Posted by Theresa
(Mpls., Mn) on 07/18/2016
20 years ago I had many cats who went in and out - and in the fall fleas jumped on my many cats and hitched a ride indoors to wait out the winter - not fun! And since my cats lived everywhere in the house, everywhere needed to be treated - this is what I did.
I used food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) - it is light and cheap and 10 pounds will last you decades. I started with my bed room - I stripped the bed, and dusted the room wearing a face mask. I worked - pounded - the DE into the crevices of the mattress, under the mattress, into the floor boards, against the wall where the wooden molding edges the floor - everywhere; the room was one billowing cloud of dust when I left and closed the door. I let it sit for 25 hours, and in the mean time I used another bedroom. Once I had established a 'ground zero' I stood the mattress up and gently beat off the excess DE and again the room was a dust bowl. I gave it a few hours and let the dust settle and then gently swept up the excess, leaving plenty behind in the cracks and crevices in both the mattress and the floor boards. The floor was still very dusty - you could feel it on your feet if you walked bear foot. I then laundered the bedding and dried it thoroughly and back on the bed; no cats were allowed to sleep on the bed during this process, as to avoid re-infesting the room. I then did the second room and created another 'ground zero' space. Into this now cleared room went freshly flea bathed cats with sanitized liter boxes and all fresh laundered kitty bedding. The cats were not allowed to leave this room until treatment was completed. Then room by room I did the same - I dusted the couch cushions and put them into large plastic bags, dust and all, and let them sit for 24-48 hours. I had to put a bag over the electronics to avoid getting DE dust in them as it is very hard on moving parts. I left the DE sit for 24-48 hours, and in the mean time washed every piece of bedding, every rug, anything the cats could encounter. I had carpeting in one room and I sprinkled the DE on and worked it deep into the carpet fibers with a broom. Again, wear a face mask as you will be working in a billowing cloud of dust that will irritate your sinuses and mucous membranes. After the wait time/working time was up I gently swept and brushed off the carpet, taking care to leave plenty behind deep in the carpet fibers and in all floor cracks and crevices; for under the couch I didn't even bother to vacuum, I just left it down - in fact anyplace that I could not see, or had to lift up furniture to get under, I just left the DE down. Doing all laundry at the same time is crucial, so I bagged up items until I could process them. A proper flea bath is crucial to the process as well. I used dish soap, starting with the cat in a dry bath tub [clip claws before you start] and started with soapy water and a wash cloth at the nose and worked from the nose outward; once I had the head and behind the ears saturated with the soapy water I then went on to the next cat. When all of the cats' heads were treated I filled the tub and did the bodies, again in the dish soapy water. I then drained the tub and used clear water with a cup of white vinegar to remove all traces of the dish soap and to balance the PH of the skin to avoid drying. You could see the fleas as black specks as the water drained. I followed up by blow drying the cats and flea coming. It was work, I was persistent, and the cats hated it, but I got them clean and clear and into the holding room they went while the rest of the house was treated. I want to say it took me 4 days to get the house treated and before I could release the cats. The basement and attic were not used by the cats so they were not treated. I did not have to treat the house again ever - and 10 years later I still found DE in the floor cracks. I made a point to stop letting the cats out in the late summer and fall until the first frost. I also dusted the cats with DE by putting them in a sack with DE - the head was out but it was snug at the neck so the cat was dusting ala 'shake-n-bake' style. By not letting them out during prime flea-hitch-a-ride-inside time, and by dusting the cats in the fall, plus the initial house debugging, I never had a problem again. I have since moved to a more rural location and have only 2 cats, and experienced fleas in my first year at the new house. I learned about the lamp flea traps and deployed 4-5 of them with great success: I firmly believe the lamp trap is easier to use, far less labor intensive, and just as effective as dosing the entire house in DE - or any other sprinkled substance. Now if I see my cat twitching the hair on her back as if she has the heebie jeebies, I dust the cat ala shake-n-bake style, and turn on the lamp traps.