Home remedies for fleas don’t have to be expensive, smelly or toxic. When I was a veterinary technician 20-odd years ago, the number one query of most of our clients was if we knew any good home remedies for fleas. Flea and tick control in the suburbs was difficult enough, but once my husband and I moved up to the mountains, it became a real priority. Fleas and ticks on cats and dogs can cause all kinds of skin irritations and trigger allergic reactions that can not only make you and your pets miserable but add up to the cost of thousands of dollars over the life of your pets. Sure, you can buy commercial pesticides in the form of flea collars and chemicals that are applied to the skin of your pets, but there are also plenty of good, natural and effective home remedies for fleas that you can use without worrying about side effects or accidental poisoning.
The Life Cycle of a Flea
In order to understand how to use these effective home remedies for fleas, it helps to understand the life cycle of a flea. Once a flea hitches a ride on your cat or dog and makes its way into your house, they have a quick meal of blood and then mate. Once the female lays her eggs (about 20 to 50 tiny little white specks), they slide off your pet’s fur and into your carpet, cracks in the floor, bedding, and furniture. The eggs hatch in about two weeks, and for the next seven to 10 days, the tiny larvae sustain themselves on organic matter and debris that they find wherever they are. Eventually, they build a hard-shelled cocoon around themselves and become pupae.
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These flea pupae can survive for up to a year before hatching into a full-fledged flea, given the right environmental conditions. Once the adult fleas emerge from the pupae, the cycle starts all over again, and the newly-hatched fleas start feeding on your cats and dogs and laying more eggs.
|How Do I Know If My Animals Have Fleas?
Aside from the tell-tale itching and scratching, you won’t see any fleas on your pet – but you will see flea poop. The easiest way to identify flea poop is to take a fine-toothed comb to your pet. Spread some of the hair and pet dander on a wet piece of paper towel or a wet cotton ball. If there are any bits of black dander that dissolve into what looks like blood spots, that’s flea poop. If you are actually seeing multiple fleas on your pet, you have a serious infestation and should take steps right away to clean the house and treat your cats and dogs with some home remedies for fleas.
Home Remedies for Fleas: Cleaning the House
One of the best ways to prevent and end a flea infestation in your house is simply to give your home a regular, thorough cleaning.
Vacuum as often as you can, and make sure you get the spaces in between cushions in the couch, under the furniture, and pick up the rugs and get the floors. Check the spaces around laundry baskets, the corners of the rooms, and all the spaces around your pet bedding. You can add cotton balls soaked with peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, geranium, lemongrass, or cedarwood essential oils to kill any fleas that are sucked into the vacuum but make sure that you dispose of the vacuum bags and empty the canister promptly to prevent the fleas from crawling back out and into your house.
Mop your floors at least once a week with a warm water and vinegar solution with your choice of essential oils mentioned above. You can also mop any outdoor decks and patios to help kill fleas that might be dropped there by your pets as they move in and out of your house.
A simple formula for mopping floors is to mix four cups warm water (not hot), two cups of white vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of any of the essential oils listed above.
You can also place one to three drops of any of these essential oils on any furniture covered in fabric to repel fleas and ticks. (Do a test spot somewhere inconspicuous first to make sure that the oil won’t stain the fabric.)
Home Remedies for Fleas: Taking Care of Your Pets
Ridding your home of a flea infestation also means taking care of your cats and dogs by grooming and bathing. Combing your pets daily to remove excess hair and checking for flea poop is recommended, as is a monthly or twice-monthly bath using essential oils to repel and kill fleas and ticks.
Note that when using essential oils as home remedies for fleas, cats are highly sensitive and can absorb them rapidly through their skin, which might lead to toxicity and poisoning. Never use more than a few drops of essential oils on items that go near cat bedding or furniture where cats spend a lot of time.
Geranium Essential Oil Flea Bath for Cats
- 2 drops geranium essential oil
- ½ teaspoon jojoba oil
- ½ teaspoon glycerin
- 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap for this formula)
- 1 cup filtered water or spring water
Add ingredients in the order listed to a plastic squeeze bottle, cap tightly, and shake to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 1 hour before using.
Cedarwood and Orange Flea Bath for Dogs
- 3 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 3 drops sweet orange essential oil
- ½ teaspoon jojoba oil
- ½ teaspoon glycerin
- 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (again, Dr. Bronner’s lavender is my favorite)
- 7/8 cup purified water
Follow instructions as above for mixing and use.
Home Remedies for Fleas: Herbal Flea Powder for Cats and Dogs
Flea powders are my favorite way to prevent and kill fleas during the warmer months. One of my favorite diatomaceous earth uses is making safe and non-toxic flea powders for my dog. They’re easy to apply, and the natural herbs work surprisingly well. If the flea powder is to be used on cats or dogs under one-year-old, leave out the essential oils and just stick with the dried herbs.
- 1 cup food-grade diatomaceous earth
- ½ cup neem leaf powder
- ½ cup lavender flower powder
- 10 drops geranium essential oil (for dogs only, over 1 year old)
Mix all ingredients in an empty shaker container and cap tightly. Shake thoroughly until the powders are completely mixed, and store away from light and heat for up to one year. To apply, spread powder as evenly over your pet as possible, massaging it into the skin as much as you can. Take care when applying powder to the face and eyes to avoid irritation. Don’t use this powder if there’s a dog paw pad injury present to avoid irritating the wound. Always use flea powder outside to avoid making a huge mess indoors when your pet decides to have a good shake at the end of the application!
You can apply this powder once or twice a week to get a flea infestation under control.
While it may not be easy to control or prevent a flea infestation in your home, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure that you keep your house clean and clear of these irritating pests.
Do you have any recommendations for home remedies for fleas that work? Leave a comment here and share them with us!