Fleas on cats are common. Even cats that are looked after well and do a lot of self-grooming can have fleas. Owners can find it really difficult to handle the problem.
Fleas are small, flat-bodied insects that are found almost everywhere. There are almost 2,000 species and subspecies of fleas in the world. These pests grow in warm and humid environments and reproduce rapidly.
This is one reason why fleas mainly attack pet animals like cats and dogs, as they have a higher body temperature. The fleas then feed off the animal’s blood.
When cats or kittens come in contact with a flea-infested environment, they get attacked by the fleas. Some common flea-infested areas are backyards, inside the house and parks. Most cats catch fleas from other pets that already have fleas.
Fleas on cats cause a lot of discomfort. Some common flea symptoms are frantic and intense biting or scratching; excessive grooming; hair loss; restlessness, agitation and edginess; scab-like bumps or red skin lesions; lethargy and muscle loss; red spots in your cat’s bedding; small specs on your cat’s fur; and reddish-brown or black insects on the fur.
Just a single flea can quickly lead to hundreds, as the insects reproduce rapidly. Your cat can lose a lot of blood and become weak if you do not provide prompt treatment.
There are many commercially available medications to treat and prevent fleas, but you can always opt for natural treatments to avoid potential side effects and over-medication.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for fleas on cats.
1. Use a Flea Comb
A flea comb comes in very handy when you discover that your cat is suffering from a flea infestation.
The teeth on a flea comb are extremely small and help remove these tiny pests by combing down to the skin level in areas like the tail, groin and under the legs of your cat.
Comb your cat with a flea comb at least once daily, and do so each time your cat comes in from outdoors to prevent infestations.
- Put mild, lemon-scented dish soap in a bowl of warm water.
- Soak a flea comb in the solution, then start combing your cat’s fur.
- Check the comb after each stroke. Remove the eggs, larvae and fleas by dipping the comb in water.
- When the comb no longer catches any fleas, bathe your cat thoroughly.
- Repeat the process twice daily to ensure you have removed all the fleas.
2. Flea Collar
Using a flea collar can also be effective at protecting your cat from a flea infestation (1).
There are two types of flea collars for cats available in the market. One emits a toxic gas that kills and repels fleas, while the other releases a substance that seeps through the fatty layers of the cat’s skin, eventually killing the fleas on the cat’s body.
All you need to do is put the flea collar around your cat’s neck. If you do not want to use a chemical flea collar, you can make a natural version.
For this, you’ll need a nylon or cotton pet collar. Mix 1 teaspoon of unflavored vodka and 1 drop of geranium essential oil. Pour it on the collar and let it dry. Refresh the collar weekly.
To get rid of fleas from bedding, cut a flea collar into four pieces and place it under your pet’s bed.
3. Liquid Dish Soap
You can also use liquid dish soap to treat a flea infestation on your cat as well as around the house. It helps destroy the fleas’ exoskeleton. It is particularly good for kittens.
- Fill a shallow dish with warm, soapy water and place it under a nightlight. The fleas will be attracted to the light and hop or jump toward it, eventually drowning in the water. The next morning, clean the dish. Repeat the process every day until your cat no longer has fleas.
- You can also give your cat a bath with a solution of warm water and mild dish soap. Help your cat sit in the bath for 5 to 10 minutes. The fleas will simply fall off when you rinse the soapy solution off your cat. Do this a few times a week for 1 or 2 weeks.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is effective for removing fleas from your pet’s body. As a flea treatment, it isn’t likely to kill fleas, but it will make them jump off of your pet.
Fleas dislike both the smell and taste, so they avoid hosts that smell like apple cider vinegar. Plus, it is nontoxic to cats.
- Mix equal parts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle. If you want, you can add 2 or 3 drops of lavender or cedar oil to the mixture. Spray your cat with this solution, but avoid spraying it in your pet’s eyes, ears and nose. Repeat daily.
- Spray the same homemade solution generously on your baseboards, windowsills, wooden floors, furniture, carpets and other places where you may suspect fleas. Do it daily, as needed.
- Another option is to have your cat consume apple cider vinegar to ward off the pests from the inside out. Add 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to your pet’s drinking water.
5. Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, commonly known as DE, can help combat a flea infestation in your cat. The sharp edges of DE can slice through the pests’ waxy and tough exoskeleton, which in turn causes them to dehydrate and die of water deficiency.
As it is food-grade, it is completely safe for your pet.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of DE powder on your cat’s coat and rub it in as thoroughly as you can. Make sure that the powder does not come into contact with your pet’s ears, nose and eyes.
- Sprinkle it on your cat’s furniture and bedding as well.
- Use DE once a day on your cat and once a week on your cat’s bedding until the fleas are eliminated.
Note: Wear a mask and gloves when using DE, and avoid going overboard when putting it on your pet.
Citric acid is a natural flea killer. Lemons, being rich in citric acid, help a lot in treating a flea infestation on your cat.
It can get rid of any existing fleas and kill the eggs that may have been laid.
- Cut up 1 to 2 lemons into thin slices, then put them in a pan of water and bring it to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and let the solution steep overnight.
- Strain the solution and pour it into a spray bottle.
- Spray the solution on your cat to dampen its skin, but avoid the eyes, ears and nose.
- Then, comb thoroughly using a flea comb.
- Repeat as needed.
You can even spray it onto areas where you suspect fleas hang out. A cup of lemon juice can also be used in the laundry machine when you wash your cat’s bedding to kill any fleas or flea eggs that are still left over.
Lavender smells nice to us, but fleas cannot tolerate it.
In fact, the smell of lavender can actually help quickly get rid of fleas from your cat and prevent an infestation of these nasty pests. It also helps soothe your cat’s skin after being bitten by fleas.
- Fill a mason jar with water and add 1 bunch of fresh lavender.
- Seal the jar tightly and allow it to sit overnight.
- The next morning, strain the liquid and pour it into a spray bottle.
- Spray the liquid on your cat’s coat or fur, avoiding the eyes and nose area.
- Allow it to dry.
- Repeat this every day until your cat is completely free of fleas.
You can also grow lavender in your garden to keep fleas away.
Salt and salt water act as a repellent for fleas. Finely ground salt can dehydrate fleas’ bodies and kill them. It’s effective for killing the eggs as well as adult fleas.
Also, as salt is hygroscopic, it attracts moisture and fleas do not like overly moist places.
To keep your home free of fleas, follow the steps below.
- Sprinkle highly refined salt lightly but evenly on your carpets, wooden floors and other possible infested areas.
- Allow it to sit or 12 to 48 hours, then vacuum thoroughly.
- Do this regularly for at least 1 week.
You can also use salt water to clean hard surfaces or mix it in with household cleaners. Salt is safe for use on cats, too.
9. Cedar Chips
There are certain scents that fleas hate, and cedar is one of them. So, using cedar chips is another simple yet effective way to control a flea infestation on cats.
Plus, they are all-natural and are not harmful for nearby plants or your pets.
- Purchase cedar wood chips from the market. Spread them around your cat’s bedding, but be aware that some cats also hate the smell of cedar.
- You can also use cedar chips in the exterior landscaping of your home to keep the flea population in check by eliminating them before they can get inside your home and on your cat.
10. Clean Your Home
Fleas lay eggs everywhere, so one of the best ways of fighting them is to clean your home thoroughly. You need to vacuum a few times a week to eliminate the eggs, larvae and adult fleas.
When vacuuming, pay particular attention to the high-traffic areas and places where your cat likes to rest frequently.
Throw away the vacuum bag or clean the canister often to make sure that the fleas do not stay dormant inside it. This will help break the fleas’ life cycle.
Use hot water to wash lived-in areas and items used by your pet. Wash your pet’s clothes and bedding in the washing machine using hot water and dry them in the sun.
It is also important to wash and clean anything that your cat likes to regularly lie or sleep on.
- Clean the floor and walls of your home every day.
- Mow the lawn regularly to prevent a flea infestation.
- Bathe and comb your cat regularly and do not forget to check for fleas after each bath.
- Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to your cat’s meal.
- Do not apply topical treatments if your cat is pregnant.
- Don’t allow your cat to eat garlic.
- Avoid using topical treatments that are meant for dogs.
- Season-long control of flea and tick infestations in a population of cats in the Aeolian archipelago using a collar containing 10% imidacloprid and 4.5% flumethrin. Veterinary Parasitology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304401717304703. Published October 31, 2017.