Fight Fleas and Ticks Naturally

Learn how to prevent and treat these pests without using chemicals.

By Helen Jablonski

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There are many effective flea and tick products available on the market, but what should you choose if you want to prevent and treat them naturally?

Nutrition First
Holistic veterinarians typically advise that the most important element in keeping your cat healthy is good nutrition. Donn Griffith, holistic veterinarian and director of The Ohio Center for Integrated Veterinary Medicine, suggests that nutrition plays a role in flea and tick prevention.

“The healthier your animals are, the less they are affected by fleas,” Griffith says. “So a good diet is very important.”
Diet and good health might not be enough to prevent a flea and tick infestation, but good nutrition never hurts and can strengthen your pet’s immune system, so feed your cat a high-quality food.

Keep Off!
If your cat currently is flea- and tick-free, you certainly want to keep it that way.

“The most natural method of prevention would be to keep your cat indoors and not allow other people to bring their animals into your house,” Griffith says.

“I think that fleas are a social disease, and they can usually be traced to one of your friend’s, relative’s or neighbor’s [pets].”

Griffith adds that most of his feline patients who live strictly indoors do not need any type of flea or tick treatment at all.
If your cat does have fleas, however, you need to eliminate them from your pet and your home.

“The safest, most natural form of flea control for cats is the flea comb,” says Katy Sommers, a holistic veterinarian in Ukiah, Calif. “I recommend this to all of my clients, as it is 100 percent safe and, when used on a regular basis, it can be an effective form of flea control.”

Groom your cat on a towel using a fine-toothed flea comb. “If you thoroughly comb your cat from nose to tail with a flea comb twice a day for two weeks and you do not see any fleas or ‘flea dirt’ — those black specks of flea excrement — it’s likely your cat currently isn’t experiencing a flea issue,” Sommers adds.

Some Assistance Required
Non-chemical flea and tick treatments that you apply to your pet, such as sprays, shampoos and powders, can help eliminate infestations. The active ingredients in these products have naturally occurring insecticidal properties and include pyrethrins (organic compounds derived from chrysanthemums) and plant-based oils such as clove, peppermint and rosemary. These natural products can cause allergic reactions in some animals, so always test a small amount first before using the recommended quantity. If redness, burning or itching occurs, discontinue use.

Internal preventives also are available. Given as pills or sprinkled on food in powdered form, these additives contain natural ingredients such as brewer’s yeast, garlic, vitamins and minerals, which help repel fleas and ticks by making your pet’s blood taste unappetizing to them.

Keep It Clean
Of course, to thoroughly eliminate any problem, you must address your cat’s environment. Clean every area in your home that your cat has access to, including your cat’s favorite sleeping spots, closets, basements and behind sofas.

“An adult [flea] jumps on the animal, sucks a blood meal, lays eggs, and those eggs are shaken around the house by the animal like a salt or pepper shaker,” Griffith explains.

Be diligent in cleaning so that you remove flea eggs and larvae before they hatch into adult fleas.  Wash your cat’s bedding in hot water, mop floors and vacuum carpets often. Remember to vacuum corners, crevices and along baseboards.

Non-chemical products for home treatment come as powders that are sprinkled on floors and carpets. Made from ingredients such as sodium perborate and diatomaceous earth (fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae), these natural substances kill fleas by clogging their pores and causing dehydration.

“You need to treat both the animal and simultaneously treat the environment,” Griffith stresses.

Your Cat Will Thank You
Not all non-chemical methods are without risks, and some treatments that are safe for dogs can be toxic to cats. Cats are extremely sensitive, so never use any product unless it is specifically made for them.

There are definite benefits to natural flea and tick care. You can avoid putting chemicals on your cat, which in some cases can trigger allergies and adverse reactions, and natural products are friendlier to the environment.

With guidance from your holistic veterinarian, you can keep your cat flea and tick-free naturally — and safely.

Helen Jablonski is a feline behavior consultant and a member of the Cat Writers’ Association.  She shares her life with one man and seven cats.

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Reader Comments

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

1/22/2014 6:49:31 PM

I bought a gallon of all natural flea treatment for my three cats last Summer. I ordered it from the Greenway Company. It is great for all animals and no toxic chemicals. It does have Clove Oil in it but never hurt my three cats. I rubbed it on them with a wash rag as I did not want to scare them with the spray. One year when I had just the one cat I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Brewers Yeast in her food everyday. It did not hurt her and it did work.

Katherine    Picton Canada, ON

3/28/2012 6:31:42 PM

Glad 2 find this site. Good info. Years ago, I would mix a little brewers yeast in my cats food to repel fleas & it worked fine. also I would periodically mince a garlic clove & mash it in some soft food as well for intestinal parasites. It did the job also. My 2 present cats have so far had chemical treatments for both and I wish to return to more natural remedies. But I watch Natural Companions and they said yeasts & garlic are toxic to cats!! so which is it? Should I try a little & watch 4 reaction? I was surprised by this info as I thought it was ok to use these. Please verify! Thank you!

Cat Editor    Irvine, CA

3/28/2011 11:38:11 AM

Actually, permethrin is highly toxic to cats and this chemical is the active ingredient in many insecticides formulated for dogs and humans, and should never be used on or near cats. In fact, if you treat your dog, you should keep the dog and cat separated for a few days until the treatment dries completely. These other ingredients mentioned in the article are safe in dosages appropriate for cats. Always follow label instructions. Only use products formulated for cats and check the weight requirements. These ingredients can cause allergic reactions, so test a small amount first. Ask your vet which treatment is best for your cat. Thank you for your comment!

Tiny Timmy    Portland, OR

3/27/2011 3:48:15 AM

Just to point out, pyrethins, though they are derived from chrysanthemum, are highly toxic and the basis of many over the counter flea & tick treatments. According the EPA, the majority of complaints of adverse reactions, including death, come from pyrethrins and pyrethroids. You also must be aware of the carrier in things like shampoos and sprays, which are often dangerous solvents. Also, clove, peppermint, rosemary, lavendar and citrus are all toxic to cats... Just saying...

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