Flea dirt -- waste produced by fleas -- appears as tiny black specks on a cat's fur. Fleas irritate your cat by biting him and sucking his blood. Flea control medications are available, but a good old-fashioned bath is a quick and inexpensive way to alleviate your pet's discomfort from these tiny insects.
Fleas should never be ignored. In addition to itching and scratching, your cat could develop severe allergies from the continued biting. He might even pull his hair out -- and discover it doesn't grow back. Fleas can pass parasites and disease to your pet, and they can cause anemia in older and younger cats.
One flea can lay hundreds of eggs, quickly infesting your pet -- and possibly your home -- if ignored.
Medically formulated flea shampoos contain chemicals that kill fleas on contact. By lathering your cat from the top of his head to his tail, you kill fleas through both suffocation and toxins. Flea shampoos are inexpensive -- from less than $5 to $10 for a bottle, typically -- and they are effective in killing fleas that are on your pet. Flea shampoos will not prevent a second infestation.
Because your cat grooms himself after being bathed, shampoo residue might make him sick. Watch for signs of poisoning such as vomiting, shaking, lethargy or skin rashes. Notify your vet immediately if you notice these side effects.
If you can contain your cat for 10 to 15 minutes, an herbal shampoo works to drown or suffocate the fleas. These contain no medications to kill fleas on contact, but that means no poisons that could affect your cat. Essential oils in the shampoo -- such as lavender or rosemary -- might deter fleas from jumping onto your cat from bedding or the carpet.
Rinses and sprays
Continue to thwart fleas from attacking your cat by applying rinses and sprays. Commercial products such as medicated flea mousses can be left on the fur after bathing.
Natural products can also be used. Rinse your cat with vinegar -- either white or apple cider -- to kill current fleas and deter new fleas from jumping on him, then towel him off.
Or create a rosemary "tea" by steeping several tablespoons of dried rosemary in a gallon of hot water; apply the cooled mixture to your cat after bathing, and then towel-dry his fur. Create a lavender spray -- 15 drops to a small bottle of water -- to apply to damp fur after he is bathed and towel-dried. This can be reapplied every few days between bathing.
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."