Dealing with your pet's pests can be a royal pain in more ways than one. Here is my attempt to put an end to this misery & mystery as I go over ways to treat and prevent fleas, gnats, and also how to bathe a fussy cat.
This summer has been the worst to say the least, in more ways than one. Top of my list is dealing with a plague of pests. Were fleas and gnats worse everywhere this year or just at my house? It certainly seems that way. What's worse it I got a late start in diagnosing the problem. I'm kicking myself now because I should've picked up on it. After all, we (Buster (my cat) and I) went through it last year, just now quite so bad though.
It all started with some bad decisions on my part. Fleas are year-round pests so; I treat Buster all year for these little buggers. Luckily, I don't have any carpet in my home with the exception of the staircase, so preventing them is fairly easy. It just means I need to keep Buster treated and furniture covers & bedding extra clean. Right? One would assume that's the idea.
"Sometimes it just isn't enough"
As I look back, it all started in April. That was when Buster's topical flea & tick meds were due for a re-application. I prefer topical treatments in lieu of a collar find out why here https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/trial-error . I will never use another flea/tick collar. Anyway, I always use Frontline Plus topical flea & tick treatment for large cats. Buster is a big baby boy. *As always, I do not receive any compensation for the products I mention. I am only sharing what works for me. Problem is, instead of ordering the Frontline Plus from Amazon, as I usually do, as a matter of convenience, I picked up an off-brand at my local grocery store. I find ordering it a lot easier because the stores I visit most often either don't carry Frontline or they are sold out. It's just easier to order. I got behind schedule though, Buster was already over-due, and I decided to grab the off-brand and go with it. Big mistake, and one I didn't pick-up on until it was late in the game.
Thinking Buster was 'protected' by using this off-brand flea medication, we were using it on through June. By the time July hit, I became increasingly concerned with Buster's behavior. He clearly was not acting himself; something was terribly wrong.
Tell Tale Signs - If your cat exhibits the following, it usually means a trip to the vet is in order.
lying around more than usual
lethargic, no interest in playful activities
hiding or in areas he/she doesn't normally frequent
excessive scratching and/or digging
changes in coat/fur appearance
Buster was exhibiting the above symptoms and behaviors, except for loss of appetite. It was a good sign to me that he was always ready and willing to be fed. In fact, his appetite had even increased. Also, even with his increased lethargy, he always acknowledged when I entered the room. He would become alert, which was a very encouraging sign. After examining him for any wounds, abscesses, or ticks. I had pretty much decided fleas are the culprit. Fleas when not managed properly can cause your pet to suffer from worm parasites if they happen to ingest an infected flea during grooming, or they can also become anemic. Time for a major grooming.
If you aren't used to grooming or you have a nervous or anxious kitty, you can find some useful tips here https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/gettin-groomed This ordeal could have been prevented if I had been using my metal toothed comb regularly. Thinking falsely that he was protected with that alternative flea treatment, it was completely off my radar and I had just been using the brush. Time to grab the comb. The comb is extremely useful as it easily removes the small burs and tiny things down deep in the fur, including fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt is the blood and feces build-up from a flea infestation. It's also something I am allergic to.
"Make yourself comfortable"
I sat Buster on my lap facing away from me and pet him for a few minutes to calm his nerves and put him at ease. Whenever I use the comb, I keep a large ashtray nearby and also one of those long lighters used to light candles and outdoor grills. The idea is, if I should find a flea, I'll need a way to kill it. They have a habit of jumping around and they are so small, squishing them while keeping your cat calm, is challenging. So, I choose to light them on fire. It is exciting and extremely effective. *Keep fire starting devices out of reach of children and only start fires in completely controlled settings.
I started combing around the head and worked my way to the tail. Sure enough, as soon as I started, there they were. The poor dear had a slew of fleas and flea dirt. Bless his heart, my goodness. No wonder he was feeling miserable. I got out all that I could find. The great thing about using an ashtray is, as long as there is pet fur in there, they usually stay put until I light them up. It's a very quick and easy way to dispose of them permanently. It's least disturbing for Buster too, as I am not fidgeting around trying to kill them. He becomes suspicious if I move around too much while he is sitting with me, he finds it rude and is inclined to leave my lap. I guess he feels the energy has become too hostile and he refuses to tolerate such disrespect. Once the grooming is complete, I give him a few treats then immediately go and wash my hands and change my clothes.
He's gonna need a bath
I went online and ordered some Frontline Plus but more was going to need to be done to get this situation under control. He was also going to need a bath. Problem is, Buster has never had a bath and he is quite big and old. Contrary to popular belief, cats love a good bath. They just like to set the rules. The key is to start them off early in life and make sure all four feet are planted firm. They don't like to feel disoriented. The kitchen sink also works best or an outdoor tub with a water hose with no loud sprayer. A sink works better than a bathtub for that reason, the faucet is quieter and there is less room for them to escape. They will be easier to manage in that smaller area. Buster is huge though, and he's never been bathed. So..... What to do, what to do....
After doing some extensive research (on both), I decided on an oral medication and a waterless cat shampoo solution. I headed to Target.
This waterless shampoo is awesome, is completely natural with no chemicals and no odor. Cats don't like to smell 'funny' and anything with strong chemicals and odor is sure to trigger my allergies and asthma. It seemed like a no-brainer, let's give it a try.
First Things First
My thought was to CapAction in combination with the topical treatment. Neither one has an effect on the other and they both are safe for your cat. Just follow the instructions on the box. I put a pill (1 dose) in his food and made sure he ate it, he didn't of course. So, I positioned him away from me so he couldn't back up, took the pill and put it in his mouth. He swallowed it, then I waited. After about 30 minutes, I actually saw dead fleas fall to the floor, no kidding. This happened. Very cool! I wrapped my hand in tape and it picked them up easily for disposal. The CapAction kills all the live fleas almost instantly but it doesn't do a thing for any larvae or flea eggs your cat may have. This is why, a topical treatment is still needed. It's a great combo. Especially because, just using a topical treatment, and Buster being so big, the fleas tend to be hiding more around and on his tail area.
After about an hour or so, I put him on my lap for a good grooming and his waterless bath. Incidentally, this Burt's Bees stuff doesn't interfere with a topical flea medication either. At first, I thought the sound of the spray bottle would freak him out but surprisingly, it didn't. In fact, he didn't seem to mind the whole process at all. He actually LOVED it! He gave a few half-hearted growls at first but once I started to massage it into his skin and comb it out, he went to sleep. He pretty much slept through the whole thing.
He absolutely loved it and felt and looked ten years younger. It was a good time to do it too, not only because of the fleas but because he was also in the process of shedding and this got rid of all that loose hair. Meaning, less fur balls to cough up. I have to admit, it was relaxing for me too.
Fleas are such a pain. No doubt, a good rub down was such a relief. He felt better and if he had any hidden skin irritations, this had to have offered some relief. His fur is so shiny and soft. Perfect for long naps and cuddles.
We've been dealing with gnats too, I don't believe they are bothering Buster so much as me, being allergic to them too. I remedied this with placing a couple of 'traps' around. Take a cup and add some apple cider vinegar and some Dawn dish soap. The ASV draws them in and the Dawn keeps them from flying away. Cover the cup with plastic wrap and poke some holes in the top.
We are ready for fall time! Buster is feeling good and I am starting to feel better. I hope you find this information useful. I certainly learned my lesson, pay attention, groom often, and stick to what I know. Also, just because a cat is old and cranky, he can still learn new tricks.
Take care and have a blessed day. Thanks for reading!