My dog has. . .

29 09 2008


Jesus Christ, my cats had fleas! Fleas! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Yes, I lost my mind the moment I examined Fat Cat and found a little nasty scuttling into her fur.


How did they (yep, Skinny Cat, too) get fleas! They’ve NEVER had fleas, or worms, or any of the assortment of nasties which afflict housepets. And they’re indoor cats! INDOOR!. . . .

Except, hm, I have been letting them outside. Skinny Cat would squeeze between the security bars of the window leading into the backyard, to chew on the weeds and sit in the sun, and I’d let both of them hang out with me out front as I cooled down from a run, or read on the stoop. And there are plenty of cats and dogs and outdoor critters in the neighborhood, so, you know, I shouldn’t have been so shocked.

But I was. Shocked and, frankly, disgusted. Really. I’ve already mentioned my genocidal tendencies when it comes to (indoor) bugs, but to see them strolling their way through Fat Cat’s fur set off a primal loathing steeped so thickly in moral panic that I had to remind myself (not terribly successfully) that this was hardly an earth-shaking event.

Still. I found the little bastards at night—long after everything was closed—which meant I could do, basically, nothing.

Except get on the computer and find out what the hell to do. So I searched on ‘cats fleas’, and found this site and this one (it’s not letting me link here; see below: and a bunch of others, and learned more than I cared to about the biology of fleas, and what needs to be done to get rid of them. So I clicked through on one of the sites to National Pet Pharmacy and ordered a six-month supply of Advantage (one each for Skinny and Fat Cat), and sat back, completely freaked out. (This place didn’t help: ‘Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days. Just think of the tens of thousands of the little rascals that could result when conditions are optimal!’ Thanks a fucking lot!)

I did not sleep well that night.

The next day I zipped over to MegaPetStore and bought a flea comb and a spray, which I figured I would use until the kitty drugs arrived. Now, a number of the sites had mentioned that IGRs, or insect growth regulators, are key to stopping a parasite attack, especially since a number of the topical monthly treatments (such as Advantage) kill only adult fleas; IGRs kill off the eggs and pupae. So I thought, hey, any products should list IGRs. Only they don’t. They do list active ingredients, but I neglected to read carefully the info on what was what, and, more importantly, what to avoid. I looked at the various products, then grabbed one which included methoprene and tetrachlorvinphos. Okey-doke, I thought.

Wrong thought. When I got home I fired up the computer and checked out what, exactly, these two ‘active ingredients’ are. Methoprene: an IGR. Excellent! Tetrachlorvinphos. . . uh oh. An organophosphate (OP), tetrachlorvinphos is, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Executive Summary on Poisons on Pets, one of seven of a poisonous group of OP insecticides that were, as of the NRDC’s report, still on the market. (Another site, from Sept 08, noted that most of the other OPs had been phased out, but tetra. was still on the market.) Poison. Dammit.

I considered using the spray, anyway, but snapped out of it: the point is to help my cats, not hurt them. And while it’s not like I expected flea-icides to be candy, I did recognize that there were different levels of risk. Some sites were fairly laid back regarding fleas—heeeyyy, bathe your pet, vacuum, shake some powder on ’em, and all’s good—but, as is obvious, ‘laid-back’ and ‘fleas’ really don’t go together for me. And I have to admit that I was so caught up in my own disgust—Ewwww! what if they get on ME? Ewwwww!—that it took a while to get my focus back on the cats. Fleas don’t really like humans, and they do like cats: they were the ones suffering.

So I left the poison capped, got some soapy water, and pulled the comb through their hair, plunging it into the water to drown the nasty bastards. (And drowning does work, unlike, say, trying to crush them. I did manage to kill one with a tweezers, but, man, even after being squeezed tight, I swore I saw it move. And trying to get them beneath something to crush is a trial, too: those little nasties really can jump!) Fat Cat suffered through this, and kept giving me looks like Why do you hate me? I only saw one adult flea on Skinny Cat (tho’ she did have the tell-tale ‘flea-dirt’, i.e., dried blood), but she protested mightily against the comb and inspections. Bad sleep, night two.

The next morning I checked my e-mail and noted that the pharmacy had sent out the drugs, and they were due to arrive at Job3 that day. Yay! Too bad I was working at Job1 rather than Job3 that day, and wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get into Job3’s building after hours. Thankfully, S. was willing to look out for the package for me (thanks S! Lifesaver!), and I managed to dash over during my lunch hour.

Also, I returned to MegaPetStore with a list of good and bad chemicals in hand. I can’t find the exact links, but I do still have my handwritten notes on okay & bad chems (if I find the links, I’ll post them later) [here’s one site that lists them, tho’ I can’t remember if this is the one I used; link or scroll down to ‘toxicities’]:


carbaryl, chlorpyritos, diazinon, dichloros, dioxathion, lindane, malathion, naled, phenothrin, phosmet, propoxor, pyrethrin, ronnel, tetrachlorvinphos (n.b.: Some of the spelling may be a letter off. My handwriting is, um, bad.)


methoprene, lufenuron, fipronil, pyriproxfen, d-limonene (natural), imidacloprid

Methoprene and pyriproxfen are both IGRs, which can be used in conjunction with imidacloprid (the active ingredient in Advantage & Advocate; I don’t know if it’s okay with fipronil (used in Frontline).

Given the age of my cats, Advantage seemed the best choice (some of the treatments aren’t so great for kittens, ill, or geriatric cats); however, since the imidacloprid would kill only the adult fleas, I combined it with Zodiac Spot On (which only active ingredient is methoprene 3.6%). I squeezed the Zodiac and then the Advantage on to the back of Fat and Skinny Cats’ necks, then got to work spraying down every damned porous surface with Zodiac Carpet & Upholstery spray (active ingredients: methoprene .09% & permethrin* 0.5%, i.e., an egg-and-pupae killer combined with an adult killer). Then I grabbed everything that could be laundered and hauled it to the laundromat, where I washed everything in HOT water, and dried it all to hell.

(*Permethrin is apparently used safely in high concentrations (45-60%) in some dog treatments, but at such levels are deadly for cats.  Concentrations of less than 1% .1% are apparently okay for use on cats, [update: the link is broken, so I’m going by what Jeff wrote] but I didn’t use the spray on the cats: I used it on furniture, pillows, and drapes, and, as per instructions on the can, kept my cats off of everything until the spray dried.)

The cats were a bit punky that night and the next day, but are fine today, two days after treatment. I’ll keep up with the combo-treatment for the next few months, as well as the spraying, but this is more precautionary than anything: Careful and frequent fur inspections have yielded no fleas, and the cats aren’t scratching. Success—thus far.

We are all sleeping better.

One more thing. I was flipped out about this, and when I used the phrase ‘moral panic’, above, I wasn’t kidding. Yeah, it sounds over the top, but so was my reaction. This infestation seemed shameful, something that shouldn’t have happened, something I should have known better than to have allowed. What kind of unclean person lets fleas into her home?

I couldn’t talk about it with my friends, referring only to a ‘situation’ with my cats, and mentioning ‘medicine’ to treat an unspecified ‘issue’. I was grossed out; wouldn’t my friends be similarly appalled?

Nevermind that fleas are common as hell, that I’ve known other pet owners discuss their various cats’ and dogs’ parasites (fleas, ticks, worms), and thought, Yeah, that happens; hell, I’ve even removed ticks from others and myself. And people get worms, scabies, and other parasites, and it’s a health, not a moral, issue. So when I said my cats were sick, I wasn’t lying.

But I wasn’t telling the truth, either, because I was using ‘sick’ as a euphemism for ‘infested’. ‘Sick’ is worthy of sympathy and attention; ‘infested’ is bad, disgusting, to be hidden and eradicated. Had the cats been afflicted with an internal parasite, I probably would have responded as if to a health issue. But fleas! Nope. My bug-a-phobia, combined with my mini-moral panic, led me to keep my mouth shut—at least until I could state the problem had been dealt with. (See! Clean! Nothing to worry about!)

Sigh. I don’t like the reaction, but there it is. At least I wasn’t so frenzied that I couldn’t remember that it was the cats who were really the issue. They are apparently flea-free, and seem to have weathered the first month of their treatments.

And we’re all feeling better about that.

(Some) sites cited (I’ll try to get all the sites on the chemicals, and to make sure the links work, tomorrow):, ‘Don’t Flee the Flea’, Franny Syufy, (also some click-throughs on links at her site)

Cat Fanciers’ Association, Cats and Flea Control Products,

Feline Advisory Bureau (FABCats), Tackling fleas on cats,

Pawprints and Purrs, Inc, Flea Control,

The Pet Center, Fleas on Dogs and Cats,

Plenty Magazine,




4 responses

9 06 2012
Jeff B.

Hi, I know this is an old post but I wanted to correct something. You state that permethrin is safe for cats in concentrations of less than 1% (and provide a link), but the link says the safe concentration is .1% — point one, not one.

For what it’s worth, I just had a similar experience. Two indoor cats, and then one day last week we had an overnight flea infestation. It was bizarre how quickly they showed up! I did the same as you: Advantage for the cats and Adams Plus carpet spray for the house. I called the company twice before using to get more information, but I applied it last night and the carpets, while presumably dry, have sort of an oily feel to them. Adams swears it is safe for the cats and our infant once dry, but the oily film doesn’t make me feel good. Now we are keeping the cats locked in an untreated room for the whole weekend until the company is open on Monday so I can find out if oily film equals safe and dry. Super.

Anyway, thanks for all the good info that you posted in this entry!

10 06 2012

Hey Jeff

Thanks for the note—I’ll correct it in the post. And I’m glad my work-as-a-result-of-freak-out was of some use.

Hope you cats—and your kid—are all okay.

10 06 2012
Jeff B.

P.S. here’s the updated link:

17 04 2015

awesome..some great info here

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