Monday August 17, 2009

I had just woken up in the middle of the night one day last week from one of my own health problems when my husband informed me of something that made me sad and grossed out at the same time.

Colby, our medium-haired orange tabby, had a fleas.

We had noticed both him and Missy, our short-hair tuxedo, had been scratching for a couple of days but didn’t think much of it until John saw an actual bug on Colby. We treated them both immediately with Frontline Plus, but we were convinced that the batch we had was a dud. We had purchased it online from a new place, which can sometimes lead to getting knock-off products. It seemed obvious that had happened to us because they had just been treated 2-3 weeks prior (it should last a month) and neither cat protested when we put the new dose on them. They both usually act agitated by the chemicals for about 20 minutes after new applications so the lack of reaction seemed to indicate that there was a problem with the dose.

The next day we made plans to completely treat the cats and our house for both health and hygiene reasons. I called our vet, who was very helpful in providing information. They confirmed that it was likely that our Frontline Plus package was a dud and suggested we buy from the manufacturer directly or even try another brand. (We did both). They also suggested using the household cleaner Borax to treat our furniture and carpets.

This weekend, we went full force on the flea eradication. We found Advantage topical treatment at PetCo, which was much more expensive than purchasing it online, but we weren’t taking any chances this time. While we were there, we got some suggestions for reputable online places where we could get pet supplies like flea treatment at a discount. When we brought it home, both cats got treated immediately. Poor Colby had a bad reaction because he licked himself where we had applied the treatment. I felt so bad because it was me who had not gotten it on correctly, giving him the ability to reach it on his back. He started twitching and foaming at the mouth, which sent me into a panic. I knew some cats had gotten sick and died from topical flea treatment and I could never forgive myself if something happened to our furbabies because of something we did.

I immediately called the emergency vet, who said to watch for an actual seizure and vomiting. The foaming was later discovered to be a normal reaction in cats who lick the treatment because it has some sort of solvent in it. Poor Colby kept trying to lick it but he eventually learned after several episodes. We tried to watch him to prevent his licking while the treatment dried, and his “Big Sister” Missy even beat him over the head one of the times he started to try getting to the spot. (That last part was actually really funny to watch. She’s a great Big Sister, beats the crap out of him sometimes!)

Anyways, treating the cats does absolutely no good if you still have fleas in your house. We had not seen any, but weren’t taking any chances. We bought the Borax, which as I said, is a common household cleaning detergent. We got that instead of something specifically labeled for fleas for several reasons: A) it was the specific product that the vet suggested, B) it was half the price C) it didn’t require us to keep the pets out of the carpeted area while it’s working as flea treatment does.

Here’s how to use Borax: first vacuum all the affected areas. Throw away the vacuum bag (I know it’s wasteful, but you want the eggs and adult bugs to be OUT of your house). Then sprinkle the Borax over the carpet. The form we bought it in made it hard to “sprinkle” so we spread it around with a broom after putting it down. You leave it on your carpet for two weeks (yes weeks) then vacuum it up … and discard that bag out of the house. Depending on how bad your infestation is, you may have to do this several times before getting all the critters.

OK so we had the carpets taken care of and the cats handled, but what about every other cloth thing in our home? Here’s where it got really time consuming! We’ve had a busy week so I’ll admit we had two baskets of clean clothes in our room, which the cats sometimes get in to. So, guess who got to wash every single one of their already clean clothes? The SMITHS! WOO HOO! HA! But yes, we washed every bit of our clothes, all the blankets and pillows on the couches and beds and any other cloth thing the cats could have accessed. It took two days just to get that part done, then we washed the clothes that were dirty from the week. As I type this, the washing machine is still running.

And the story continues! Some of our comforters and some obvious items (like the couches, duh) couldn’t go in the washing machine. So what to do? We used Borax on the couches and vacuumed them, and hope that works. Again, we never saw or felt any bugs on them so we aren’t overly worried. Just being cautious. But that still left several items such as the cloth cat cubes and our comforter so we purchased flea spray just for upholstery. We sprayed all of those items down tonight and shut them in a room to dry because humans and pets are not supposed to be near the stuff while it dries. I will probably have to spray Febreeze on the comforter because I can’t stand the bug spray smell, especially when I’m trying to sleep. 

So. It’s now been 3.5 days since we first discovered the problem and we went hard core on eradicating the fleas and I believe we were successful. Fortunately we had more of what I would call a small flea “infection,” not an infestation.

This has been annoying and at times even scary (like Colby’s mouth foaming… WOW). But it’s been an interesting experience. I wish I had pictures of the process now so I could scrapbook our first flea eradication weekend! We learned a lot, including the process for getting rid of fleas in your home without using the expensive and harmful foggers, and about the potential problems with ordering any kind of prescription-strength pet product from a discount online vendor. We also got to spend time together working towards a common goal, which was taking care of our home and our pets.

And I figure that if we ever do have children, we are WELL prepared to handle the inevitable head lice!

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Good work!  I can share that we had a dog we loved a great deal  – Tasha – and we actually hastened her death by over zealous flea treating.  The vet we were going to at the time gave me three different products with instructions to use all three at different times.  A little over one month later, Tasha died a painful death, and it was because her liver completely quit working.  I’ve had a hard time dealing with that guilt, and it’s made me much more cautious with our current pets.  We rely on once a month application of Advantage (it does work better on fleas than Frontline, but it doesn’t kill ticks), regular baths (oh, the cats HATE that), and a trick the Serfco guy gave me – put a flea collar (cut off the metal buckle) in your vacuum bag.  That kills any fleas that happen to have made it into the bag without having to throw away the bag every time you vacuum!  Clever, huh?  I get the $2.00 ones at Wal-Mart, and it really did seem to help a great deal. 

    Good luck with keeping your fleas at bay – your furbabies are more than worth it!

    Erin V

  2. Thanks for commenting! I’m so sorry to hear about your furbaby that died! I completely freaked out when Colby reacted…I actually had to lay down later from the stress and I cried myself to sleep! We use a bagless vacuum so I’m not sure if the flea collar thing would work for us, but the lady at PetCo said to spray just a bit of the upholstery stuff in the container and that should have the same effect.  

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