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Do Home Remedies for Fleas on Cats Work?

Do home remedies for fleas on cats kill fleas?

Some home remedies kill fleas (e.g. citrus, thyme, and myrtle essential oils) but are toxic to use around cats with unclear safety tolerance levels.

Other home remedies like apple cider vinegar don’t kill fleas.

I recommend talking with a vet about alternative flea treatments.

In this article, I’ll go into detail about whether home remedies for fleas on cats work.

I’ll talk more about what cat fleas are, signs your cat has a flea problem and whether different home remedies help kill fleas.

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s get into the article.

1. What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites. 

There are many different types of flea that are unique to different types of animals.

The fleas will feed on your pet’s blood, consuming 15x its body weight in blood per day.

Female adults will lay 40-50 eggs per day on your cat.

The eggs hatch into small worms and then enter a cocoon state for 1-4 weeks before hatching

A female adult lays over 2,000 eggs in her lifetime.

Eggs transfer to surfaces your cat will come into contact with.

2. What Are The Signs Your Cat Has A Flea Problem?

There are many common symptoms of flea infestation.  They include:

  • Bald patches
  • Excessive scratching
  • Red spots
  • Tiny dark specks (flea waste) on the fur
  • Unexplained insect bites around your ankles

A flea comb is useful for finding out whether your cat has a flea problem.

Use a fine cat comb to groom your cat and inspect fleas. 

Examine the leftover specks (if any) under running water.  If any of the specks turn red, it is due to the blood remnants of flea waste.

This indicates a flea problem.

3. Why Are Fleas Bad Your Cat?

Fleas can serve as hosts for many serious diseases and problems including:

  • Tapeworms
  • Cat scratch fever
  • Allergies and mouth sores (from grooming)

Whilst not as serious, fleas also interfere with your quality of life.

You might have an infestation in your bed for example, that keeps you up at night

Cats with flea infestation experience pruritis, which means excessive desire to scratch.  This can lead to hair loss, scaly skin, and wounds.

For all these reasons, treating a flea infestation is a good idea.

However, the question is whether to go down the home remedies route or use an over-the-counter product.

Let’s get into that.

4. What Is The Best Way To Treat Cat Fleas?

The best way to kill fleas is through vacuuming thoroughly.

A clean house makes it hard for fleas to survive as they thrive in the dust and uncleaned areas.

Using a vacuum has a high success rate in destroying the flea population.

Here are the main steps to keep your house clean and flea-free.

4.1. Vacuuming

Vacuuming kills 96% of adult fleas and 100% of younger fleas.

The mechanical aspect of vacuuming destroys the outer cuticle layer of fleas, dehydrating them. 

This also process also helps destroy eggs and pupae.

Whilst the fleas are most likely dead, it is a good idea to dispose of the vacuum bag routinely after use.

Make sure to vacuum all parts of the furniture (e.g. under the couch pads) to get the most out of this method.

Steam clean your carpet to remove residual eggs.

Vacuuming is one of the home remedies for fleas on cats believe it or not

4.2. Dusting

Want to get rid of fleas?

Get rid of the dust.

Fleas live among dusty areas, and around organic food matter

Make sure to thoroughly dust your house as well.

A microfiber cloth is a good way to keep dust at bay, as well as a dehumidifier.

4.3. Washing Machine

Putting your cat bedding in the washing machine helps kill fleas.

Use a warmer setting and place the bedding to dry in direct sunlight.

Do this once a week to give fleas no chance of survival.

Remember to use a flea comb on your cat to help remove eggs.

These methods put the brakes on flea populations, but what about using home remedies to turbocharge your flea destruction efforts?

5. Do Home Remedies For Fleas On Cats Work?

No, most home remedies for fleas on cats do not work.

In fact, many things such as essential oils are toxic to cats.

The majority of fleas exist in the egg life phase.

Whilst vacuuming, dusting, and machine washing pet bedding all work well for destroying adult fleas, the eggs may remain. 

Can some things lying around the house strengthen your anti-flea campaign?

Let’s think about one thing first: The appeal to nature fallacy.

5.1. Why Is The Appeal To Nature Fallacy Is Dangerous?

The appeal to nature fallacy is where people believe that something is healthful because it exists in nature.

Anything man-made is bad, whilst anything made by nature is good.

Whilst there’s some truth to this in many areas of health, natural doesn’t always mean healthful or effective for fleas.

What matters most is the scientific evidence.

Is the treatment tested on cat fleas?

Is the treatment proven safe for cats?

Many treatments on the internet do not answer these questions.

The truth is many things can be a health hazard to your cat including essential oils and a long list of common foods.

Let’s take a look at some home remedies suggested online.

5.2. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a popular nutrition supplement.

One part of apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, which is a known antiseptic.

Whilst this is great for cleaning, apple cider vinegar has no effect on killing fleas. 

You’ll only make your cat smell like vinegar.

Incidentally, the blood of ruminant animals is high in acetic acid, and this has no effect on parasitic organisms.

5.3. Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits are a popular multi-purpose cleaning product.

These fruits, which include oranges and lemons are also popular home remedies for cats.

Diluted citrus used in a spray bottle is the main application of this remedy.

The leaves, peels, fruit, and seeds contain citric acid and essential oils.

Unfortunately, an excessive intake of citrus fruits can lead to your cat having a stomach upset and a depressed nervous system. A small amount of citrus may be safe.

Do citrus fruits kill fleas?

As it turns out, citrus does kill fleas.

Citrus contains the chemical D-Limonene and is toxic to all life stages of the flea, especially eggs.

However, the use of citrus directly on cats is unknown. 

This is great news, but it’s not known how much citrus is too much.

If you want to use citrus fruits, make sure to dilute the citrus with water and pay attention to any averse symptoms in your cat.

5.4. Essential Oils

Essential oils are another popular natural treatment that many people use with a diffuser around their home.

The problem with essential oils is there are a lot of different types (at least 200) and each has its own risks when using around the cat. 

Cats are more sensitive to the toxicity of essential oils due to a lack of liver enzymes.

The essential oils of thyme, myrtle, and yarrow are effective against all types of fleas.

Unfortunately, they are also effective at being directly toxic to your cat.

At this point, there are no scientifically proven treatments using essential oils.

It is best to be cautious around using these products on your cat.

If you want to learn more about essential oils for your cat, check out my article here.

5.5. Garlic

Garlic is toxic towards cats at a dose of 5g/kg.

For example, if a 5kg cat eats 25g of garlic it will lead to signs of toxicity such as anemia.

Garlic is well known to contain a variety of anti-microbial properties.

All plants of the allium family (e.g. garlic and onions) contain organosulphurated compounds.

The metabolization of these foods leads to an increase in oxidative species that damage red blood cells.

Cooking does not reduce the toxicity of these plants.

Cats have a high amount of sulfhydryl groups on the hemoglobin of red blood cells.

They are 2-3 times prone to oxidative damage, which can cause hemolysis. This can lead to anemia.

The bottom line is garlic is not safe for use with cats.

5.6. Salt

Salt doesn’t kill fleas and may give your cat digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhea if eaten.

It seems like a simple enough idea to grab a salt shaker and start salting the cat.

In terms of the environment, the solution is to clean the environment with vacuuming and dusting.

There is no scientific evidence to support salting the carpet or cat.

If cats happen to lick excess salt off their coat or the carpet it can lead to health complications.

An excess of salt intake leads to problems such as:

  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures
  • Death (exteme cases)

5.7. Yeast

Yeast is dangerous for cats and does not kill fleas.

A 2009 study tested yeast over 7 weeks in 20 cat flea infested dogs.

Split into three groups, the dogs got active, inactive yeast, or no treatment (control).

Dogs ate 14g/day yeast daily and the yeast did not significantly reduce flea populations compared to the control group.

Yeast is also dangerous in cats.  Yeast ferments in the gastrointestinal system to ethanol (i.e. alcohol) and can lead to toxicity.

It’s a no for yeast.


Conclusion: Do Home Remedies For Fleas On Cats Work?

In this article I looked at the question ‘Do home remedies for fleas on cats work?’

Some home remedies kill fleas (e.g. citrus, thyme, and myrtle essential oils) but are toxic to use around cats with unclear safety tolerance levels.

Other home remedies like apple cider vinegar and salt don’t kill fleas.

Unfortunately, in the health and wellness industry, there are many claims about a lot of things that have little to no scientific basis for their use.

In the case of treating cat fleas, most home remedies don’t pass the test.

Fleas are a problem for cats because they can lead to a variety of health complications. 

Cleaning is the best strategy for getting rid of fleas.

Some home remedies have the potential to kill fleas (e.g. citrus, rosemary, thyme oil) however they are also toxic to cats.  Other remedies are simply ineffective (e.g. salt) and have no benefit.

Read my related guide on controlling fleas over here to learn more about cat fleas.

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