Can flea control be accomplished using things I have at home? Is it safe to do?
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.
- Homemade vs. Regular Flea Control Remedies
- Are Homemade Remedies Safe For Controlling Fleas on My Cat?
- How Healthy Is Your Kitty?
- Homemade Ways to Control Fleas – The Least Expensive Option?
- Other “Homemade” Remedies
- Common Sense Flea Control Remedies
- Some Ideas That Might Be Useful
- Related Pages of Interest
- List of Sources
Homemade vs. Regular Flea Control Remedies
The difference between “homemade” and store-bought “natural” products is the do-it-yourself aspect.
Commercial products have the advantage of being already diluted and have instructions on how to use them properly.
In contrast, when you make flea remedies at home, you have to determine and control the proper dilution, dosage, and the best way to apply it safely to your little buddy.
You also need to know symptoms of any possible reactions to what you’re using.
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 Controlling Fleas on My Cat?
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
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?
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.
Just dont use it!
The key here is “quantity”.
Anything in large enough quantities can kill your kitty, who isn’t very big and whose body doesn’t process toxins very quickly.
The longer toxins stay in their body, the more harm they do.
How Healthy Is Your Kitty?
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.
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!
Homemade Ways to Control Fleas – The Least Expensive Option?
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.
The best inexpensive thing you can do to control fleas, both in your home and on your kitty friend, is vacuum, wash and clean!
All floors, paying particular attention to baseboards and carpets, and all furniture, using attachments for cracks and crevices.
Don’t forget your car!
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!)
All pet bedding and all YOUR bedding… anything your special kitty sits or sleeps on.
Bathe Your Kitty
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!
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
Other 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 us, like citrus, lavender, and eucalyptus.
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.
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?
- 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
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.
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
Below is a partial list of things some people recommend that you might find useful as part of your overall flea control plan.
If you want to see some of the information I found about any of them, the footnotes will take you to sites giving pro and con positions.
- Aloe Vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) in a spray3https://www.organicfacts.net/cat-fleas.html 4https://aloehealthcommunity.com/aloe-vera-pets-animals/
- Beneficial Nematodes – entomopathogenic 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
- Brewer’s Yeast – given as a food supplement; some claim it repels fleas by making a cat taste bad, 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) – some people claim it kills fleas well, while others say it’s toxic to cats when they lick it off their fur; it’s often sprinkled on carpets to kill fleas9https://www.catological.com/borax-fleas-cats/10 http://www.newarkohio.net/city/OnlineDocs/dod/FH-Roach&FleaEradication-HelpfulHints.pdf
- Cedar Chips – some people recommend using them around your cat’s bedding, in corners of rooms, under furniture. 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 – useful to keep a room’s humidity below 50% for at least 2 days; 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 – 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 – Used for bathing your cat (Dawn® or Lemon Joy®, in particular) with vinegar added…none of the extra scents, 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 – see “Eucalyptus” on Essential Oils page
- Flea Collars – Using essential oils on a collar or bandanna around the cat’s neck to repel adult fleas. There are commercially made “natural” flea collars if you don’t want to make one yourself. Here’s how to make one22https://cats.lovetoknow.com/Homemade_Herbal_Flea_Collar…
- Flea-Repellent Plants – are planted in your yard to help repel fleas. Commonly used ones are pennyroyal, mint and lavender, to name a just few.23https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/plants-to-grow-that-repel-ticks-and-fleas/
- Flea Traps – used in conjunction with other methods to control adult fleas in the house. Fleas won’t jump off a cat into a trap but will jump toward light from a rug or furniture. Flea traps require monitoring and can be messy. 24https://www.thebugsquad.com/fleas/flea-traps/ 25https://www.pestwiki.com/best-flea-trap-reviews-homemade/
- Garlic – Some claim they put a little in food every day and is useful for medicinal purposes. Supposedly makes cat’s skin taste bad to fleas. Some people say to never give garlic to cats and that it’s toxic to them. 26https://earthclinic.com/pets/garlic-for-cats/27 https://animals.mom.me/how-to-prevent-fleas-in-cats-using-garlic-12157301.html28https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/29http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/will-garlic-keep-fleas-away30https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/garlic-poisoning-131https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/
- Lemon – 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. See also “Citrus” on Essential Oils page32https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/home-remedies-for-fleas-on-cats/. It’s claimed that limonene (the toxic substance in citrus essential oils) is only in the rind, not the juice33https://m.wikihow.com/Make-a-Lemon-Flea-Spray
- Rosemary Leaves – they are crushed to powder and sprinkled around cat beds and their living area to help control fleas; see also “Rosemary” on the Essential Oils page
- Salt (or Baking Soda) – sprinkled on carpets in lower humidity, it acts as a desiccant to draw out moisture and kill adult fleas34https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/. I’m not sure if it’s the salt or having the room below 50% humidity that kills them. It could also be a combination of the two.
- Vinegars: Apple Cider, White – White vinegar is used for cleaning; apple cider vinegar is diluted in a spray and applied to the fur. Not recommended to give internally but I’m not sure how to use it as a spray without your kitty licking it off and swallowing it.35https://kittyclysm.com/is-vinegar-safe-for-cats/ 36https://petsoverload.com/is-vinegar-safe-for-cats-to-eat-should-i-clean-with-vinegar-or-will-it-make-my-cat-sick/ 37https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/home-remedies-for-fleas-on-cats/ 38https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/natural-flea-treatments-for-cats/
Related Pages of Interest
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are 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.
Thus, when I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
Some of these sources may sell products. This list is for your convenience only. I make no money from it.
“10 Effective Home Remedies For Cat Fleas”, by John Staughton (BASc, BFA), Organic Facts, last updated November 13, 2017
“10 Natural Flea Treatments for Cats (That Are Virtually Free to Use)”, by Richard Parker, Senior Cat Wellness
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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