If your cat is scratching and itching nonstop, you see bits of what appear to be dirt in its coat or on its bed, or worst of all, you yourself are getting bitten, then chances are good that your feline has fleas. Fleas can be a natural (and unpleasant) part of life with a cat, but they are potentially harmful to your pet and to your family with their terribly itchy bites. Fortunately, you don't automatically have to opt for strong or toxic chemicals to eliminate or discourage fleas. There are numerous natural flea repellents, including lemons, cedar, and various spices such as lavender that can help treat your cat's flea infestation.
If you’ve already had a consultation with your veterinarian regarding your feline flea problem, and received the okay to try and treat the problem naturally or to use natural flea repellents in combination with stronger commercial products, here are some at-home remedies you can try that may help get rid of your cat’s flea problem for good.
It’s a known fact that fleas hate the smell of cedar chips—and there’s a chance your cat may not be too fond of it, either. However, you can try spreading cedar chips around your cat’s bedding or outdoors in your garden. Avoid using cedar essential oil as it may be harmful to your cat if ingested.
One of the most effective natural flea killers is citric acid, which makes lemon juice a widely-recognized home remedy for treating fleas. You can spray your cat’s bedding with a solution made by boiling a cut lemon or two (let the lemons steep for a few hours) and then draining the liquid before transferring it to a spray bottle. If you’re concerned about any leftover fleas and flea eggs, add a cup of lemon juice to your laundry while washing your pet’s bedding to help exterminate any remaining bugs.
Avoid applying lemon directly to your cat's fur. This may upset your cat and it can be harmful if ingested.
Rosemary and Cumin
One of the easiest things you can do for a flea-infested cat is to spice up their life with natural ingredients you might find in your kitchen.
Fleas don’t particularly care for the smell of rosemary; try grinding the dried leaves into a powder and then sprinkling it in the areas where your cat tends to hang out in your home, such as its bed, the couch, or carpets. You can also steep the dried rosemary leaves in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain away the leaves, and then apply a small amount of the room-temperature spray directly to your pet's coat.
If your cat won’t allow you to apply topical treatments to his or her fur, you can try mixing a small amount (less than a teaspoon) of cumin into your cat’s food. The spice will make your cat’s skin become very unappetizing to fleas.
If you don’t have any of these spices on hand, a little bit of table salt can also do the trick, as it helps dehydrate and kill the fleas on your cat. Better yet, it works to kill fleas and flea eggs that may be lurking on your carpet (just sprinkle it on), or when mixed with water, it can be used to treat hard surfaces.
These spices are a safe alternative to garlic powder, which can be toxic to cats in large doses.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Another grocery store product that fleas don’t particularly enjoy is apple cider vinegar. While it’s not effective at killing the bugs, apple cider vinegar can cause fleas to jump from your cat’s body so that you can better tackle the issue, making it a great first attack in your personal war against fleas. Try mixing the apple cider vinegar with water in a 2:1 ratio and spraying it onto your cat’s coat. Fleas can be a stubborn bunch, so you may have to undergo a few home treatments by applying the vinegar to your cat’s fur in order to become completely flea-free.
You’ll also want to be sure to vacuum all floors and upholstery (and immediately dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag), wash all bedding in hot water, and consider removing pet food bowls, bird feeders, garbage cans, and any other sources of food from your yard so as to not attract wildlife who can re-infect your pet.
Believe it or not, even the most gentle formulations of dish soap have proven to be very effective at exterminating fleas. The dish soap breaks down the flea’s exoskeleton and kills them within minutes, even after it’s been diluted in water. Simply wet your cat’s coat—a spray bottle will do the trick— and gently lather the dish soap into his or her fur (focusing on areas that fleas tend to hide) before rinsing. Don't bathe your cat too often with this dish soap as it can be very drying to the skin and cause issues when too frequently used.
To use dish soap to trap and kill fleas that have made your home their permanent residence, you can try filling a shallow dish with warm, soapy water and placing it close to a source of light. They’ll be drawn towards the light and drown in the liquid.
Lavender and Chamomile
A gentle way to soothe your pet’s skin—and maybe even help the cat take a little nap—lavender is actually a powerful, fast-acting agent against fleas. In fact, some studies have shown that formulas containing diluted lavender were just as effective at killing fleas as commercial chemical sprays. To put lavender to good use in your home, let fresh lavender steep in water overnight before straining the liquid and spraying it onto your cat’s coat (no need to rinse).
Another compound that’s known for soothing the skin, loose chamomile tea can also be used to attack fleas on your feline friend. Simply steep the tea and, after it’s fully cooled, apply the liquid to your cat’s coat. You can repeat both treatments daily for as long as needed.
Coconut oil is loaded with healthy fats that soothe itchy skin, shine up a dull coat, and best of all, smother fleas and other external parasites. You can use coconut oil to relieve your feline's flea problem, but be warned that you'll need to give your cat a bath as part of the process. Start by bathing the cat with a flea shampoo specifically formulated for felines, and then smooth coconut oil over the cat's damp fur. Keep your cat contained in the bathroom for a couple of hours while the coconut oil works its magic, and then rinse your cat to remove the oil and the smothered fleas. Dry your cat thoroughly with a soft towel, and brush its coat to remove any lingering oil or fleas.
One very effective method for removing fleas from your cat naturally is a flea comb. These are combs with very fine, closely spaced teeth that physically remove fleas from the cat's coat. Keep a bowl filled with soapy water next to you while you work, and dunk the fleas into the water with each pass of the comb through the cat's fur. The fleas will drown in the soapy water and your cat will gain sweet relief not only from the insects' bites, but also from the annoyance of loose, shedding fur. A win/win for you and your pet.
Because of a natural compound known as carvacrol, oregano oil can be very effective at removing fleas; start by mixing one teaspoon of oregano oil with three teaspoons of olive oil and apply tiny amounts of the solution to areas of your cat's body where fleas tend to congregate, like your cat’s ears, stomach, tail, and neck. Be sure to use small amounts to prevent your cat from ingesting too much while grooming.
What do fleas look like on cats?
Fleas appear as small bugs that are black or brown in appearance (and can sometimes be seen jumping) or tiny black specks in the cat's fur. The black specks are commonly called "flea dirt," which is actually flea excrement.
Where do fleas hide on cats?
On many pets, fleas like to hide in areas that are warm and "protected," like the groin, ears, folds of the neck, or armpits. These are the first places you should check, though if your cat has a particularly bad infestation, there's a good chance fleas will be present (and obvious) all over their body.
How big are fleas on cats?
Fleas are very tiny—less than 1/8-inch long—and may be difficult to see on your cat, especially if they have dark brown or black fur. It's a good idea to use a strong flashlight when looking for fleas in your cat's fur.
How do I check for fleas on cats?
To determine whether your cat has fleas, you should comb gently through their fur to look for scurrying fleas or signs of flea excrement. You can use your fingers to part and look through your cat's fur, or invest in a flea comb which will be helpful for cats with thicker fur.