Fleas (1) – the Holistic vs Conventional approach

30 May, 2011

Image taken from http://www.hanklee.org

Summer is on its way, and with the warm weather, one of our least favourite visitors:  fleas.

I hesitated to write this post because as a cat breeder, fleas are one of those things that you shouldn’t admit to having.  But in the interests of cat owners out there who’ve been plagued by fleas, hopefully my experiences will help.

I’ve prided myself on a flea-free household.  Because of that, I’d never had to use flea repellents, or flea killers and this meant I could rear cats as holistically possible, with a minimum of medication and a natural diet.  It was part of my holistic approach to rearing cats.  I’d read that the best flea repellent was to feed a raw diet.  Maybe that’s true for a lot of raw feeders, in which case I was the unlucky exception.

Many years ago, when I was grooming one of my cats, a small black speck moved in the fur on the brush and yep … to my horror, it was a flea.

I can say, hand on my heart, that it was the first flea I’d seen since my moggy, Sophie died some 5 years previously.  (After she died, I spent months steam-cleaning the house and it was flea-free when my new cats arrived. )

I knew that it probably wasn’t the only flea around.  It could have come from any number of sources: hopped in from the neighbour’s garden, from a visitor’s clothes, from a visit to the vet … who knows.

But the fact is, by the time you find one flea, it probably means the house is infested and full of fleas in various stages of egg laying and adulthood.

And to my horror … I spotted something jumping out of the carpets.  And what was that itch on my ankles …

So, how did I get rid of the fleas? 

I did a lot of research on the internet on flea eradication.  If done the holistic way, it would be through baths (the cat, not myself!), vacuuming twice a day etc. 

However, vacuuming only gets rid of existing fleas, not the eggs that hatch into more fleas that would jump onto the cats and feed then drop off and hatch again.  And you can imagine how much time vacuuming the entire house, including all the nooks and crannies would take. 

The faster way would be to medicate using Frontline or Advantage and chemical sprays.  There’s no need to tell you that these are non-holistic remedies. 

Both Frontline and Advantage work by entering the bloodstream of the cat and poisoning the fleas who drop off and die.  Frontline and Advantage are supposedly toxic to fleas, and not to mammals.  But there are many articles on the net with examples of cats which have experienced bad side-effects from these neurotoxins.

So, a quandry. 

The holistic way which would take a long time and may not work. 

Or the non-holistic way that could have long-term health consquences for my cats.

I hate having to make decisions like that.  Of course my vet recommended the latter method.  He pointed out that at least with Frontline I could be sure that any fleas landing on my cats would die.  And in the meantime, I’d have bought myself some time and could try other methods in getting those blasted fleas out of the house.

More later.



  1. Well, that’s a cliff hanger! Can’t wait to hear what your solution is/was. I’m finding that many are in flea denial. Then I get a panicked call or emails that a flea has been discovered in the house or on the cat. A lot of discussion goes into “how could a flea get into MY spotless house? My cats are inside only.” And yet no one questions how spiders or other bugs get into the house. There’s a stigma as relates to fleas. A flea infestation can get pretty bad if left untended… awaiting the sequel to this article 😀

  2. I am all for holistic methods whenever possible, but I thought I would comment about the mechanism of Frontline and Advantage and other such topical medications… They do NOT enter the bloodstream of the cat/dog. Rather they are carried through the sebaceous glands. A flea does not have to bite the dog/cat to die. They simply must come in contact with the dog/cat and will die.

    • Dear Jean,

      Thanks for letting me and the readers know this. I am always open to learning new things, and try to avoid being too dogmatic about holistic being good vs non-holistic being bad.

      Looks like I will have to do more research into this.

      Best wishes,

  3. I have had an infestation before and we had to get the whole house fumagated – was the only way to get rid of the critters.

    • Dear Rum,

      I am all sympathy with you. I had to do the same in the end, but I did it myself.

      Best wishes,

  4. i use a steamer on the carpets as well as hoovering steaming boils any remaining fleas and eggs x hope somebody finds this useful x

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