Ways to Get Rid of Fleas on Healthy Cats! - Cat Info Detective

Ways to Get Rid of Fleas on Healthy Cats!

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, reporting on useful ways to get rid of nasty fleas on your otherwise happy, healthy cat!

paw prints coming in from a distance

You must attack these little monsters in all stages of their life cycle (egg, pupae, larvae, adult), so…

What Do I Do to Get Rid of Fleas?

Groom Your Kitty Daily

burmese cat lying on side; getting rid of fleas

This works well, especially if you have indoor kitties (OK, it works well with dogs, too).

Hey, think about it… doesn’t cost much and you clean your house regularly anyway.

We felines love being groomed and massaged, too, so you know we’ll love you for it!

Use a Flea Comb
flea comb; getting rid of fleas

It’s the best tool in your arsenal for catching fleas early. Be sure it’s a flea comb since others have too much space between the teeth to catch fleas.

If you see tiny black specks running through her fur, your furball’s got fleas.

They’re here one second, gone the next, always running fast and jumping far!

Flea dirt on an animal under magnifying glass; killing, getting rid of fleas
Flea dirt on fur

If you see black specks that don’t move, comb some onto a paper towel, add a few drops of water to them and see what color they are.

Specks that stay black are just dirt, but ones that turn red are flea dirt (dried blood).

Check “What Is a Flea? What Does It Look Like? to find out more about fleas.

Here are some flea comb options…

Longhaired Cats
Maine Coon longhaired black cat sitting on a chair

My longhaired feline cousins need extra TLC.

Brush their gorgeous coats daily, using a flea comb as part of the grooming ritual, to check the areas close to the skin.  

Here are a couple of YouTube videos by groomers that tell you how to properly brush a longhaired cat:

“Grooming a Long Haired Cat”, by Everything Homemade, April 19, 2017

“Long-Haired Cats Grooming Guidelines”, Purebred Cat Rescue

Kill the Fleas You Find

drawing of a flea; getting rid of fleas

Trap any fleas you find on the comb with your fingers.

Then dunk them with your fingers in a shallow bowl of hot, soapy water to kill them (1:3 ratio soap-to-water).

Watch out though, they love to jump!

bowl of water, scrub brush; use to get rid of fleas

Don’t dunk the comb in the water or you’ll have to completely dry it before using it again.

You can also pop fleas between your fingernails (eww…gross)!

Be sure you comb your kitty’s head, neck, armpits and back end, which are favorite flea hideouts.

tabby cat being bathed, groomed; getting rid of fleas

If your kitty is covered in fleas, you could get overwhelmed trying to get them all this way.

You’re better off giving kitty a bath (if she’ll let you) or go to a vet or groomer.

Remember to give special attention to kitty’s head, neck, armpits and back end.

Here are a few grooming tools for longhaired cats that might help.

Clean Your House

unhappy cleaner

Vacuum the floors your house daily to get rid of fleas. Then vacuum every few days to catch anything new.

If your vacuum has bags, throw them out right away each time if you have fleas.

Fleas love rugs to hide in and lay their eggs, so vacuum thoroughly.

color graphic of vacuum

If your vacuum is bagless, spray some vinegar in the tank.

Some people sprinkle salt or DE (diatomaceous earth) on carpets before vacuuming.

People sure do a lot of work for their special kitties! Click “Flea Control the Homemade Way” for more details…

Don’t Depend on Your Robot Vacuum to Get Rid of Fleas
blue canister vacuum

That’s the lazy way and isn’t effective enough against fleas.

Robot vacuums can’t get into cracks and crevices where fleas hide.

Be aggressive! We’re worth it!

house cleaning methods

Another great idea for you to consider is getting rid of wall-to-wall carpets, especially shag (a favorite home of fleas).

Area rugs are nice on hardwood or tile floors, and you can wash or replace them much more easily than wall-to-wall carpeting.

Be Sure to Vacuum Those Baseboards

This is the best way to get rid of any flea eggs or larvae to keep the cycle from repeating.

Those nasty fleas love to hide here!

vacuum cleaner head

Use the attachments that let you get into corners, cracks and crevices.

Spray flea killer or sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) around the edges of the rooms, and in your kitty’s favorite spots, or…

Spray floors and bedding with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR).  Examples are Methoprene, PBO, and Nylar (Pyriproxfen).

white cat scratching an itch

They’re a type of chemical insecticide that stops growth and development of fleas.

Find out more about them at “What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Treatments?”

Apply an IGR twice, about 3 weeks apart, to take care of the complete flea life cycle. 

They’re available at hardware stores, etc.

Clean All Furniture

living room furniture
Vacuum and Steam Clean all Furniture and Covers

All stages of fleas can hide in crevices of chairs, sofas, table legs, etc.

Move furniture around to get underneath it. Turn it over to clean the bottom (sofa or chairs). 

If your sneaky kitty hides in the lining under the sofa, tear off the lining and throw it away before cleaning the underside.

cat with rubber ducky on head

Enlist family members and friends if it becomes overwhelming for you. 

Or hire a professional cleaning service to come in every other day for a couple weeks (if you can afford it).

You can have them do the first major cleaning and then do the rest yourself if you prefer.

DONT SKIP the vacuuming and cleaning steps or you’ll never get rid of the fleas!

Clean Your Kitty’s Favorite Places

black cat in dryer
Wash everything (but not your cat)!

This includes all bedding (yours too!), throw pillows, furniture covers, window seats, curtains, cat trees, and plush toys.

Wash everything in hot soapy water and repeat as necessary.  

It’s a lot of work but we’re worth it aren’t we? Think of how adorable we kitties are!

ginger kitten in a person's hand

Use the highest heat setting of your dryer to destroy any eggs or larvae left after washing.

Throw unwashable things out and replace them after you’ve eliminated all the fleas.

Whatever you’re throwing away, seal in plastic bags to keep the fleas contained and get it in an outside trash can immediately.

You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t Forget Your Cars

black car interior

If any of your precious pets ride in the car with you, carefully vacuum all carpeted surfaces and wash the seats. 

Use the attachments to get between the cushions.

cat lounging in a car

You can use the same products on the car rugs that you use in the house.

If you don’t clean all cars, you’ll probably end up bringing more fleas in the house and you’ll have to start all over again!

Use a Dehumidifier in Your House

humidity

Some people claim that bringing down the humidity helps kill fleas by dehydrating them. 

When the humidity level is at 50%, fleas start to die, so anywhere below 50% will help.

I found no scientific evidence to support drying the air in a room, but it might be worth a try.

cat eagerly looking up to play

A dehumidifier can bring the humidity level down in a room, but not in an entire house.

They’re useful rooms with no air conditioning, like damp basements, to prevent mold.

Some claim that desert areas don’t have flea problems because of their low humidity.

Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Yard

yard

Do you have dogs that live in the backyard or indoor/outdoor cats?

Are you finding it impossible to control the flea problem with just treating them and the house?

It could be you have a serious infestation in your lawn.

Black cat and cocker spaniel dog lounging together

Normally, it isn’t necessary to treat your yard for fleas, but an infestation can require extra help.

You have to weigh the pros and cons and talk to local pest control companies.

There are also plants that contain natural flea repellents you could put in the yard, such as pennyroyal, mint, and lavender.

Keep Fleas from Infesting Your Cat

tabby cat eating from a bowl

The best way to get rid of fleas is to keep them off your cat in the first place.

Feed to Build Immunity

Build and maintain a strong, healthy immune system with high quality food that gives him the nutrients he needs.

This will help prevent illnesses that would weaken him and make him attractive to pests like fleas.

cat eating kibble treats

An important part of keeping his immune system strong is maintaining a healthy weight for your buddy.

Making good-quality food available a couple times a day will go a long way to accomplishing this goal. Stop any free-feeding or treats.

If you’re working on training, use small bits of cooked chicken or other meat your cat adores rather than higher calorie treats.

Drawing of a spray bottle

Determine the Best Type of Flea Treatment for Your Cat

To figure out the best type of treatment for your cat, use the answers you gave to the questions at “Getting Rid of Fleas for Cats Only”.

If you haven’t done this yet, it’s worth taking a few minutes.

Keep in mind that your approach depends on how much work you want to do and HOW CAREFUL YOU ARE.  

Product dosage, concentration, and how often you apply it make a huge difference in helping or hurting your fabulous feline friend.

cat being petted at animal shelter, rescue

This is true for any “natural” or “chemical” product, whether commercially produced or homemade.

You can find some options at “Natural Flea Remedies You Can Buy” and “Is a Flea Treatment with Chemicals Safe for My Cat?“.

If homemade flea products are more to your liking, check “Flea Control the Homemade Way” to be sure you understand how to use them safely for your cat.

Talk to your vet about the best flea control to fit your kitty’s needs.

Collars

Orange Tabby Cat Scratching Herself

Flea collars are worn around the neck and have an insecticide (either “chemical” or “natural”) to kill and/or repel fleas.

Some cats have reactions where they lose fur where the collar sits on the neck and/or develop redness and sores on the skin under the collar.

If you want to use a flea collar, be sure you watch carefully for any sign such as redness on the skin or toxicity such as lethargy, hiding, refusal to eat or drink.

See also, “Cat Flea Collars” for the latest about Seresto®.

Sprays

flea spray bottle

Flea sprays have insecticides that help get rid of fleas and prevent their return.

They’re used now more in the home rather than directly on a cat.

Wet cat after flea bath

This is because most kill only adult fleas, get your cat all wet, and can easily get in their eyes and mouth.

Other products are available that many people feel are easier to deal with and safer for their cats.

Shampoo

shampoo, body wash, cream

Flea shampoos have insecticides added in dosages that will kill fleas while cleaning your kitty safely… that is, if you can give your cat a bath!

Powder

powder; detergent, flea powder, getting rid of fleas, cleaning

There are some flea powders available but are mostly for dogs and in the house (carpets and floors).

Powders are not recommended for use on cats since they’re messy (think clouds of baby powder).

They’re only effective while on the cat, which means they rub off quickly. So your cat can easily swallow the powder while grooming.

It’s claimed that powders in large amounts can cause breathing problems in cats.

Topical Flea Treatments

veterinarian examining cat; giving flea treatment

A topical flea treatment is a pre-measured dose of insecticide applied to the skin on the back of a cat’s neck, where they can’t lick it.

A monthly dose is now the most popular method of flea control because of its convenience and ease of use.

Always be sure the dose is appropriate to the weight of the cat.

The manufacturers claim these treatments don’t hurt a cat if put on the skin but can be harmful if swallowed, so be sure to put it on the back of the neck so it can’t be licked.

Check with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Oral Flea Treatments

hand holding clear gel pill capsule; medicine, veterinarian, flea treatment

Oral flea treatments are medications given by mouth in liquid, pill or chewable tablet form.

They are useful for situations where you have concerns about young children or others in the household getting flea products on their skin or in their mouths.

Be sure your cat doesn’t have a medical condition that can cause her to react badly to any oral treatments.

Homemade Flea Treatments to Kill or Repel Fleas

calico cat licking paw

There are books and websites giving recipes and instructions on making various flea and tick repellents from things you have at home, (e.g., lemons, vinegar, lavender).

They claim these are effective to kill and/or repel insects, but I’ve found no scientific studies or data either confirming or refuting these claims.

So, if you want to purr-sue this method remember to follow the instructions carefully and proceed at your own risk.

See more about this at “Flea Control, the Homemade Way”.

two-yellow-sunflowers-with-clear-glass-bottle-with-cork-lid; homemade ways to get rid of fleas

Conclusions

It’s obvious at this point that dealing with fleas can be difficult and your best option is to keep them from getting on your cat and in your house.

Since that’s often not a realistic expectation, comb your cat daily and watch for flea dirt. That way you can catch them early and cleanup will be manageable.

Good luck!


What Is a Flea? What Does It Look Like?How to Kill Fleas on Kittens, Senior & Sick Cats
Getting Rid of Fleas…For Cats Only!Is a Flea Treatment with Chemicals Safe for My Cat?
What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Products?What is a Natural Flea Treatment for My Cat?
Natural Flea Remedies You Can Buy Flea Control, the Homemade Way…
What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats? What Is a Tick?
Cat Flea Collars

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. 

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own, although, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Chewy, Inc., products and pricing

Petco®: products and pricing

“Get Rid of Fleas Naturally”, wikiHow

“Influence of Temperature and Humidity on Survival and Development of the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides Felis (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae)”, Jules Silverman, Michael K. Rust, Donald A. Reierson, Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 18, Issue 1, 20 February 1981, Pages 78–83

“Die Fleas!…Freaky Cheap Flea Control”, by Paul Wheaton, Paul Wheaton Permaculture

“Flea Powder for Pets – How It Works and When to Use It”, by Jacob Olesen,

“How to Choose the Safest Flea Treatment for Your Cat”, by Jennifer Coates, DVM, petMD, LLC

“Lotilaner – a novel formulation for cats provides systemic tick and flea control”, by Ian Wright, published July 13, 2018, NCBI, PMC, U.S. National LIbrary of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

YouTube Videos

“Grooming a Long Haired Cat”, by Everything Homemade, April 19, 2017

“How To Get Rid of Fleas From Your Cat”, Blue Cross

“How to Wash an Adult Cat for the First Time”, Animal Wised, June 21, 2018

“Long-Haired Cats Grooming Guidelines”, Purebred Cat Rescue

Updated June 16, 2022

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