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Long story short...we came home after 5 days away with our 1.5 year old and noticed that the wherever the cat slept or lounged there was cat hair and little particles that looked like black pepper.

A quick internet search pointed to fleas. My wife bought a flea collar for the kitty (~$50 for a time release collar good for 8 months...that hurt the wallet) and a flea comb.

She proceeded to comb 40-50 fleas off of kitty. (Awhile ago I noticed spots on kitty's neck that were scabbed over. I should have guessed that it was probably from scratching.)

I also saw a flea on the carpet and then it sprang away.

My question is, what is the cheapest, safest and most efficient way to get rid of these suckers. Is there a permanent solution? I have a 1.5 year old so I'm concerned with using chemicals.

13 Answers 13

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When I lived in an apartment, we had a problem with fleas once (due to a neglectful pet owner in the building). Getting rid of the problem was no small feat, and took a lot of work over a few days.

I started by laundering all bedding, clothing, and basically anything fabric that was washable. Next I rented a steam cleaner, to clean the carpets. You can call in the pros for this if you don't want to do it yourself. The final step was to spray the entire carpet; paying special attention to the edges and corners, with Adams™ Flea & Tick Home Spray. Other brands exist, this was just the one I chose which worked for me.

When using any chemical spray, make sure you have adequate ventilation. Try to avoid skin contact with chemical sprays as well. My wife had a bad reaction to the spray, where her feet swelled up quite a bit.

If you're in an apartment building; where the source of the infestation could be coming from other tenants, you'll also have to treat the other units. If you don't remove the infestation from the entire building, you'll likely see the fleas return to your apartment. Any outdoor pets in the building should also be treated, not only to combat the flea infestation but also for the health of the animal.

  • That home spray doesn't sound good around my one and half year old. – milesmeow Apr 9 '13 at 6:18
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    It may not be dangerous to use around your child, though I would not apply it in their direct vicinity. I had no reaction to the chemical, and my wife only had a problem until the carpet was dry. If you're going to use chemicals, maybe send the wife and child to visit grandma and grandpa for the afternoon. It might also be a good idea to check with your pediatrician before using chemicals in your home. – Tester101 Apr 9 '13 at 10:49
  • Unfortunately fleas are hardy and most "hacks" or "non-invasive" methods are much less successful. At some point you have to consider is the infestation and chance introduction of infection carried by the critters better or worse than the chemicals used to get rid of them. – BrownRedHawk Jul 31 '15 at 15:05
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Due to the fact that you have an infant I would seek professional assistance. You don't have the choices of chemicals that trained and licensed pest professionals do. I can't testify to their effectiveness but I have heard that you can trap fleas with a desk lamp. You place the lamp on the floor with the arm extended and pointed about 6 inches off the floor. Place a pie pan on the floor under the lamp so the lamp shines on it. Pour an inch of water in the pan. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the water. The theory is that the fleas are attracted to the light, hop in the pan and are trapped in the liquid. Another tip I have done is to take the extra piece of flea collar and put it in the vacuum cleaner bag. We have a HEPA filter so the chemicals are contained in the bag. The idea is that any fleas vacuumed up are killed in the bag preventing their release when the bag is changed.

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Understanding the flea life cycle is important (e.g., http://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/evr_multi_understanding_the_flea_life_cycle) because different treatments work on the different flea stages. Different approaches work for different stages. For example, "Cocoons have a sticky outer coating that allows them to hide deep in the carpeting and not be easily removed by light vacuuming or sweeping. The cocoon also serves to protect the developing adults from chemicals." That means you must repeat the various treatments, so you catch the little buggers when they move through their life cycle.

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To solve a flea problem, you will need to tackle it from all sides. You will need to address the fleas on your pet, as well as kill the adult fleas, eggs, and larvae from your entire apartment. Some of these suggestions also already appear in other answers.

The first step is to treat your pet. Bathe them with flea and tick killing shampoo. Then comb them thoroughly to remove as many fleas and eggs as possible. Apply flea medicine to them or put on a flea collar. This will help prevent your pet from being eaten alive. You may need to try different types of medications if the one you are using does not work. The fleas will then generally leave them alone.

Fleas will also target humans, so be sure to clean all linens, clothing and bedding if possible. Hot water works best to kill off the eggs and larvae which may be there. You should also vacuum every carpet, and be sure to clean every crevice thoroughly. The furniture should also be vacuumed. Be sure to pull up the cushions and vacuum. It is also a good idea to pull out the furniture and clean behind and underneath. Once you are done vacuuming, put the bag into a plastic garbage bag and immediately dispose of it. You can also spray flea killer directly into the bag so they don't escape. After everything has been cleaned and vacuumed, then move on to steam cleaning. Make sure to use hot water when cleaning. The hot water is more likely to kill the eggs.

Those steps will get rid of around 90% of the fleas. The remaining ones will be much harder to deal with. Their lifecycles are extremely fast. It only takes about 3 days for a flea to reach maturity and start breeding. When I dealt with them in my old apartment, the only thing that was able to completely get rid of them was a flea trap. A flea trap uses a small night light light bulb, and has a piece of sticky paper underneath it. The fleas will jump towards the light, and then fall through a plastic grate onto the paper and get stuck there. Put the trap in an area where you have noticed flea activity, and you will see that the paper will be completely covered with hundreds of fleas within a few days. Replace the paper when necessary, and your flea problem will eventually be solved. When you get your trap, make sure to get some extra refills. They get used up pretty quickly. Also keep track of how many fleas are being captured. At first, there should be quite a few every day. That number should decline over the span of a few days. If it doesn't then there is still a serious problem, and you should repeat the steps above to reduce their population. Eventually there shouldn't be any more fleas in the trap. Once you think they are all gone, put in a fresh refill and leave it on for at least a week to see if you get any more. There will be a few stragglers around for quite some time, and if they are not all exterminated, then they will be able to repopulate. You can also try having multiple traps around, or at least try moving it around to see if you find more.

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We had this same issue in our last apartment. We gave both cats a bath with the blue dawn dish soap. This kills fleas almost instantly. Be generous with the suds too. While we were bashing the cats, we had a flea powder on the carpets. After the bath, before letting the girls out of the bathroom, we vacuumed everywhere. Once you do this, you'll be good until your pretty is exposed again. For aftercare, yo can get some Avon Skin So Soft oil. Mix it equal parts with water making it completely safe for your pet's fur and skin, and won't leave them too oily. My grandma has been selling Avon for over 40 years, so I literally grew up using it on every pretty I've ever owned. If you want to see how bad the flea infestation is before you treat, just set out a few small plates that are derp enough to hold a little water, not deep at all. Then add a drop of the blue dawn dish soap. The fleas will jump in the water, and the soap will kill them. No need to mix the soap in. Just a drop in, and you're set. The first time I did this, we had a TON of fleas, and I'm just a few days time too. As soon as I put down the first plate, a flea jumped in and died while I was watching. So so nasty.

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    I certainly hope you were "bathing" your cats, and not "bashing" them. o.O – Doresoom Jul 31 '15 at 14:06
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I recommend the following for your flea problem. Vacuum the afflicted room(s). Toss the vacuum bag once your done with it. Next, take a carpet steamer to the recently vacuumed areas to kill off the remaining eggs and adult fleas. For further protection from fleas, you may purchase some carpet powder.

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    You have already been warned about posting answers that are little more than spam. I've removed the link from this answer as it's not necessary. – ChrisF Apr 10 '13 at 20:39
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The solution I used: There are treatments which specifically target insect eggs. Two treatments of this, a few days apart according to the instructions to make sure any eggs laid after the first treatment also die, cleared most of the apartment. The cat got the flea-shampoo treatment combined with thorough combing with a nit comb; any fleas that this extracted were dropped into water with dish detergent. (The detergent cuts surface tension so they sink.) Finally, she got a flea collar, so any remaining fleas that latched onto her would be killed off -- basically I let her do the mop-up pass. May or may not have been overkill but it worked.

For what it's worth, not one of those fleas ever bit me, as far as I could tell.

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I can't confirm it's effectiveness, but I've heard of people using baking soda to get rid of fleas in carpets. It does have a nice side-effect in that's it's also a deodorant. Maybe steam clean first, then put down baking soda (along the lines of @Tester101's answer, but minus the potentially harmful chemicals)?

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As part of your "acute" treatment (along the lines that the other answerers have suggested), make sure you thoroughly wash your clothes and bedding in very hot water.

In addition to the "acute" and "follow-up" treatment that the other answerers have suggested, you can sprinkle Borax on all of the carpeted surfaces. (Borax is a cheaper version of the non-toxic flea powders.) Make sure that the areas where the cat sleeps or lounges are covered especially well. Re-apply the Borax after each time you vacuum. This will tend to prevent recurrences, at the expense of making the air very dry.

  • Borax is definitely not non-toxic when applied the way you describe. Borax is not acutely toxic which means that contact with small amounts of it for a small amount of time is probably fine. You should not apply it and leave it there 24/7. When people recommend borax, they typically prescribe applying it, letting it sit for a few hours and then vacuuming it up. – Zach Mierzejewski Jul 28 '16 at 14:48
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Fleas eggs hatch upon vibration. When you walk on the carpet the vibration causes eggs to hatch. It's a 3 day cycle I believe. You have to vacuum consistently over several days. All the above mentioned will work but again the 3 day cycle is necessary. Good luck.

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Forget the cheapest route. When it comes to fleas you need a professional exterminator. There are some good ones that won't cost you $500 to come out twice. Some charge only one time and gaureentee their work for two months. I'm speaking from experience they will have to go out and fumigate 2 or 3 times. You know it will work when they ask you and your pet to stay out for five hours because of the smell. Don't hire the person that says their formula doesn't smell. Again from experience it will not work.

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One more important thing. Make sure to remove your pet while you treat your home and treat your pet with a flea treatment that are drops not a collar. A collar can cause your pet to get sick. Imagine wearing garlic around your neck . These drops are safe and can be applied behind their head. Must be purchased by the vet. Over the counter cheaper brands will do nothing. However , Abvantage brand works well and you can order online. I cannot stress enough do not go for the knock off brands. Much luck sent your way and my way too.

  • Could you edit this into your existing answer? – ThreePhaseEel Feb 9 '17 at 3:35
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It takes some persistence and diligence to get rid of flea infestation in the home. Many Flea & Tick chemicals,collars have active ingredients which are toxic and some are even link to poor neurological development in young children, with evidence of being carcinogens along with many detrimental health impacts. During a flea infestation problem, start by treating the cat, you can use natural flea and tick spray. Studies have even shown some natural essential oils to be more effective than even DEET based flea products. The safe natural flea and tick sprays which are okay for cats contain cedar oil,lemongrass and hydrated silica.You can try the Midoricide Natural flea and Tick brand. https://www.midoricide.com/collections/natural-flea-tick-repellent

Start by spraying all fabrics that can be washed including beddings, clothing, blankets with natural flea and tick spray. It's food-grade ingredients,safe around children and pets. Next wash all fabrics that has been sprayed. Now for the carpet, sprinkle foodgrade diatomaceous earth around the carpet and vacuum the carpet. Lastly spray the natural flea and tick spray on the carpet while ensuring proper ventilation. Ensure children and pets are out of the "quarantined" area during the flea elimination process. For the cat's general skin care, using the dry shampoo mousse and the cat neem spray definitely will help to keep the fleas away while maintaining the cat's skin and coat.

protected by Community May 1 '17 at 1:25

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