This has been a particularly active year for fleas across the country due to a warm, moist spring. And if you have dogs or cats, even if they mostly remain inside, fleas still somehow manage to hitch a ride and set up residence in your carpet and furniture.
So whats an itchy, frustrated homeowner to do? In extreme cases of infestation, chemical treatment of the house or pet may be necessary.
One product we found effective is Enforcer Flea Spray, available in the Wal-mart pets section. After a population of fleas set up their own country in one room of our house, the Enforcer wiped them out almost immediately. I have no problem with insect genocide.
In the case of pet treatment, this may include the use of flea collars, pills or monthly medicine applied to the skin. Unfortunately, some of these products are proving to be ineffective this flea season partly because fleas are developing an immunity.
Your next line of defense should be bathing. While this generally presents few problems for dogs, cats are an entirely different matter. We have used Adams Flea & Tick Shampoo for Cats (also from Wal-mart), and it works well. Unfortunately, it has one disadvantage: you have to shampoo the cat.
Flea issues aside, many people incorrectly believe cats are like self-cleaning ovens and never need a good scrub down. It’s an easy mistake to make. Just because your cousin Earl licks himself clean doesn’t mean your cat will have the same success, even if it can reach places Earl can’t.
So occasional cat bathing is recommended, especially when there is a flea problem. But beware. Cats do have a habit of transforming from cute, fluffy, lovable fur balls into murderous biting-scratching demons when they hit the water.
Along these lines, wasn’t it Einstein who once said, when asked to explain relativity: Sitting with a pretty girl can make 2 hours seem like 2 minutes; bathing a cat can make 2 minutes seem like 2 hours?
Here’s how a typical attempt at cat bathing is likely to unfold:
Step 1: Find cat. This may be challenging, especially if the cat suspects a bath is imminent. Cats can be particularly resourceful when it comes to stealth tactics designed to avoid baths, so check behind the sofa, in the clothes dryer, up the chimney, in your neighbor’s sock drawer, Mars.
Step 2: Place cat in sink. At this point, suddenly realizing you’ve forgotten the shampoo bottle, fetch it and return.
Step 3: Find cat and place in sink, again.
Step 4: Place cotton balls in cat’s ears. This is not to prevent water getting in, but to avoid further frightening the cat from your screams.
Step 5: Pour warm, soapy water over cat.
Step 6: Remove cat from head, and return to sink. Reach for towel to wipe soap and blood from face (your’s).
Step 7: Find cat.
Step 8: Return soapy, wet, howling, scratching cat to sink. Lather, rinse, towel dry and release.
Step 9: Call 911 and request blood transfusion. While waiting for ambulance, disinfect any area where excrement may have been deposited; also check if the cat left any.
Assuming you recover from the ordeal; let me also offer one additional method we have used to reduce rogue fleas in our home.
Place a candle in a large dish containing about a half-inch of water with a squirt of detergent. Lay the pan on the floor in the room infected with fleas, and light the candle just before going to bed. The fleas, at least some of them, will be attracted to the heat but fall into the soapy water and drown. Repeat for several nights. It works. Really.
But please note: neither the author nor this publication accepts any responsibility should someone in your house trip over the candle and set the sofa on fire, whilst fleeing from a recently bathed, vindictive cat.
Nick Thomas has written for more than 200 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.