Fleas are not actually a life sentence… You CAN rid your home of fleas without arson or poison.

“Really, the only sure solution is to burn your house down and start over.” This was what my vet offered the day she handed back my cat with the proclamation: “Yep, he has fleas all right.” She saw my obvious distress. Already overwhelmed, here was another thing to deal with. I almost cried. I don’t think I actually cried. I might have. As much as I love my children and love how much they love their cats, I will admit that I did not anticipate the trials of feline ownership. I was not familiar with how to get rid of fleas.

Trapped is how I felt. Helpless to rid ourselves of either the fleas or the cats. “Once you have them, you pretty much have them forever. Until you move or burn the house down.” My vet is practical and very matter-of-fact. She is pragmatic, and I initially accepted her prognosis as gospel. Driving home my shoulders slumped. “We can never have friends over ever again,” I mumbled to myself. “We have fleas.” “Damn Cats! Why did I ever get cats for my kids? And now I can’t just get rid of their cats.” 

Like a mouse on a sticky trap trying desperately to wrestle myself free, I felt like the world’s dumbest parent. There must be a solution. People have cats. I know tons of people with cats and other pets. Surely they don’t just live with fleas for their whole lives. By the time I got home, I was ready to armor up!

operation dead flea: the guide to get rid of fleas in your home

With my trusty sidekick Google and a dose of common sense, I decided to figure out what to do. My vet treated the cats with Revolution and sent me home with 6 more doses to be administered every 3-4 weeks. She also sent me home with 2 doses for the dog which would each last 3 months. “But!” she had warned conspiratorially, “Flea eggs can survive all winter.”

Hiding the matches, and cursing myself at least 20 times for the decision to adopt kittens, I glued myself to the internet until my eyes would stay open no longer. I fell asleep feeling less hopeless and ready for battle.

Arising before my children, I grabbed 3 sheets of paper and a black Sharpie.

how to get rid of fleas, page 1: new rules to reduce the chances of flea survival

  • No cloth on any floors. No blankets, clothes etc.
  • Make beds every day. NO daytime clothes in or on the beds!
  • Every time you use a dish, wash and put it away
  • All surfaces must be kept clear and easily cleanable
  • Keep most outdoor wear in bins or bedrooms
  • NO pets in bedrooms
  • Food consumed in the kitchen only

how to get rid of fleas, page 2: daily, weekly, and monthly tasks necessary for the long term eradication of the fleas and their offspring

  • Vacuum daily
  • Diatomaceous Earth every two weeks
  • Sweep daily
  • Wash surfaces weekly
  • Wash bedding weekly
  • Flea meds to dog every three months
  • Flea meds to cats every 3 – 4 weeks
  • Wash animal bedding weekly
  • Bathe and trim cats every 2-3 months

how to get rid of fleas, page 3: all the immediate tasks to get us to ground zero and rid our home of any and all fleas and eggs

  • Clothing off all floors
  • Bedding washed and dried
  • Mattresses vacuumed
  • Bedrooms cleaned top to bottom
  • Diatomaceous earth on floors and surfaces where cats go
  • Rewash clothing that is near or on floors
  • Vacuum everyday
  • Get rid of unnecessary items
  • Move outdoor wear to individual rooms or bins
  • Clean everything, including laundry baskets
  • Put all stuffed animals in cold storage
  • Place all extra bedding in cold storage
  • Freshly bait all mouse traps as mice are a common and likely source of cat fleas!

deploying the anti-flea strategy

After a hearty breakfast, the forces were mobilized and their cooperation was ensured by the dastardly threat that WE were NOT going to live with fleas. Either we get rid of fleas, or we can’t keep the cats!

For the next two weeks, we scrubbed and cleaned and washed and rewashed bedding and laundry. Stuffed animals and extra bedding were removed from the premises and bedding was washed again. All carpets were vacuumed repeatedly and both cats were taken to the groomer for flea baths and haircuts!

In the interest of not filling our living environment with harsh pesticides, we decided to use diatomaceous earth for round one. If our efforts to get rid of fleas were unsuccessful, poison lurked in the background ready to be deployed. After all floors were swept and scrubbed the white chalky powder was scattered. The floors were covered as well as the window sills and any places the cats liked to lounge.

Everything I read recommended leaving the diatomaceous earth in place for a minimum of 4 hours. The first week we left it on for a couple of days with each treatment and then after vacuuming and sweeping it up would soon reapply it. It is very effective at killing adult fleas and some larvae but will not destroy the eggs. Therefore, it needs to be reapplied regularly for a minimum of a month and up to several months.

The good news I learned was that fleas don’t fly. They hop. Knowing this helped us focus on our primary targets. By the end of the two weeks there were zero signs of any fleas on the animals and since cat fleas don’t reside on humans (THANK GOODNESS) we started to breathe a bit easier.

how to make a flea trap at home

After the first 2 weeks, we decided to test the effectiveness of our strategies. Since the pets were all flea-free we needed to test the environment.

To do this we set flea traps. One in each bedroom, one in the room where the cats sleep and one in the living room. The hope was “zero to two” fleas per trap and no more.

Here is how to make a flea trap for your home:

  1. First, find a shallow container. I like clear plastic ones.
  2. Next, fill it with about an inch of water and add 2 tablespoons of dawn dish soap. Mix well.
  3. Add a waterproof light. We used floating tea lights.
  4. Finally, leave the traps overnight in the dark. Fleas are attracted to the light and will hop into the trap and drown.

Success! Most traps had no fleas and a few had 1 or 2 fleas. The one in the room where the cats sleep had 2. I was breathing easier, finally, and as a wonderful side benefit, the cats were keeping themselves cleaner (shorter hair) and the fussy one was no longer finding places to go to the bathroom outside of his litter box. Thank goodness! Well, except for the toddler potty which sits in our one bathroom in case of emergencies. On occasion, both cats have been known to let themselves into the bathroom and use the little potty. Go figure.

Though Operation Dead Flea might never be 100% over, we feel we have pretty much eradicated our flea problem in just over two weeks. Now, by staying on top of flea medicine, biweekly diatomaceous earth on the floors, and frequent vacuuming, I was pleased to announce to the kids that both the house and the cats had been saved.


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