I’m Unemployed and My Cat Has Fleas. Help!

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I am hoping that you can help me with a question. I’ve been unemployed and living back at home with my cat, Newt. I used to volunteer for a local pet rescue, where I fostered a couple of cats and wound up adopting my Newt boy. Do you know of any resources that can provide financial assistance for expenses such as flea medicine? My cat hardly goes out and yet he has fleas — and I feel so bad (and guilty). Any info would be greatly appreciated!

~ Lisa


Fleas are no fun!

Siouxsie: Oh, Lisa, I feel for you — and for your Newt. Fleas are just about the most annoying thing a cat can experience, especially if you’ve got a lot of them!

Thomas: As you can probably imagine, organizations that offer financial assistance for pet care are feeling the crunch of this bad economy, too. Donations are way down, and the financial assistance that is available for needy people with pets is limited largely to spay/neuter, vaccinations, and emergency veterinary care.

Bella: But don’t lose all hope, Lisa! We’ve got a couple of ideas for you.

Siouxsie: First, have you considered talking to the rescue where you volunteered and adopted Newt? They may be able to connect you with a way to buy good flea control products at a discounted price. They probably won’t be able to give you any, because if they did, then they’d have to do it for everybody else.

Thomas: Tapeworms are a pretty common side effect of flea infestations. Cats eat the fleas, which are carrying tapeworm eggs, while they’re grooming, and then the eggs are released into the cat’s intestines during the digestive process. So keep an eye out for evidence of tapeworms, too.

Bella: If you do get the spot-on flea goop, you’re going to have to use it for at least three months to make sure that you’ve gone through several cycles of hatch-outs.

Siouxsie: If you can’t find a way to get flea medications at a price you can afford, there is an inexpensive way to get rid of the nasty little buggers. It’s pretty labor-intensive, though.

Thomas: First, mix together about two cups (or more if your home is big) of a powder made from half table salt and half baking soda. Sprinkle it on all the carpets, and under and on all the furniture, and let it sit for an hour or so. Vacuum your whole house, paying particular attention to places your cat likes to hang out, then dispose of the bag outdoors right away. If your vacuum cleaner is a bagless type, take the whole vacuum outdoors before you remove the dirt container. Do this once a week for three weeks.

Bella: Then you’re going to have to wash all of your bedding, Newt’s bedding, pillow covers, throw blankets–pretty much anything that moved and that Newt sat or slept on, in hot water.You may have to do this once a week for a few weeks, too.

Siouxsie: Bathe Newt (yes, you heard right, I said “bathe”) with a scent-free liquid soap. Mama likes Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for babies and sensitive skin because it doesn’t have any ingredients toxic to cats, but pretty much any shampoo designed specifically for cats, and most unscented baby shampoos will do, too.

Thomas: There’s a good how-to on bathing cats at about.com, and Purebred Rescue has a great video demonstration on how to bathe a cat. And trust me, if anybody knows about bathing purebred cats, it’s people who have to deal with Persians!

Bella: We’ve been told by those who’ve tried it that flea shampoos aren’t very effective anymore. Also, the pesticides can be toxic to your cat. The point of this bath is to get rid of any eggs on the skin and maybe drown a few adult and nymph fleas in the process.

Siouxsie: After the bath is over and you’ve rinsed Newt and blotted him dry with a towel or two, use a flea comb to comb out any half-dead fleas and drown them in a jar of water with a couple of drops of dish detergent (water with a drop or two of ammonia also works well).

Thomas: Keep this “drowning jar” and flea comb with you wherever you go. If you’re watching TV or reading a book and Newt crawls into your lap, pet him and casually search for fleas. When you find one, pick it off and drown it in your jar.

Bella: This process is obviously very labor-intensive, but it works. Mama says she used it on Sinéad and Siouxsie when they got fleas when they were tiny little kittens — and the flea siege was gone after three weeks.

Siouxsie: Just one more thing — as long as Newt keeps going out, he’s going to keep getting fleas. It’s been a really bad year for them this year. If it’s at all possible for you to keep him inside, this flea eradication program is going to be much more effective in the long run.

  • http://www.etsy.com/gypsymanders Amanda

    Also don’t forget to vaccum under couches and things. Fleas like to lay their eggs in dark dormant places. Great advice!

  • Sarianna

    A few other suggestions:
    Irish Spring soap, in a bucket of water. Rinse cat with this. It kills fleas. My friend has 5 indoor cats that often catch fleas from her dog, and swears by this.

    When my rescued kitty (who had been abandoned outdoors) first came to me, she was covered in fleas and ticks. The vet gave her Advantage Multi and Profender (thank g-d for Care Credit), but I also quarantined her in the bathroom, flea-combed her twice a day with Vaseline in the comb, and rinsed the flea comb in Dawn dishsoap/hot water before reapplying Vaseline. She was completely flea-free 4 days after the initial vet treatment.

    You can also buy Advantage on Amazon in dog-sized containers and proportion the dose for your cat to save money long-term.

  • http://www.kittyblog.net Connie

    Many vets sell flea products one dose at a time, so for ~$10 you can get safe and effective flea control. Frontline used to say it killed fleas for 90 days, I think it now says 60. Some fleas are getting ‘used’ to frontline and it appears to be less effective, but if that hasn’t happened in your area than that might be a really good bet.

  • Marty

    I agree, even with one visit outside, you will never stop the flea cycle. If you can keep him indoors at all costs. He may need to be entertained more then. Good for you and good for him!

  • Mitch

    There’s a product “Flea Busters” that is made to put on carpet but it’s expensive, HOWEVER, it is only boric acid (Borax), which can be bought at most grocery stores & home improvement stores like Home Depot, for a few bucks.
    • First, add a handful of MOTH BALLS to your vacuum bag or collection bin (if your’s is a bag less). This will kill any fleas, larvae or eggs that you vacuum up.
    • Vacuum your carpet really well.
    • Do not empty the vacuum for 24-28 hours.
    • Sprinkle the boric acid all over your carpet (about 3 sq ft area at a time).
    • Work it down in with a broom to get it deep into the carpet fibers, and LEAVE it.
    • Do NOT vacuum again for AT LEAST 24-48 hours so that it’ll have time to kill the fleas, larvae & flea eggs.
    • This carpet treatment lasts for 1YEAR!
    • Boric acid will NOT hurt people or pets.

    Boric acid WILL NOT kill fleas on your cat’s body, but below is a safe way to treat your cat:

    “Homemade Flea Bath Recipe”
    – Make Your Own Flea Dip
    By Erin Huffstetler, About.com Guide

    Looking for an inexpensive way to keep your pets flea-free? Then give this easy-to-make flea bath a try:
    • One lemon
    • A pot
    • Water
    • A spray bottle, sponge or pet brush

    1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Then, remove from heat.
    2. Add a sliced lemon to the pot, and allow it to steep overnight.
    3. Apply the resulting liquid to your pet with a spray bottle, sponge or brush.
    4. Repeat daily or as needed.

    • Lemons contain limonene, a chemical that kills & repels fleas.

    • inexpensive
    • all natural
    • non-irritating
    • highly effective
    • soothes & heals existing flea bites
    • environmentally-friendly

    1) Avoid contact with the eyes.
    2) Keep the hot liquid away from pets & children

    Hope this helps!

  • http://www.mizzbassie.net MizzBassie

    Great advice. When mommy had fleas in the house years ago, she sprayed the carpets with pyrethrin (NOT permethrin) every few days, then vacuumed up. Then she put the vacuum bag into a plastic bag and into the freezer until next time. That way you don’t have to use a new vacuum bag every time.

    After that, she ripped the carpets out and installed tile.

  • Jen

    I found this link on using essential oils for flea treatment… ((must be Therapeutic grade oils))


    i use lavender to get rid of them, its very effective and smells great :D

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/poochandpuddy Amber @ Pooch and Puddy

    I know what the financial crush feels like, and what having fleas feels like. It was three years of on-and-off fleas and my whining about them before they were actually gone. I felt awful. My pets were always itchy, and I was covered in scars because the little bastards thought I made a good dessert option.

    Generic Frontline saved me. In the USA it can be bought at Walmart under the brand Pet Armor. You can also find it on eBay. Fipronil, the active ingredient, is safe for both dogs and cats. The cat version is just a teeny tube with a slightly higher concentration of fipronil. I buy the biggest dog tubes I can get on eBay and use a half millilitre on my pets, storing it in a glass vial and using a syringe for application. I pay 30$ and the spot treatment lasts me and my three pets 9 months. I imagine you could buy the same amount, for the same price, and use it much longer. It pays for itself.

  • Elizabeth

    If you go to Amazon.com and search for Advantage Flea for Cats. For about $10-$12 they will sell you 4.0ml bottle along with a needle-less syringe. Cats take .40 or .80 so you’ll get many treatments from the 4.0 bottle.
    Don’t freak out if you see the 4.0 dose if a dog dose, it’s okay for cats, it’s the same thing that is just in different ml’s for different weight pets.
    I’ve gotten this twice and just treated last night and need to buy another kit.

  • http://www.personalfinancesherpa.com Ted

    Thanks for some great advice here. I remember years ago being in this exact same situation and not really being able to do anything about it. We had two cats and they traded fleas back and forth all the time, but one was a long haired beauty named Miss Beasley and she seemed to be more bothered by the fleas than her brother.
    She used to chew herself raw and it was heartbreaking to see, but when we finally scraped enough money together for a vet visit he really helped us out with some free products and good advice.
    It’s hard work to keep them flea-free, but I agree with the advice above, elbow grease and love goes a long way.
    Thanks for a nice article and all the tips,

  • http://trupanion.com/ Daniel Meloy

    Fleas are a scary and annoying problem, especially when you notice them for the first time. But fear not! There are a multitude of ways to fight the finicky fleas. The more obvious methods are flea shampoos, for both pets and carpets. However, for those of us who are more inclined to natural treatments, there are many other ways to get rid of these petite pests. A simple google search for “natural flea remedies” will bring you at least 5 different options. Choose whichever you think best and enjoy your flea-less house and companions!

  • Dee

    Vectra for Cats – which you can get at your vet’s office – is another good second-generation topical flea treatment and it costs about $13 a month. My vet lets me buy one dose at a time – and that makes it financially doable.

    Another reminder for everyone is that even indoor cats can get fleas. My guys never go outside and they ended up with a serious infestation about two years ago. Fleas can travel into your house on shoes, etc.