Flea Control, the Homemade Way... - Cat Info Detective

Flea Control, the Homemade Way…

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Can flea control be accomplished using things I have at home? Is it safe to do?

paw prints coming in from a distance

Whether it’s a spray, shampoo, collar, powder or other method, homemade remedies used to treat your cat, house or yard, have been used for many years.

Keep in mind that many of these will only repel, not kill, fleas.

cat scratching; flea control

Homemade vs. Regular Flea Control Remedies

Photo of a flea under magnifying glass

The difference between “homemade” and store-bought “natural” products is the do-it-yourself aspect.

Doing it yourself means you have to determine and control the proper dilution, the dosage, and the best way to apply it safely to your little buddy.

You must be confident you’re not making it too strong, or you might overdose your cat, which can be fatal.

tabby cat sitting on wall near water

Know the symptoms of any possible reactions to what you’re using.

You also don’t want to make a weak solution that won’t kill any fleas.

Commercial products have the advantage of being already mixed and give you instructions on how to use them properly.

white cat using scratching post

A good way to help you decide what to do is answer some questions that will help you get a clear understanding of your personal situation.

Then you’ll have some direction on what’s best for you and your fabulous feline.

Check “Getting Rid of Fleas…For Cats Only!” for more.

Are Homemade Remedies Safe for My Cat?

cat grooming a toy cat; flea control

In following this trail of clues, I found there are opposing opinions about the safety of most homemade or “natural” remedies.

Pennyroyal is a good example. Many people say it’s too dangerous to use on cats, even a holistic vet who uses essential oils frequently.1https://londonalternativevet.com/2018/01/12/essential-oils-with-pets-dr-melissa-shelton/

Once pennyroyal is swallowed it can cause liver failure if in large enough quantities.2https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/poisoning-toxicity/c_ct_pennyroyal_oil_poisoning?page=show

tabby kitten & mom; flea control

Yet some say it’s ok as long as you’re careful to put it in spots where they and other cats can’t lick it off.

This leads us to some questions…

How much is too much? Can you control how much a cat licks off?

How realistic is it to expect us cats not to lick things when we’re such careful groomers?

Grey tabby cat licking his paw; flea control

First, it’s hard to know how much too much is because it depends on your cat’s weight and health, along with how concentrated the pennyroyal is, how much you put on and how much they swallow.

Second, expecting us cats to not lick and groom our fabulous coats isn’t realistic. That’s like asking us not to breathe!

So, my conclusion is that for most people it’s best to avoid anything that has the potential to hurt your furry friend.

grey, white cat curled up on blanket

Just dont use it!

The key here is “quantity”.

Anything in large enough quantities can kill your kitty and it doesn’t take much. He isn’t very big, and his body doesn’t process toxins very quickly.

The longer toxins stay in your cat’s body, the more harm they do.

Discover more at “Is a Flea Treatment with Chemicals Safe for My Cat?

How Healthy Is Your Kitty?

tabby cat

Since any flea control remedy can affect your kitty, it’s important that you know his current health situation.

If you haven’t had him to the vet in awhile, now’s a great time to go and discuss specifically what you’d like to do and if your cat can handle it.

If your cat has any kidney, liver or immune problems, his body is even less able to handle toxins so it’s very important you work with your vet to control fleas.

face of sad cat; controlling fleas

It’s important to know how to deal with sick kitties and you can read more at “How to Kill Fleas on Kittens, Senior & Sick Cats”.

Consider both pros and cons of the remedies you want to use and the health of your special buddy when making the best decision you can in your own situation.

You don’t want to end up hurting your cat, spending a whole lot on emergency vet care, and giving yourself grey hairs in the process!

Is Homemade Flea Control the Least Expensive Option?

Photo of fleas, flea dirt
Flea dirt on fur

Well, that’s kind of a trick question.

There are some great things you can do that cost nothing or very little and are safe and effective.

Then there are other things you can try that seem like a good, cheap answer to controlling fleas that end up with a very costly emergency vet visit.

Here are some low-cost ideas that require little money but consistent work.

The best thing you can do to break the flea cycle is wash, vacuum, repeat, wash vacuum, repeat… (or pay somebody else to do it for you!)

Vacuum Frequently 

vacuum cleaner head; flea control

Frequently vacuum all floors, paying particular attention to baseboards and carpets, and all furniture, using attachments for cracks and crevices.

Don’t forget your car!

Wash Frequently 

tabby drinking water

Wash frequently all pet bedding and all YOUR bedding… anything your special kitty sits or sleeps on.

Bathe Your Kitty

sphynx in bucket with duck shower cap; bathe to control fleas

A good option if you use a safe and effective flea shampoo made for cats, whether “natural” or “chemical” based.

If your cat has any medical problems, check with your vet before bathing.

However, even with vet approval, bathing is only possible if your cat will tolerate a bath without clawing you to shreds!

Flea Comb

grey cat being combed, groomed; flea comb

Use it daily on your kitty to catch fleas early and check for flea dirt, especially if she goes outside.

This gives you the most control over any flea problem that might be starting.

You can find more about cleaning at “Ways to Get Rid of Fleas on Healthy Cats”.

Other “Homemade” Remedies

kitten peeking out from cushion

Other homemade flea control remedies are touted as safe and effective, but my sleuthing hasn’t turned up any scientific studies or other solid evidence to support these claims.

Some people swear by spraying diluted lemon juice on their cat, others use apple cider vinegar, while still others use various essential oils.

You’ll need to consider when trying any of these that felines hate the smell of things that might poison them, like citrus, lavender, and eucalyptus.

cat napping

No matter what, it’s all about proper dilution, dosage, and application.

Discover more about essential oils at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?

Will your cat put up with being soaked with lemon spray or will they claw your eyes out?

Always a consideration, even if they’re healthy and able to tolerate it physically.

Are homemade flea control remedies really safe and useful?

The answer is the same as with chemical or natural products… they’re both beneficial and deadly.

It depends on how you use them and the health of your cat.

Hand petting black & white ct

This raises questions, some of which currently have no solid answers…

  • How do things like garlic, lemon or salt affect cats?
  • Are they applied on the skin and fur or eaten?
  • How often must I re-apply them?
  • In what quantity are they used?
ginger, orange, white kitten on step with head cocked to side curiously
  • Do they actually kill fleas or just make them jump off the cat?
  • Do they work at all?
  • Are they able to kill flea eggs, larvae and pupae as well adults?
  • How do they affect sick cats or kittens?

Common Sense Flea Control Remedies

citrus fruit slices

Using common sense, knowing your kitty’s health and attitude, and talking with your vet about what you’d like to do, gives you a good chance of getting rid of fleas safely.

As with anything homemade, you have the responsibility of making sure what you use is properly prepared and applied.

stray cat on rocks by a tire

Test it on a small area of your kitty’s skin to see if there’s any reaction before putting it all over her.

Always keep your remedy away from her eyes, mouth, ears and genital area.

Here is a YouTube video, “10 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Fleas”, with some common sense ways you can control fleas in your home and yard, as well as on your pets.

Some Ideas That Might Be Useful

cat in nature

Below is a partial list of things some people recommend as part of your overall flea control plan.

If you want to see this source information directly, the footnotes will take you to sites giving pro and con positions.

Be aware that you use these at your own risk, so be sure you’re able to determine proper dosage, dilution, and application.

I receive a small commission on some of the links below when you buy them… and I get to share them with qualified rescues!

Check descriptions and reviews carefully for any products you wish to buy… quality, sizes, colors, etc., can’t be guaranteed by anyone but the manufacturer.

Aloe Vera juice (Aloe barbadensis)

aloe vera stems; flea control

Used in a spray3https://www.organicfacts.net/cat-fleas.html 4https://aloehealthcommunity.com/aloe-vera-pets-animals/

Beneficial Nematodes

graphic of bacteria; nematodes

Entomopathogenic “beneficial” nematodes are living organisms used in yards to kill insects, including fleas5https://www.buglogical.com/nematodes-information 6http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74140.html

Beneficial Nematodes | Soil-Born Pest Control (arbico-organics.com)

Brewer’s Yeast

beer, brewer's yeast; flea control

This is given as a food supplement.

Some people claim it repels fleas by making a cat taste bad to them, while others claim it doesn’t do anything.7https://www.organicfacts.net/cat-fleas.html8 https://www.cuteness.com/article/brewers-yeast-cats

Boric Acid (Borate Powder)

borax mines

Some people claim it kills fleas well, while others say it’s toxic to cats when they lick it off their fur.

Boric acid is often sprinkled on carpets to kill fleas.9https://www.catological.com/borax-fleas-cats/10 http://www.newarkohio.net/city/OnlineDocs/dod/FH-Roach&FleaEradication-HelpfulHints.pdf

Cedar Chips

cedar trees-chips used for flea control & litter

Some people recommend using them around your cat’s bedding, in corners of rooms, under furniture.

Be sure your cat won’t use it as litter, since there is cat litter made from cedar.

Scattering it around bedding, rooms, etc., could be an invitation to see everything as a giant litter box!

Fleas and other bugs hate cedar (cedar closets keep out moths).

Some cats don’t like the smell of it either, in which case you’ll want to use something else. 11https://www.wikihow.com/Kill-Fleas-in-a-Home 12https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/home-remedies-for-fleas-on-cats/

Dehumidifier

humidity

These are used to keep a room’s humidity below 50% for at least 2 days, which kills adult fleas.

The drawback is they are used for average sized rooms, not large areas or a whole house.13https://www.perfectforhome.com/can-dehumidifiers-kill-fleas/14https://howrid.com/house/get-rid-of-fleas-fast/

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth; flea control

This is a soft rock, easily crushed to powder and sprinkled on carpets to kill fleas.

It’s made from …”the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica. Over a long period of time, diatoms accumulated in the sediment of rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans.”15http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html 16https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/chromista/diatoms/diatomfr.html

Use food grade DE only and don’t overuse it.17https://www.felineliving.net/is-diatomaceous-earth-safe-for-cats/ 18https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/can-you-use-diatomaceous-earth-fleas Example: Vi-Olivia Food Grade D.E.

Dishwashing Liquid

Graphic of green soap bottle

Used for bathing your cat (Dawn® or Lemon Joy®, in particular) with vinegar added. Use regular only with none of the extra scents, dyes, etc.

Some people like it for controlling fleas. Others say it dries the skin too much.

Question: Will you survive trying to give your cat a bath???!!!19https://www.fleabites.net/how-to-use-dawn-dish-soap-for-fleas-on-dogs-and-cats/ 20https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/can-you-use-dawn-dish-soap-kill-fleas-pets 21https://www.sanimalhospital.net/blog/myth-busters-fleas-and-ticks

Eucalyptus

eucalyptus; essential oil, flea control

The evidence shows it’s possible to use eucalyptus oil in low doses that will not hurt cats.

Just be sure you know how to handle any concentrated oil, so the dosage is harmless to your cat yet kills or repels fleas.

Discover more at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?” (click on “Eucalyptus”).

Flea Collars

Tuxedo cat on a sidewalk wearing a collar

Some people carefully use essential oils on a collar or bandanna around the cat’s neck to repel adult fleas. Here’s how to make one.https://cats.lovetoknow.com/Homemade_Herbal_Flea_Collar

Discover more about using oils at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?

There are commercially made “natural” flea collars but there’s no way to tell the difference between genuine and fake ones, so I recommend skipping these and using other methods.

Flea-Repellent Plants

catnip, catmint; flea control

These are planted in your yard to help repel fleas and ticks. Many of them are flowers or herbs you may already be growing.

You can find them online or at garden centers, nurseries, and even grocery stores.

Here are some that are safe for pets…

holy basil plant
  • Beautyberry Bush, Catnip, Holy Basil
  • Lemon Balm, Marigold, Pansy
  • Rose, Rosemary, Rue
  • Sage, Sunflower, Sweet Basil
  • Thyme, Venus Fly Trap (for warm climates)
sunflowers; flea control

The others are plants that can hurt your cat if eaten, so you may want to avoid them if your cat goes in your yard. These are…

  • Chamomile, Chives, Chrysanthemum
  • Citronella, Eucalyptus, Fleabane Daisy
  • Garlic, Geranium, Hosta
  • Lavender, Lemongrass, Mint
  • Pennyroyal, Wormwood, Yarrow

Flea Traps

lightbulb

These are used in conjunction with other methods to control adult fleas in the house.

Fleas won’t jump off a cat into a trap because the cat’s body is warm and a source of food for them, since they suck blood.

They prefer your cat to a light bulb or heat lamp.

light bulbs; flea control-traps

If they’re on a rug or furniture, though, they’ll jump toward a light or heat source.

Commercial flea traps (regular or electronic) attract them with heat and light. They jump in and land on a glue pad.

You can make your own flea traps, but they require monitoring and can be messy. 22https://www.thebugsquad.com/fleas/flea-traps/ 23https://www.pestwiki.com/best-flea-trap-reviews-homemade/

Garlic

garlic - food, fleas

Garlic has been used for millennia as medicine to treat illness in people and animals.

Some people claim they put a little in their cat’s food every day, which supposedly makes a cat’s skin taste bad to fleas.

But others say to never give garlic to cats and that it’s toxic to them. So does it work and is it safe for killing fleas on your cat?24https://earthclinic.com/pets/garlic-for-cats/25 https://animals.mom.me/how-to-prevent-fleas-in-cats-using-garlic-12157301.html26https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/27http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/will-garlic-keep-fleas-away28https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/garlic-poisoning-129https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/

Discover more about garlic at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?

Lemon

lemons; flea control

Some people use flea spray on their cats made with diluted lemon juice. It doesn’t kill fleas, just makes them jump off the cat.

So, it could possibly be part of a plan to get rid of fleas in your home. You can find lemons at your local grocery store.

There are some concerns about limonene, which is the toxic substance in citrus essential oils, however, it’s claimed this is only in the rind, not the juice30https://m.wikihow.com/Make-a-Lemon-Flea-Spray 

Discover more about limonene and citrus oils at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?31https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/home-remedies-for-fleas-on-cats/… click on “Citrus”.  

Rosemary Leaves

rosemary herb; flea control

Dried rosemary leaves, besides adding great flavor to food, are crushed to powder and sprinkled around cat beds and their living area to help control fleas.

You can find it at your local grocery store or grow your own.

See also “Rosemary” at “What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats?

Salt (or Baking Soda)

person collecting salt in ocean

Salt and baking soda have some similar properties.

When sprinkled on carpets in lower humidity, they draw out moisture from adult fleas, which essentially mummifies and kills them32https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/.

It’s not clear whether it’s just the salt or baking soda that kills them, having the room humidity below 50%, or a combination of the two.

If you’re the rare person who doesn’t know where to get salt or baking soda, check the baking aisle of any grocery store.

Vinegars – Apple Cider, White

fermented vinegar; flea control

White vinegar is used for cleaning. Apple cider vinegar is diluted in a spray and applied to a cat’s fur.

It’s not recommended to give vinegar internally to cats.

I’m not sure how to use it as a spray without your kitty licking it off and swallowing it, unless it smells so bad your cat won’t try to lick it.

vinegar for flea control

If that’s the case, your cat will probably be running around trying to get away from the smell.

We felines have sensitive noses, just like dogs. Why torture us like that?33https://kittyclysm.com/is-vinegar-safe-for-cats/ 34https://petsoverload.com/is-vinegar-safe-for-cats-to-eat-should-i-clean-with-vinegar-or-will-it-make-my-cat-sick/ 35https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/home-remedies-for-fleas-on-cats/ 36https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/

If you think it might work for you and your cat, there are all kinds of vinegar at grocery stores.


What Is a Flea? What Does It Look Like?How to Kill Fleas on Kittens, Senior & Sick Cats
Ways to Get Rid of Fleas on Healthy Cats!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 Getting Rid of Fleas…For Cats Only!
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, however, 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

“10 Effective Home Remedies For Cat Fleas”, by John Staughton (BASc, BFA),  Organic Facts, last updated November 13, 2017

10 Great Plants That Repel Fleas and Ticks” – The Practical Planter

“10 Natural Flea Treatments for Cats (That Are Virtually Free to Use)”, by Richard Parker, Senior Cat Wellness

10 Plants to Deter Fleas in Your Yard” – Lawn Care Blog, Lawn Love

27 Plants That Repel Ticks and Fleas“, ProFlowers

A-C

“Biological Control and Natural Enemies of Invertebrates”, by S. H. Dreistadt, Revised December 2014, University of California Davis Agriculture & Natural Resources, Integrated Pest Management Program

“Borax For Fleas: Is It Safe Or Toxic To Use Around Cats?”, by Emily Parker, Catological, updated April 26, 2019

“Brewer’s Yeast for Cats”, by Judy Wolfe, Cuteness

“Can Dehumidifiers Kill Fleas?”, by Jason Wilson, Perfect for Home

“Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Fleas on Pets?”, by Paula Fitzsimmons, PetMD

“Can You Use Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas?”, by Paula Fitzsimmons, PetMD, reviewed for accuracy on July 8, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

“Can’t control a roach or flea infestation – try Boric Acid”, McKesson BORIC ACID Powder NF, Division of McKesson Corporation

D-G

“Diatomaceous Earth”, Oregon State University, National Pesticide Information Center

“Diatomaceous Earth: A miracle cure for flea control?”, by Barry Silverstein, Flea Control: How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally, May 14, 2009

“Diatoms: Fossil Record”, University of California Berkeley, UC Museum of Paleontology

“Garlic”, Pet Poison Helpline™

“Garlic for Cats – Is It Safe?”, by Deirdre Layne, Earth Clinic, updated November 23, 2018

“Garlic Poisoning in Cats”, Wag!

H-L

“Home Remedies for Fleas on Cats”, US Service Animals

“How to Fight Fleas Naturally”, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com

“How to Get Rid of Fleas In The House Fast?”, by Jesseca, HowRid, the Ultimate Guide

“How to Kill Fleas in a Home”, Co-authored by Scott McCombe, Wikihow, Updated: November 14, 2019

“How to Make a Homemade Herbal Flea Collar”, by Serenah McKay, Lovetoknow

“How to Make a Lemon Flea Spray”, by WikiHow staff, WikiHow, updated March 29, 2019

“How to Prevent Fleas in Cats Using Garlic”, by Juliet Myfanwy Johnson, Pets on Momdotcom, updated September 26, 2017

“How to Use Dawn Dish Soap for Fleas on Dogs and Cats”, by Jacob Olesen, FleaBites.net

“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

“Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe For Cats And How Much To Put For Fleas”, by Mary Nielsen, Feline Living, August 8, 2019

“IS VINEGAR SAFE FOR CATS?“, by Elise Xavier, KittyClysm, Updated MAY 6, 2018

“Is Vinegar Safe for Cats to Eat? Should I Clean with Vinegar or Will It Make My Cat Sick?”, by Johnny Salib, Pets Overload, March 20, 2019

“Keep Pests Off Pets! Plants to Grow That Repel Ticks and Fleas”, by Emily Cardiff, One Green Planet, 2014

M-Z

“Make a Homemade Flea Trap In Under 60 Seconds”, by Natasha Anderson, The Bug Squad, November 16, 2019

“Myth Busters: Fleas and Ticks”, 3/15/2016, Scottsville Animal Hospital

“Neem Oil”, Journal of American Mosquito Control Association, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 147-149

“Nematodes Information”, Buglogical Control Systems

“Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Cats”, PetMD

“The Science Behind Cats and Essential Oils” by Dr. Melissa Shelton, January 12, 2018, London Alternative Veterinary Services

“Top 5 Flea Trap Reviews & Best Homemade Trap that Really Works”, by Irina, Pest Wiki, March 12, 2019

“Will Garlic Keep Fleas Away?”, by Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, Vet Street, May 13, 2014

Updated June 18, 2022

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