More owners are turning to natural cat flea treatment alternatives. While there are effective home remedies that can be used safely on cats, some don’t work at all, and others should be avoided because they’re toxic.
Natural flea treatments for cats include cedar chips, lemon juice, oregano, apple cider vinegar, lavender, and chamomile. These can be effective remedies if applied in the form of a spray solution daily. Unfortunately, many cats despise the smell of many of these ingredients, so you need to consider if they’re a good option. Feeding your cat a natural, raw-meat diet can also improve your cat’s defenses against fleas.
Garlic, neem oil, and citronella are commonly suggested as natural parasite repellents, but they are poisonous to cats. Diatomaceous earth may kill fleas on your carpets and upholstery, but it can cause severe respiratory irritation when inhaled by cats.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Natural Flea Remedies for Cats
- 1.1 How Do Fleas Spread in Cats?
- 1.2 Cat Flea Home Remedies That Work
- 1.3 Natural Cat Flea Treatments To Avoid
Natural Flea Remedies for Cats
The table below has info on the best and worst natural treatments for cat fleas. It explains how it works and why a remedy should be avoided:
|Cedar Chips and Cedar Oil:||Smell repels fleas|
|Lemons (Lemon water):||Natural flea-killing compounds (d-limonene and nootkatone)|
|Oregano Oil:||Insecticidal properties|
|Lavender Oil:||Insecticidal and antiparasitic properties|
|Lemon Balm:||Insecticidal and antiparasitic properties|
|Apple Cider Vinegar:||Flea-repellent|
|Chamomile Tea:||Mild-flea repellent|
|BARF Diet:||Improves immunity|
How Do Fleas Spread in Cats?
Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not spread from one cat to another. Once a flea lands on a cat, it will stay and feed on its blood for its entire life. Ingesting blood allows a female flea to become fertile and lay eggs (about 50 a day).
Flea larvae will burrow into dark spaces in your home, such as carpets, cracks in hardwood floors and furniture. The larvae grow up to become baby fleas within a few weeks and wait for your cat to walk by. Once they hop onto your cat, their lifecycle commences.
This shows that flea treatment doesn’t only involve treating your cat’s body but eliminating eggs and larvae from your home and yard as well.
Cat Flea Home Remedies That Work
Fleas are hard-shelled, fast, and highly adaptable insects that can survive famine conditions. An adult flea can survive with just one blood meal for up to 2 months.
Natural flea remedies for cats work via repetition. The treatment must be repeated each day until there aren’t any fleas left on your cat’s body. However, any topical flea treatment must be combined with home treatments, such as daily vacuuming, to remove adult fleas, eggs and larvae from the cat and its living environment.
Fleas despise the smell of cedar, and many cats aren’t fond of it either. However, spreading some cedar chips outside in your yard and around your cat’s bedding can deter fleas from entering your cat’s environment.
You can also apply a cedarwood oil spray made with a few drops of cedarwood oil and water on your cat’s fur. Never use undiluted cedarwood oil as it has been shown to cause respiratory irritation in cats when used in high concentrations. When used diluted, it is safe and non-toxic for cats, even with regular use.
For cedar oil sprays to be effective, they must be used every day until your cat’s fleas are completely eradicated.
Lemons contain an active substance called d-limonene, which is an effective natural flea killer. According to the Journal of Medical Entomology, nootkatone is another compound present in citrus fruits that have been shown to have flea-repellent activities. The issue is that cats dislike the odor of citrus fruit almost as much as fleas do.
The best way to use lemon juice for fleas is to spray your cat’s coat with a lemon juice and water solution. Never use lemon juice undiluted as it can irritate your cat’s skin. For this treatment to work, you’ll need to use it every day until fleas disappear. To make the lemon water spray, simply:
- Slice 1-2 lemons with the peel on and boil in a pint of water.
- Take the solution off the flame and let it steep overnight before transferring the liquid to a spray bottle.
- Spray your cat’s coat and work the liquid into your cat’s fur, avoiding its eyes and nose.
If your cat doesn’t tolerate being sprayed, you can dip a flea comb in the lemon water solution and brush the fleas out.
Lemon water can also be added when you’re washing your cat’s bedding and other linens to remove flea larvae and eggs, but your cat won’t thank you for doing so. Keep a lookout for any redness or other signs of irritation. If lemon water doesn’t cause any negative reaction, repeat the treatment daily.
Oregano oil gets its flea-removing abilities from a natural compound called carvacrol. Carvacrol is a monoterpenoid phenol that gives oregano its warm and pungent smell. According to Pest Management Science, two components in oregano oil, carvacrol, and thymol, could be used as effective natural alternatives to chemical insecticides.
Mix one teaspoon of oregano oil with three teaspoons of olive oil and work the solution in flea-infested areas, such as the tail, neck, stomach, and around the ears. Like most other oils, oregano oil should never be used undiluted as it can irritate your cat’s skin.
According to Fitoterapia, lemon balm essential oil is among the most toxic oils for cat fleas and their eggs/larvae.
The ASPA confirms that lemon balm is a non-toxic herb for cat use. To use lemon balm for cat fleas, brew a lemon balm tea using dried lemon balm or fresh lemon balm leaves. Allow the tea to cool before spraying it onto your cat’s fur.
Lavender is a fast-acting natural treatment that combats fleas. According to Parasitology Research, lavender has strong insecticidal and antiparasitic properties, making it an effective flea treatment. Some studies even confirm that formulas with diluted lavender are as effective as chemical sprays in killing fleas.
To make an anti-flea lavender treatment for your cat, simply steep fresh or dried lavender in warm water overnight. Strain the liquid and spray it on your cat’s fur.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Just like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar has an acidic pH of 2-3, so it should never be used in full strength on a cat’s skin. Apple cider vinegar cannot kill fleas, but it is an effective flea deterrent.
To make the solution, mix 2 parts of water with one-part apple cider vinegar. Spraying a dilute apple cider vinegar solution on your cat’s fur will cause the fleas to jump out of your cat’s body. Following each treatment, you’ll want to clean all floors, upholstery, and linens.
If you have an outdoor cat, remove food bowls, garbage cans, bird feeders, and other items that will attract other flea-infested wildlife into your yard.
Apple cider vinegar only works when you apply the solution every day along with other home treatments. Some cats drink diluted apple cider vinegar to treat intestinal parasites.
Chamomile tea is a gentle flea cleanser that also doubles as a calming agent for your cat’s itchy skin. Once the tea has steeped, allow it to cool completely before applying it to your cat’s coat.
Chamomile tea isn’t as potent as the above treatments but can be used with other natural flea treatments due to its soothing properties.
The BARF Diet
Fleas are less likely to target healthy hosts. Therefore, optimizing your cat’s immunity and health is a good way to strengthen its defenses against fleas.
The BARF diet is a way to tackle cat fleas from the inside-out. Years of research have proven that the best diet for cats is a biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) diet.
Cats are obligate carnivores, consuming only raw meat. The BARF diet consists of raw meat and added supplements with no grains or dairy. A raw meat diet is a long-term solution against fleas that should be combined with other flea-eliminating treatments for quick relief.
A drawback of the BARF diet is that home-prepared raw food meals can be nutritionally incomplete. Adding too little or too much of a vitamin or mineral supplement can lead to health issues in the future.
An alternative to a raw food diet is opting for commercial pet food containing no grains, artificial additives, preservatives, unnamed meat meals, by-products, or bone meal. Choose a brand with the highest protein percentage and the lowest amount of carbohydrates.
Natural Cat Flea Treatments To Avoid
The flea treatments in the table (below) are age-old remedies for parasites that don’t work or are harmful to cats:
|Garlic:||Highly toxic when ingested|
|Citronella:||Skin and eye irritant. Toxic when ingested|
|Pennyroyal Oil:||Causes fatal liver damage|
|Diatomaceous Earth:||Respiratory and eye irritation|
|Neem Oil:||Toxic. Causes excessive salivation|
Garlic, when used internally and externally, is a popular insect repellent. Some sources may also suggest adding garlic to your cat’s food as it makes the fleas’ bloodmeal less appealing.
However, there is no evidence that proves garlic’s effectiveness against fleas or other bugs. In fact, garlic is poisonous for dogs in high doses, and cats are even more vulnerable to garlic’s toxic effects.
According to studies in Interdisciplinary Toxicology and Frontiers in Veterinary Science, accidental ingestion of garlic is a common cause of food-related poisoning in cats. Therefore, using garlic topically or adding it to your cat’s food is not recommended as a way to get rid of fleas on cats.
Citronella oil is a popular natural insect repellent. Because humans use it to keep away mosquitos, some users may consider using citronella to treat fleas on cats.
However, citronella’s side effects on cats outweigh its potency against fleas. Citronella is a skin and eye irritant. It can also be toxic if inhaled or ingested in high concentrations.
Derived from the pennyroyal herb, pennyroyal oil has a longstanding history of being an effective flea deterrent.
However, even when used at recommended dosages, pennyroyal oil has been proven to have toxic effects when used for cats and dogs. Topical application of the oil may cause potentially fatal liver damage in your cat.
There is no evidence suggesting that adding brewer’s yeast to your cat’s food can control fleas. A study in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association that looked into the flea-repellent effects of brewer’s yeast showed no difference in flea counts in animals that received active yeast and those that were given inactive yeast.
Diatomaceous earth is a natural, silica-containing flour-like powder made of fossilized remains of diatoms, which is a type of aquatic organism. Diatomaceous earth can be used as a flea-control substance in two ways:
- Applying it to your cat’s fur (very harmful)
- Applying it to your carpets (potentially harmful)
Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance that, when applied to your cat’s fur, can cause issues related to inhalation. The drying properties of the powder can cause damage to your cat’s lungs. It can also irritate the eyes.
When used safely in the home, diatomaceous earth is a powerful natural pesticide. When fleas crawl over diatomaceous earth, the powder’s ragged surface damages their exoskeletons, leading to dehydration and death.
However, there is still a chance of inhalation and respiratory irritation when your cat walks, rolls around, or sleeps on surfaces treated with diatomaceous earth, making this natural treatment not worth the risk.
Neem oil is a natural insect repellent that is often used against biting insects, such as fleas and mosquitos. Some owners may have had success with neem oil in treating fleas on dogs. However, cats are more sensitive to neem oil and may experience adverse side effects.
Although neem oil is not listed as a toxic plant for cats by the ASPCA, it can lead to adverse reactions, such as excessive salivation in cats. Consequently, it should be avoided.