Cat Flea Bath Tips

Earlier this week I shared a video on cat flea treatment by bathing your cat but there are a few other tips I thought might be useful.

One of the common mistakes people make is to think that their pet needs a bath every day or every week. This is not true and be irritating and drying.

Cats will self-groom, and many will bath each other, but older cats and kittens cannot often deal with flea infestations. If there is a flea infestation you might bath once a week for two weeks or so but normally felines don’t need to be bathed every week.

Once you have the flea infestation under control you can bath your cat once a month or so if you want. Many grooming salons also offer cat services. Ideally use one that specializes in felines since too many barking or whining dogs might stress your critter out.

If you are not taking your cat to a specialist, take the time to trim your pet’s claws first since cat nail trimming helps reduce scratches during the bath.

Cat Flea Bath Tips:

  • Use the bathtub but I prefer the kitchen sink for ease of handling the cat.
  • Provide a grip mat so the animal doesn’t slip and has something for footing–unless your cat is more cooperative without leverage!
  • Use a spray nozzle to help you (plus they dislodge fleas).
  • Collect all your bathing tools and place them within arms reach (shampoo, towels, bath mat, brush, comb, crate).
  • Warm the room so your feline stays warm. This is especially important when bathing kittens or senior cats.
  • Test the water to make sure it is warm and not too hot or cold for your feline.
  • Wear an apron, and if you think your cat is going to protest, heavier garments.
  • Suds quickly and be careful to keep suds out of the pets eyes and ears.
  • Massage for 10-15 minutes and use the nozzle to dislodge fleas when you rinse.
  • Rinse completely.
  • Towel dry and keep the cat in a warm room immediately after the bath.

Remember, a flea treatment bath is only part of the process. To eliminate fleas you must treat the home, yard, and animal at the same time using the triangle of successful flea contol and the strategies outlined in Flea Control Secrets.

Boric Acid Flea Treatment (Video)

Mark Govan discusses how to use Boric Acid for flea treatment in the home but does not discuss the dangers to pets as I mentioned in the first post in this series.

Again, less toxic options are always better choices than chemical flea treatments but use caution and research your options prior to using any product because natural does not always mean non-toxic!

Try diatomaceous earth instead.

Borax Flea Treatment (Video)

In this pest control video Mark Govan discusses how to use Borax in the home but fails to discuss pet dangers which I wrote about in the first post in this series.

Obviously, borax powder can be used for flea control and is a better alternative than some chemicals. BUT I think diatomaceous earth is safer. Once you put the borax powder down, it must be vacuumed up after a few days.

Borax IS a desiccant (drying agent) and if pet’s ingest it through licking their paws or floor it could present problems as I discussed in the first post in this series.

Are boron products (borax, boric acid) safe for flea treatment?

Borate, Boric Acid, and Boron cause confusion. Borax (Na2B4O7-10H2O) and Boric Acid (H3BO3) are made from the natural occurring element, Boron.

Although the home flea remedy use of 20 Mule Team Borax and Boric Acid are often found around the internet, it does not mean that these products are non-toxic to pets.

As I’ve said before, natural does not mean non-toxic and I found a good description of the differences in the terms used for pesticide toxicities (such organic and natural) which is worth checking out.

Perhaps Americans continue to recommend boron products since most of the world’s borates come from the United States.

In 1872 FM Smith discovered borates in the Nevada desert and it wasn’t long (1883) before the 20 mule teams began hauling those minerals out of Death Valley and surrounding areas.

Borax is abrasive and so can damage or fade surfaces but it is important to note that although borates are considered to be low toxicity, it does not mean they are not toxic.

The danger to pets is that borates can become concentrated in the kidneys and kidney damage can result.

Dial Corporation, the manufacturer of the 20 Mule Team Borax product has stated, “This product has not been tested nor received approval from the EPA for use as a pesticide.”

Toxic dosages have not been determined for dogs and cats but the concern comes from the risk of ingestion through the cleaning of paws or fur.

A risk to pets exists if you use boron products for flea control in carpets, on flooring, or in similar applications.

Borate toxicity symptoms include:

  • drooling,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal pain,
  • diarrhea,
  • depression,
  • ataxia,
  • hyperesthesia,
  • muscle weakness,
  • tremors,
  • seizures,
  • blood in the urine,
  • decreased urine production,
  • coma,
  • and death.

Seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect that your pet has ingested the substance.

So, it is worth the trouble to use Borax or Boric Acid for flea control?

I’d use the less toxic diatomaceous earth (DE) instead but here are some other resources you might want to check out.

What about Garlic as flea treatment?

Garlic flea treatmentPeople are always asking if they can give garlic to pets to help get rid of fleas.

Once again, people give out bad advice and say, yes.

No, NO, NO!

Don’t give garlic to pets for flea treatment.

First, garlic has not been proven to help fight fleas.

Second, according to the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline–garlic is toxic to pets!

Now if you look around the Internet it is easy to find people who swear that it works.

There are also companies that add garlic to brewers yeast–but none of those anecdotes have been proven effective.

Is it worth these risks if you use garlic for flea control?

  • Vomiting,
  • breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia),
  • blood in urine,
  • weakness,
  • high heart rate,
  • and excessive panting.

I think not.

Garlic can cause gastrointestinal irritation that might result in red blood cell damage.

Cats are more sensitive while dogs need significantly more to react adversely.

The problem that concerns me is that I have not found anything about the long-term damage that can result from low doses given over time of this toxic substance.

I have to ask you, Is it worth your pet’s health?

There are those that will say that garlic has been used for eons without issue–but you can’t convince me to use a toxic compound that has not been proven to work (or to be safe) when there are other natural options out there that are not toxic to pets.

Why would you?

Garlic toxicity can also only be diagnosed over time, through clinical symptoms and with confirmation of Heinz bodies.

How many people are doing that?

So although an occasional sprinkle found in pet foods or pet treats might not cause problems, most professionals do NOT recommend giving pets garlic or food containing hefty amounts of garlic.

Try some of the other options discussed in the ebook or even Brewer’s Yeast tablets without garlic.

Also, adding apple cider vinegar to pet water or applying it as a topical spray (50% water) instead will help fight fleas on pets.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: photomequickbooth

Do fleas live in water?

One of our readers asked, “Do fleas live in water?”

Daphnia are commonly called water fleas although they are not fleas from the family Siphonaptera–which are the ones you are probably asking about.

Fleas have a waterproof waxy coating that is often called an epi-cutical layer. This waterproofing is why fleas survive and escape watery deaths.

To prevent escape people add a small drop of dish detergent to any solution place under a flea trap. The solution breaks down the protective coating and the fleas drown.

This is also why, if you use flea combs on your pet, the right way to clear them from the comb is to dump them into a light sudsy water solution.

People also will use a small amount of dish soap in a yard sprayer to help drown any fleas in the yard.

So, although fleas don’t actually live in water as their habitat, fleas can survive being dumped in water prior to their escape unless you take the precaution of adding a little suds to the water.

Dawn Dish Soap for Flea Control?

Dawn dish soap is NOT for flea control but is useful for removing oil and tar from animal fur or bird feathersDawn dish soap IS useful for removing oil from the fur and feathers of wildlife but is not recommended for use on pets for flea control.


Dish soap is harsh and does not support the skin PH of your pet. So while using any dish soap will work, why would you subject your pet to a harsher product than needed?

Using Dawn dish detergent (or any other brand of dish soap) will dry out your pet’s skin and coat.

The truth is that you can use a pet oatmeal shampoo and conditioner to kill fleas and provide relief to the itchy skin of your pet.

The advantage is that a pet oatmeal shampoo and conditioner is formulated specifically for the PH of your pet and is non-toxic. It soothes the irritation.

In fact, to use oatmeal pet shampoo for successful flea control, just suds it in and leave it on for 15 minutes.

The way it works is by breaking down the external covering of the flea which normally protects the flea from drowning. When applied and left on, the waterproof covering breaks down–and the fleas drown.

So, the big secret is that you don’t actually need to use flea shampoo either AND you also don’t need to use a harsh product (like dish soap) on your pet to achieve the same results.

One of the reasons people are confused on this issue is because Dawn has long be used on wildlife victims of oil spills. Rescuers found that Dawn was a good option to remove the substance from oiled feathers and fur.

Proctor & Gamble has actually been promoting a Dawn campaign that fund-raises for wildlife–which people have taken to mean that it is okay to use on pets.

I asked P&G about people using Dawn for flea control and the reply was, “We have not tested the Dawn product on the removal of fleas. We know many consumers use our products for different purposes. However, we have not done the technical testing to prove this is safe or effective.”

So there is the answer and just remember that most savvy pet professionals recommend a pet oatmeal shampoo and conditioner for gentle and effective pet flea control issues.