Archive for the ‘Fleas’ Category

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Fleas (3) – Flea Traps: do they work?

6 July, 2011

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but if your cat has fleas, those fleas will also have infested the rest of your house.  So not only do you have to treat the cat, you have to treat the house.

An easy way to confirm the flea invasion is to use a flea trap. 

They can also be a way of monitoring the status of the flea infestation.  There are commercial flea traps, but you can make your own homemade flea trap.

All flea traps work on the principle:  Fleas are attracted to heat.

Commercial flea traps are made up of a small lamp bulb in a small trap with a sticky disc.  The trap is placed on the floor in a corner of the room.  The fleas are attracted to the warmth of the lamp.   They jump onto the sticky disc and can’t escape and die.

How to make your own flea-trap:  Get a shallow bowl and fill with soapy water.  Place a small gooseneck reading lamp above the bowl, preferably with a high-intensity bulb.  The bulb will warm the water, and that together with the light will attract fleas.  The fleas jump into the bowl of water and drown.

I have used a commercial flea trap like the one in the photo and it does work.  It is very satisfying to check the discs and see the little bodies of fleas stuck on them, never to rise again.  However, the light also attracts other insects.  One year I had a daddy-long-leg invasion and it was really sad to see those elegant insects stuck on the discs.

However, the commercial flea trap had one huge disadvantage:  the lamp socket was very sensitive and caused the bulbs to blow very quickly.  I must have spent a fortune on replacement bulbs.

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Fleas (2) – Face-to-face with the enemy

5 July, 2011

Photo: thefullwiki.org/Flea

Cat fleas measure from 1mm to 3mm.  That’s smaller than a grain of rice.  They are quite flat too, which makes them hard to detect.  In fact, they’re easy to overlook because they look like bits of dirt.

However, once you’ve encountered a flea, you’ll never mistake it for anything else again.

As you can see from the close-up, cat fleas have 3 pairs of legs.  Their hind legs are super-sized, which allow them to jump as high as 18 cm (7 inches) and leap up to 32 cm (1 foot) horizontally.  (And boy, can they move fast and jump multiple times, making them impossible to catch.)

Fleas have legs with spines  that slant backwards.  These help them to move quickly and cling to surfaces and also makes them harder to remove.

The first time I saw a cat flea I thought the cat had picked up some specks of dust.  That’s how small they are.  Until the speck moved.  And the specks can move very fast too, crawling in between the strands of fur on a cat, or on the grooming brush.

And I still wasn’t sure what it was because I didn’t have a microscope on me, and I wear glasses.  Until it jumped straight in the air and landed on my arm.

[I don’t know if you’ve ever watched one of those martial arts films in which they catch flies with chopsticks?  Well, I don’t think those warriors had anything in terms of speed compared to a cat breeder out to get fleas.]

There’s a chance that you may not see the fleas because they have a clever habit of hiding in the fur.  However, they do tend to cluster in areas like the groin and bum area of a cat.  And if your cat suddenly develops a scratching habit, chances are it has fleas.

There’s another way to tell if your cat has fleas by checking the fur on the grooming brush.  If there are little black specks on the fur, drop them onto a piece of damp paper.  The specks will turn red because they are flea faeces containing digested blood.

And finally, if your legs start itching (especially above the sock line) and there are little spots on your legs, then, yep – fleas.

What can you do if you spot a flea?  Well, unless you’re planning on starting a flea circus, it might be a good idea to get rid of them.

Fleas can be drowned in a bowl of water.  Or if you’re not squeamish, crush them between your fingernails.  I can assure you that there’s nothing more satisfying then crushing fleas after a bad day in the office.

However, such manual intervention won’t be enough to get rid of the fleas on the cat and in the house.  More to follow.

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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.