown it but I find they usually just jump away. Onto me. Yech. And yes, I am allergic to cat fleas. But catching fleas is not the main purpose of the comb. I am using the comb to remove eggs and the ‘dirt’ left behind by flea bites. People say ‘dirt’ but it is really dried faeces made up mostly of cat blood! I was going to make this into a Real Science Project and measure the amount of flea dirt each day but I found my kitchen scale isn’t up to the task. Hopefully, I think I will be able to tell over time if things are getting better by the cat’s behaviour.
Flea eggs will usually just fall off a cat but the comb makes sure they fall onto a contained surface that I can clean and remove immediately. Some people lay out paper. I just used the floor. After a quick vacuum (and throwing the dust away immediately because the larvae can pupate in the vacuum cleaner) I spritzed the area with a vinegar solution. Not sure if vinegar is toxic to fleas or necessary but it seems to be the bomb for every other household cleaning job so why not.
I read one source that recommended using the comb 5 times a day. Yeah. Well. Let’s start with once a day. But, I will also sweep the floor every day and spray any hard surfaces she lays on. Soft materials will need to be washed or vacuumed at least once a week.
And For Her Misery?
In an ideal world, I would keep fleas from coming in contact with her in the first place. That sounds like a job for a repellent. There are some promising things being done these days with essential oils. Plants have evolved all kinds of neat ways to keep bugs off. But the problem with essential oils is that most are toxic to cats. So toxic that even inhaling them can create a life threatening situation.
I think spending the time each day combing her is a psychological boost and keeping her hopeful will help ease some of her suffering. Will that be enough? While I am open to the possibility I won’t leave it to chance.
Because I still think that buying things solves problems (working on that issue), I impulsively bought two products in a late night internet panic. If they actually work I will give them a shout-out later. (I plan on doing a regular update on this project so I don’t lose momentum and also to monitor if an earth-friendly approach can work. If we are going to stop using neonicotinoids we are going to need alternatives.)
The most promising product I bought is a dry shampoo made especially for cats. One of the ingredients is diatomaceous earth. Another is dried horsetail. Both are sharp enough to scour any insect body that would come in contact with the powder. The micro-abrasions should cause any fleas that come in contact to die from dehydration. One reservation: will these ingredients irritate her already inflamed skin?
Another promising ingredient in the dry shampoo is catnip. Evidence is piling up that catnip is an effective mosquito and tick repellent. I am hoping the fleas won’t like it either. Doubts: it is in a dry form and not highly concentrated so we will see. Silver lining: she will like the way she smells.
The other product I bought is an anti-itchy spray to be used for hot-spots or allergic responses. In theory it is supposed to be safe for cats. When a flea bites someone’s skin, its saliva has some nasty properties. It softens the skin to allow the puncture and then acts like an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing. A veterinarian once told me that with hyper-sensitive animals (and me apparently) even one flea bite can cause an allergic response or “insane itching that won’t go away until you flay the skin off your body” as I like to call it. Unfortunately, I have since found out that some of the ingredients (aloe vera and calendula) are sketchy for use with cats so I think maybe I won’t use the spray on her but on me. hahaha. I’ll let you know if it brings any relief to humans. Note to self to contact the people I bought it from. Is there some mitigating feature that makes it appropriate or were they just unaware of the potential hazards?
For the cat’s hot spots I will use something less fancy. I am going to try coconut oil. Cats are indifferent to the taste and I haven’t been able to find any cautions against its use. I am hoping it will ease some of her discomfort and give her skin a chance to heal.
to be continued ….