My Cat Has Fleas — Update

cat tv
Pyewackett watching CAT TV

Three weeks ago  I confessed the embarrassing truth that our cat was infested with fleas. You can click here to read that post if you like. I was planning on providing weekly updates to review any progress in trying to control the fleas but then I had a mishap resulting in a broken arm on one side and a badly sprained wrist on the other. Life without the use of hands has been interesting and the experience is probably worth at least one post someday. Let me just say that door knobs should be banned from the planet!

Finally, this week I can wiggle a few fingers enough to do a bit of weird pop hop typing. No new photos for awhile but at least the blogging madness can continue. heh. Tardy update follows the break …

Even in emergencies life goes on and cats still itch so I delegated the combing and cleaning jobs to my son.

The purpose of this little project was to test the low tech and earth friendly flea comb. Can pests be controlled without chemicals? Is the flea comb effective? And what does effective mean? For me the primary goal was to help the cat feel comfortable.

My wonderful son diligently combed Pyewackett’s fur each day. All cloth surfaces that the cat slept on got washed each day. The floors were also swept. We did not bother using the dry shampoo that contained the diatomaceous earth. I worried that it would irritate her skin which was already pink and inflamed.

Results

Week One
I should mention that Pyewackett is a cat of a certain age — 15 years to be precise. During the first week she seemed depressed. She crept under the bed covers to lay snoozing at my feet. She stayed in that position most of the time leaving only for food, water or to eliminate. While I’d like to pretend it was a case of misery loving company I kind of think she was actually regulating her body temperature. Cats normally run hotter than humans — anywhere from 99 to 102 degrees F. I think her heat seeking behaviour was an attempt to make her skin too hot for the fleas to survive. Besides, being enclosed by clean blankets and curling up in the darkness was probably comforting. I know it was for me. She also ate less than normal — only once per day. She normally eats twice and with some gusto.

Over the course of that first week we saw a drastic decrease both in the amount of flea ‘dirt’ and in the number of adult fleas caught by the flea comb. I really wished I had a sensitive enough scale to weigh the flea dirt to provide numbers. But the difference was obvious even without using weights. By week’s end I was unable to see any adult fleas crawling on her tummy where initially the population was TNTC (too numerous to count). I know. Yech.

Week Two
The floors were swept most days. My son continued to use the flea comb each day and to keep her sleeping spots clean. One thing I noticed was that on some occasions he followed her lead. When she started to groom herself he joined in with the flea comb or her soft brush. Pyewackett showed her approval with lots of purring. I think the routine was becoming less of a chore or maintenance job and more of a bonding experience for both participants. By the end of this week Pyewackett no longer had multiple moments of frenzied scratching and she was spending more time roaming the house and looking for opportunities to play. Combing did not show visible flea dirt but the comb continued to catch several fleas in about a five minute session.

Week Three
Nightly combing and general cleaning continued. The attention was mostly welcomed by Pyewackett but one day she decided to opt out. When some very annoyed tail twitching failed to deliver the message she left the room in a huff. Her appetite for food has returned to normal. She is asking to go outside. The requests only seem half-hearted though. When we do not open the door she does not insist and she seems happy enough to watch cat tv from the window ledge. No visible flea dirt shows up after a combing session but we continue to catch at least 5 adult fleas. Her skin appears to have recovered and no longer looks inflamed.

Where To Go From Here?
I think we will continue to use the comb daily. I hope eventually we will routinely find few or no fleas during a session. It has been a real pleasure to spend this time with her and honestly, if I can’t devote five minutes a day to groom my pet then she deserves a better care giver.

I have wondered over why she became infested. Have you ever seen how in a plant nursery one plant will be covered in pests but others of the same species and probably from the same source are pest free? Some kind of stress caused her to be a target. I am thinking that the food we are giving her might be a variable in this problem.

I’ve also been thinking about how to control the flea population outside. I imagine gangs of fleas lurking near the door waiting for home invasion opportunities. I have learned about some pest management strategies that people used previous to our industrial age that I am kind of excited about trying because they involve plants and gardening!

to be continued …

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20 thoughts on “My Cat Has Fleas — Update

  1. Thanks for posting this update. I’m a bit behind and so sorry to hear about the broken bones! Probably too little too late, but sending healing thoughts your way! Hope all is well by now ;)

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  2. You were right to tell us. It is weird when you are used to someone’s post showing up in your mailbox, and then it doesn’t for several days. I hope you continue to mend. You are in amazingly good spirits for an injury like that. No need for any of us to worry :-)

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  3. I’m so glad that you found a solution to the fleas, and one that has beneficial side effects. Happy news, all around. Well, almost all around. Broken limbs notwithstanding.

    I noticed a dearth of messages from Under the Pecan Leaves… now I know why. I hope the mending is complete and quick!

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    1. heh thx. Now I half regret sharing the news — don’t want people to worry. I hope it is a solution. Time will tell ….

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  4. Sorry to hear about your accident, how frustrating for you.
    There has been a plague of fleas in the UK this year, possibly because there was no proper frost last winter. I think your son is great to carry out this daily grooming routine. I hope you beat them. Horrible things. It does sound as if you might be winning..

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    1. Thx, Chloris. I do think we are over the worst of it and I am thrilled that it could be done without toxic chemicals.

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  5. Yay for Pyewackett and the combing success! Boo for broken bones and laid up Moms. I hope the speed of your recovery astonishes everyone.

    Fascinating that the combs work so well – I’d never have guessed. Good for you all for being such caring cat owners! Pyewackett is one lucky feline. As to your next steps I look forward to hearing more… Perhaps there is widespread use of fleabane in your future?

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  6. Hi Debra :-)

    Sorry to hear about the broken bones and sprained wrist! Ouch! I know how difficult it is to manage without one arm/hand having recently had a mishap of my own. It is interesting isn’t it how many things require both hands or one hand. Good luck with the recovery!

    I don’t have a cat because I am allergic to them, but my sister does. Good to hear yours is doing better. They have their moods and personalities. I imagine her immune system was having to work hard to combat the skin irritation and more sleep was needed than usual. I would think improving her nutrition would be beneficial like it is for humans.

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    1. Thx, Sarah. I read some disturbing things about commercial cat food recently and is what led me to that idea. At the very least it can’t hurt. =)

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  7. So very sorry to hear about your mishap and resulting injury–wishing you a speedy recovery. Broken bones aside, firstly, what a great son you have!! I don’t know how old he is, but his diligence in grooming toward ridding fleas is impressive for one so young. (He can’t possibly be a teenager. Is he?) I’ve used the flea comb exclusively, but long ago. It works, but consistency and sweeping/vacuuming are a must for the indoors. Good luck.

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