Thursday, September 1, 2011

Update -You don't need pets to get fleas in your house

You don't have to have a dog or cat or any other pet to end up with fleas in your home. Flea's live in your yard and travel over from your neighbors. Maybe you visited someone with a pet who had fleas and a few hitch a ride home with you. Maybe that nice BBQ in the park with all your friends netted you some unwanted visitors. The years when the weather is mild, no extremes of heat or cold, will give the fleas (and other bugs) extra breeding time as well as a longer life expectancy.

In my personal case, I have a cat and two large dogs. The cat, who is not only sneaky... he's fast! He's hard to catch so I wasn't keeping up on his Frontline applications. The dogs are much easier!

My cat, didn't seem to like it in his room (hereafter referred to as the "cat room") much and I had thought he had gotten into a fight since he had some scabs. Of course, not feeling up to par made it easier to catch the wild buggar and get some Frontline on him. He started living in the bathroom, specifically the bath rug and bath tub. Then, he started living upstairs where the kitty I'm babysitting chose to live for her duration here.

The other night, I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and looked down at my bare feet to discover about 8 or so fleas on them! I was not happy. Brushed them off and crawled back into bed. That night, I was taking a nice warm bubble bath and looked down at the rug seeing quite a few black things jumping and moving around in the rug. HORRORS!!

I jumped up, dried off, avoiding both rugs in the room, and quickly, but carefully rolled up both rugs and shoved them into a plastic garbage bag, closed it and, after dressing, tossed the bag into the garbage can for morning pickup. I might add that the rugs had only been in the room for about 3 days having just been washed and dried.

Next night, I went into the cat room, wearing white socks, and looked down to discover more than a dozen fleas on my socks! NOW, I was pretty sure why they cat chose not to live in that room and also was pretty sure that the scabs on him were not from a fight, but from flea bites.

I took to the Internet since I can't be sure I could capture my kitty to move him outside so I could bomb the house, plus I have the visitor here. On the Internet I looked for information about "green" ways to rid my house of fleas and not harm any of the pets. I found a few good informational sites:

Barefoot Lass's Favorite Pet Hints and Tips
Daily Puppy

There were others but those were the ones I bookmarked and they all pretty much said the same thing. Some of the other sites went on and on about buying several different "essential oils" and that sort of thing, but that just seemed like a lot of expense and trouble to go through, so I opted for the cheaper route of Vinegar. From these sites (and the other sites) I learned these things:

1. Vinegar kills fleas instantly (I don't think it kills eggs, however).
2. Fleas don't like brewer's yeast or garlic... feed it to your pets to help repel the fleas from them.
a. I did read on one other blog that brewer's yeast can cause yeast infections in your pets, I have decided to put a bit of garlic powder on their food.
3. Fleas are attracted to white (remember my white socks?)
4. Fleas can't swim
5. Salt will kill fleas, but its not as fast
6. Dog soap - 1/2 apple cider vinegar and 1/2 Dawn dish washing soap
7. Spray your pets fur with your 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water mixture, rub it into the coat, even
after a flea bath.
8. Fleas don't like cedar chips
9. A female flea can lay a trillion eggs in a season.
10. Fleas have 4 stages of life.
11. Fleas hatching can take two days to a few weeks, depending on your conditions.
12. Fleas like moist, warm climates the best and thrive in them.
13. The second stage, the Larvae stage usually lasts 5 - 18 days.
14. The third stage, the Pupa, is when the Larva is in it's cocoon. It can stay in it's cocoon for
3 days or more than a year. It will wait in the cocoon until the conditions are just right and
then it will come out and become an adult, the final stage. I didn't read anything that said
how long an adult lives.

Before doing anything else, I dumped about 1/2 cup of table salt on the floor and vacuumed it up so when I vacuumed up live fleas, they would die in the bag and not get back out.

Keeping those things in mind... I armed myself with a bottle of apple cider vinegar and a spray bottle of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water and sprayed everything in the bathroom with it, including the towels that were hanging up. I dumped some straight vinegar on the floor and gave it a good mopping, rinsing the mop frequently (which netted many more fleas that were now dead).

Next, I took a deep breath and entered the cat room, which is also a storage type area. First thing to go was a runner rug that I had in there. I stepped on it and several fleas appeared on my feet and lower legs.... which I sprayed with the spray bottle to kill those ones. Rolled the rug up and put it in a plastic garbage bag, gathered up the other two little rugs and did the same with them.

I sprayed vinegar on me, my socks, and pants bottoms as well as hands and arms... then went back in and started spraying other stuff so I could move them... not ONE flea on me! I even watched one large flea do a very "Hollywood death".... staggered around for a moment, appeared to rear up, then toppled over! LMAO He/She shoulda been a star!

Sprayed the cat trees and hauled them out to the garage (I'll be removing the carpet parts off the trees and replace it with clean stuff). And, then I washed down the floors with straight vinegar. I sprayed down everything that I could in that room.

I followed that same procedure in the rest of the rooms on the main floor, although, in none of the other rooms did I have fleas jumping on me. Not even where the dogs spend most of their time. But, better safe than sorry I always say.

Lastly, before I went to bed last night, I put some water and dish detergent (about 1T worth) in two white sandwich plates and placed one in the cat room and one in the bathroom. The bathroom one had nothing in it when I got up this morning, but the one in the cat room had about a dozen and the water dish had another 1/2 doz or so in it. I emptied those out and put both with water and soap back into the cat room. Before I put one of the dishes down, two fleas jumped into it!

I placed one dish over where the cat normally slep,t if he wasn't on his tree, and it now has 6 fleas in it. The other dish I put near the closet entrance, where I was attacked by fleas this morning and have since cleaned. It has two in it.

I intend to hook up one of those vessels that attaches to the hose that enables you to spray fertilizer and such on your lawn, but fill it with vinegar instead and spray my lawn, after I mow today or tomorrow. Also, going to get some cedar chips and spread around the foundation of the house, as fleas don't like cedar either. It won't kill them but it will deter them.

Incidentally, the straight vinegar tended to remove a layer or two of the wax I use on my hardwoods.

The larger carpets/rugs you can use 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water mixture in most carpet cleaners.

There is still much to do as I have 2 stories and the basement, but I feel like I might win this war with the fleas now.

I did receive several bites from the critters on my feet but they only last for a short bit. I guess all the brewer's yeast used to make the beer I drink is not tasty to them so they didn't bite long or hard. Chalk one up for the benefits of beer! LOL

One last thing you should know.... once you've had fleas on you... every time you have a piece of hair brush your face or something touch your leg... you just KNOW there is a flea there, even it there isn't... you will develop a sort of parasitophobia that hangs on for a while.

Now, I need to get on with the cleaning of the carpets and laundering of all the bedding and towels etc. I hope this information will be helpful to you.

Although the vinegar/water treatment around the house netted many, many fleas... and the white dishes with water/Dawn in the cat room netted even more... I felt that perhaps a "bomb" or "fogger" with real chemicals might be in order to really get a handle on things. So, I did that.

Feeling relatively certain that the fogger would get to places the vinegar couldn't, I threw the dogs outside, put the cats in carriers and put in my car, set off the bombs and took the cats to the vet. While the vet was looking Psycho over and we discussed his flea issue, I told him that I was bombing the house as we speak. He was not impressed. He is not a proponent of "bombing" because they don't get to the areas where fleas tend to live, like behind the baseboards.

He said that studies have proven time and again that foggers and all the others only reach that which it settles on. Hence, it likely was doing very little good for the problem. Sigh.

When I got home, I aired the house out as instructed, vacuumed the pet areas and used Lysol liquid to clean off surfaces that the pets might get on. Since it was already getting hot out, I had set the fans going to vent out the window upstairs and etc etc so I could get the "kids" in as quickly as possible.

I decided to put the white plates down again in the cat room.... just to prove the vet wrong. As I left the room to get the plates... I looked down at my feet to discover about 1/2 a dozen fleas on my feet. Sigh. The vet was right!! The fogger did very little more than the vinegar, yet it has caused me much more work around my house to have to wash everything AGAIN, wash down everything AGAIN, washing all the plush dog toys, and on and on.

He said, and I now totally believe, that the only way to stop the flea cycle is to Frontline (Advantage, Revolution, or other flea killer protection) your pets faithfully every month so they don't keep bringing them in. Vacuum frequently, especially if you know you have a problem existing. I will continue with the vinegar/Dawn bathing of the dogs, vinegar/water washing of floors and rugs, and spraying vinegar/water on things like my stuffed animals (after I wash them all in the washer).

So much to do... so little me. I wish I were twins!

After I wrote the original article, about ridding the home of fleas, I learned that if the problem is big enough... vinegar ain't gonna fix it! Borax (Boric acid) is also a popular "green" item to rid your carpet of fleas, but again, I didn't read where it would actually kill the eggs or pupua.

Vinegar treatment will fix an immediate issue and make them drop dead off your legs and arms if you spray them, but it is not a long term solution if you have a major infestation. For 3 weeks after my initial vinegar washing of the floor and spraying of virtually everything in that one room (the "cat room"), I set out white plates on the floor with water and a small squirt of Dawn dish washing liquid in them. The plates continued to capture and drowned fleas to the tune of about 3 dozen per day - EVERY day!

I bought some foggers and fogged the whole house. That didn't do a damn thing. I walked in the room right after that (after waiting the time you're supposed to wait) and lo and behold... my legs were assaulted by about a dozen fleas. So, sprayed them off and set out new white plates of water. Again, captured and drowned about 3 dozen fleas per day.

Bought a set of fumigator foggers.. set of TWO in that small room a couple days ago... just walked in there to see how that worked.... walked out with four fleas on my legs and 3 on my shirt. Only difference is these are smaller fleas than before. Sigh. I cleaned out all the fleas from the white plates, filled them with more water and Dawn and have set them down on the floor to see what happens.

Next step will be a professional exterminator to come in and deal with that room because, frankly, I'm sick of it. I think some major chemicals are going to be required to kill off the rest of them. I was so disappointed to find fleas on me. In the other room where fleas would jump on me, the vinegar washes and spraying eventually seemed to end the problem there, but the problem was not as prolific as it is in the Cat Room.

Now I must go shower and make sure I have no more fleas because every time my hair touches my skin, I think one is crawling on me.

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