Fleas often find their way to pets and before you know it, they breed and develop into an infestation. The issue can cause your poor cat or dog a load of misery, as the itching caused by fleas can be really traumatic for them. Moreover, fleas can also cause you and your family a huge problem.
Fleas can come from pets and lay eggs in your bedding, furniture, and carpets and can cause a serious infestation in your house.
Fleas are made of sterner stuff. Almost impossible to squash, the legs of fleas can cling so tightly to things that they’re difficult to get rid of. The small pests are also quick and leap far and high, so they can quickly spread to other parts of your home within a short span of time.
On this page, we’re going to discuss how to get rid of fleas from your pet and home. But before we get to that, it’s important to understand fleas in a little more detail, including the types that exist, where they live, causes of flea infestations, signs of flea bites, and what attracts fleas.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are small, wingless, flightless insects. They’re parasites, which means they feed on the blood of their hosts. These tiny insects can’t fly from place to place, but instead use their very powerful hind legs to jump far and high.
Fleas primarily feed on the blood of pets. Cats and dogs normally collect fleas when they’re out in the wilderness or from other animals. Fleas are opportunistic and can easily move from animals and pets to humans.
A bunch of fleas also breed quickly and just a few fleas brought home by your cat or dog can quickly progress into an infestation in the animal and eventually your home. They can infest your bedding, furniture, and carpeting.
Fleas are very difficult to eradicate. They have flat bodies that enable them to easily move through their hosts’ fur. They also have tough exoskeletons, making them really hard to squash. They’re very tiny and jump out of danger in a flash, so they’re hard to catch if they manage to get away.
Types of Fleas
There are hundreds of flea species around the world. These leaping pests bite most animals, and some carry diseases. You and your pets can come across the following types of fleas:
- Cat fleas: These are the most common fleas. They infest cats, dogs, various wild animals, and even people. Unlike other types of fleas, these pests remain on their host after sucking blood and mate and lay eggs. The eggs then fall off hosts and spread to furniture, bedding, and carpeting.
- Dog fleas: Preying on the same hosts as cat fleas, this variety isn’t as common.
- Human fleas: These pests enjoy feeding on the blood of humans and pigs.
- Sticktight fleas: These parasites infest animals or people who come into contact with poultry, squirrels, and other birds.
- Chigoe fleas: Also called sand fleas, these pests bite people who live near tropical beaches.
- Rat fleas: These are divided into northern and oriental species and feed on the blood of roof and Norway rats, spreading serious diseases in the process.
All of these flea species can transmit a variety of infections, including cat-scratch disease, plague, and murine typhus. The pests bite pets and people, which can cause allergic reactions. Their capacity to lay countless eggs means that infestations sometimes get out of hand.
Sources of Flea Infestations
Fleas are brought to your home by pets or different types of mice and rats. They come from infested foliage and dirt and attach to animal fur. They typically live under the belly of animals. When their host gets into your home, they move to your carpet, indoor plants, furnishings, or drapers.
Fleas flourish in moist, warm areas. Low temperatures disrupt their life cycle. Most infestations occur during the summer.
Where Do Fleas Live?
Based on the phase of their development cycle, fleas often live in a variety of conditions.
- Eggs: Dozens of eggs are laid on pets’ fur every single day. They fall off your pets and can end up anywhere, such as in your furniture, bedding, carpeting, and even on your appliances. If you keep a cat, you’re very likely to witness this.
- Larvae: Flea larvae like dark, dusty, and narrow spaces that provide protection during this stage. You can find flea pupae in between carpet fiber and on floors. Despite making up just 10 percent of all fleas, they’re they key reason why flea remedies often fail.
- Adults: Adult fleas live only on animals, including cats, dogs, rats, mice, and other furry mammals.
What Attracts Fleas?
Before we delve into the reasons why fleas are attracted to your home, it’s vital to note that fleas don’t leap into your yard by accident. They’re brought into your home by mammals and birds. Here’s what draws fleas to your home:
- Food: Animals that carry fleas feed on a wide variety of foods. It’s impossible to keep all animals away. If you cut all vegetation, certain animals will get into your yard simply to feed on the dirt and worms in your soil or eat grass. But you can keep larger animals away from your yard by making sure to keep trash in sealed containers.
- Water: If there are puddles of still water in your home, this can attract small wild animals and eventually fleas. Those pools in your home will look like watering holes.
- Overgrowth: Tall grass, weeds, and other overgrowths will make your home more attractive to small wild animals. Keep things neat and trimmed.
- Hiding areas: Many creatures prefer a home with hiding spaces, especially rodents. As rodents get into your yard and spread fleas all over, it’s important to remove hiding places. Clear as much clutter as possible from your yard to make it tougher for rodents to find hiding places.
- Harborage options: If any wild animal gets into your yard, it can end up staying on your property indefinitely. This can bring fleas to your home and cause an infestation. Seal your walls thoroughly to keep wild animals at bay.
Signs of a Flea Infestation
Many signs can point to an infestation of fleas:
Bites: Fleas can also bite people, leaving behind itchy spots. However, be sure to consult a doctor as it’s not only fleas that cause skin irritation.
Pets scratching: One common sign is that of pets repeatedly scratching and grooming themselves, due to the discomfort caused by fleas sucking their blood.
Feces: Flea feces can also be a sign of flea activity. Feces look more like roughly ground black pepper and you can see them in pet beds, rugs, carpets, and other places where the pet rests.
Adult fleas: Adult fleas are normally easy to spot, especially if the pet and its owner get back home after a long holiday, during which the adult fleas weren’t able to feed on blood. Upon returning home, you and your pet might be greeted by the sight of fleas leaping about and trying to get onto your pet.
Flea eggs: The eggs of fleas, pupae, larvae are another sign. As these stages are very much secretive and less active, you can find the eggs, larvae, and pupae in obscure places like:
- Your pet’s bedding
- In, under, or behind furniture
- Inside grooves and cracks in the floors
- As your pets move, flea eggs fall off, spreading all over the areas where your pet hangs out.
Signs and Symptoms of Flea Bites
While bites from fleas can cause you distress, it’s your pets that suffer more. You might notice your cat or dog scratching uncontrollably and trying to squash the parasites in their fur.
Flea bites aren’t particularly painful to humans, but you’ll realize it immediately you’ve been bitten. But there may be some itchiness in areas around the bite, which might get uncomfortable if you’re sensitive.
Flea bites are quite distinctive. Unlike mosquito bites, they have small bite marks. Here are some clear signs of flea bites:
- Bites that occur as tiny red bumps
- A red “nimbus” around the middle of the bite
- Bites in one straight line, or in clusters of 3-4
- Bites that show up around the legs or ankles (their most likely spot)
- Bites around the underarms, waist, knee, and elbow folds
Flea bites exhibit a number of common symptoms. First off, they’re extremely itchy and the area around each bite can be painful or sore. You can suffer hives or get a rash next to the bite location. Also, excessive itching can cause an infection.
How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally
There are numerous home remedies that can help you do away with fleas and keep them at bay. Some of the natural remedies may be effective but many are unlikely to solve a serious flea infestation in your property. Some examples include:
To get rid of fleas with baking soda, lay down this substance along your furniture and carpets, and rub a hard brush into the fabric. Then vacuum your house thoroughly and dispose of the vacuum’s contents in a bag and put in inside a trash bin outside. Baking soda works best in conjunction with regular, thorough vacuuming of your home.
Like baking soda, this home remedy works best alongside vacuuming. Salt works as an agent of dehydration, helping to eradicate adult fleas. To kill fleas with salt, sprinkle finely ground salt on all your carpets. Give it one or two days, then thoroughly vacuum your home, emptying the litter into a trash bin outside.
You can use lemon in a variety of ways around your home, including getting rid of fleas. To make this home remedy, add a slice of lemon to a cup of water and boil it. Let the solution settle overnight and pour it into a sprayer. Then spray the solution on the affected areas of your home, such as sofas, chairs, pet bedding and so on. Don’t soak, only dampen.
Unlike most other natural ways to get rid of fleas put together, thorough and persistent vacuuming of all areas of your home, including flooring, carpets, and furniture can be much more effective at dealing with a flea infestation.
Flea larvae thrive by feeding on organic matter found in carpets, furnishings, and bedding. You must try to remove any possible food source to help keep fleas away, so a planned vacuum routine will help remove adult fleas and their food sources. Remember to carefully seal your vacuum’s contents and place it in a trash bin outside for disposal.
Try the following trick to rid your property of a flea infestation. Fill plates with water and place one in each room. Add around one full bottle cap of dish soap to every plate and put a lit candle in the center of each plate. The candle light will attract fleas, but the soapy liquid in the plate will trap and destroy the fleas.
To do this safely, tackle one room at a time and stay awake as the candle burns for your own safety. Keep any kids and pets out of these rooms.
Combing your dog’s coat on a regular basis with a flea comb may be quite effective for preventing fleas naturally. Pre-coat your pooch with homemade lemon juice, made of 1 part water and 1 part lemon juice. Then comb your dog all over, paying close attention to the neck, head, tail, legs, and under the belly.
Rosemary helps keep fleas away and you can use the powder or oil form. To remove fleas from your pet, apply a few rosemary oil drops at the bottom on his neck to deter fleas. Also, you can bathe your dog in rosemary water to naturally kill fleas.
A powder consisting of equal parts peppermint, rosemary, rue, wormwood, and fennel can be mixed together and applied all over the house. But this will only deter fleas, not kill them.
Another effective natural remedy for eliminating fleas is the use of a variety of flea-repelling plants to help keep these biting pests off your property. Certain plants have specific chemicals, compounds, and oils which fleas hate and will look to avoid.
Having these plants in and around your house in flower beds and flower pots is recommended as a natural way to keep fleas away. Plants that can repel fleas include:
- Penny Royal
This is a rock-based, natural material that’s easily available in garden centers or online stores. Keep in mind that you should use natural diatomaceous earth, instead of the variety used in swimming pools. You can use this material to dehydrate fleas and kill them naturally, according to PETA.
To get started, get the powder form of diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle it around your house on both wooden floors and carpets. Let the powder stay there for a while and then vacuum it fully. Repeat this trick as often as necessary.
How to Eliminate Fleas with Flea Control Products
Combing fleas out is only a temporary solution. Your best bet is to destroy the fleas present on your cat or dog and also kill those that come afterwards.
Many flea control products not only will kill fleas but also keep them from returning for three weeks at least. It might take a few treatments to do away with the rest of the fleas, as well as those that hatch afterwards, though.
Also called “bug bombs”, foggers are effective at their job but you’ll likely need one per room. Flea Foggers are very flammable, so make sure to switch off all lights and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from gadgets with ignitions, including air conditioners or refrigerators.
Remove people and animals from the room being treated and leave quickly after activating the fogger. Don’t leave any uncovered food or toys in the room being treated, either. The fogger produces toxic fog, which you must avoid. Leave the home undisturbed for a least two hours.
Thoroughly air the space out by opening windows and doors before letting kids and pets back into the house. Fans may help with ventilation.
Powder treatments can provide an extra layer of protection. First off, remove all of your bedding and have it cleaned. Thoroughly vacuum all rugs and carpets.
Steam-cleaning and vacuuming on the regular is a vital measure for dealing with fleas.
Remove cushions from your furniture and apply flea powder treatment in the cracks and crevices. Also sprinkle the treatment along the edges of all walls and cover the floor space with it. Brush the powder into the carpet until it disappears and wait for a minimum of one hour before vacuuming the carpet.
Don’t let your cat or dog back in without treating him with a flea control agent.
Flea Control Sprays
Many flea products for your yard can kill fleas outside, too, but some are poisonous. Therefore, be sure to carefully read the instructions.
Flea sprays connect to the garden hose and may cover a very large area. Attach the flea control spray to your yard hose and spray all infested areas thoroughly, focusing on shady and moist areas, such as under decks and shrubs.
Repeat the process every 2-3 weeks for 6 weeks, or until you bring the fleas under control. Then you can keep a maintenance routine of treatment every 4-6 weeks.
How to Keep Fleas Away
No matter which flea species has infested your pet, you must get rid of it to prevent a re-infestation.
Fleas thrive in places where organic matter like dust accumulates, such as storage areas with clutter, in crawl spaces under your home, under your furniture, as well as all over your property.
By taking a few preventative measures, you can nip a flea infestation in the bud and prevent the eggs from developing even before you realize they’re there.
- Vacuum your floors and rugs regularly, paying close attention to places where your pets spend their time most often.
- If you have pets that spend their time both outdoors and indoors, make sure to keep up with the latest flea prevention measures. If they’re currently not on a flea prevention treatment, consult their vet about which preventative treatment is suitable for them.
- Wash and change pet bedding regularly. Don’t allow pets to sleep on your bed. But if you’re unable to sleep without a furry friend close by, wash your bedding regularly.
- Inspect your pets, your kids, and yourself carefully for fleas before going back inside after being outdoors.
- Don’t place any feeder on your property, especially bird feeders.
Call In a Professional Pest Control Service
With the increasing focus on DIY projects, it’s common for many homeowners to try to deal with a flea infestation by themselves. But given that this might be an ongoing problem that’ll take several weeks to months to resolve, enlisting the services of a professional can be the most cost-effective solution in the long-term.
If you’ve already detected a large flea attack or feel that your family is at risk, it’s recommended that you call in a professional pest exterminator. They’ll target the life cycle of fleas with things such as an insect growth controller along with other ways to prevent fleas.
FAQs About Getting Rid of Fleas
Question: What Kills Fleas On Contact?
Answer: The following home remedies can kill fleas on the spot. They include salt, dish soap, herbal spray, lemon spray, flea-repelling plants, baking soda, and diatomaceous earth.
Question: How Long Can I Take to Do Away with Fleas?
Answer: In most cases, you’ll need three to four months to eradicate a flea infestation. This is because it takes that long for fleas to complete their life cycle.
Question: What Do Fleas Dislike the Most?
Answer: Fleas hate essential oils the most. Strong odors like garlic, citronella, lavender, and eucalyptus are effective repellents. Add a few drops of any of these essential oils to salt and sprinkle it on your floors and carpets. Also, you can add some drops to water and spray the mixture on your pet’s bed.
Question: How Long Can a Flea Survive Without a Host?
Answer: Fleas have short lives. Adult fleas can live for up to a year in ideal conditions, but just a week or two if there’s no host.
Question: What’s the Best Killer for Fleas?
Answer: The best home treatments for fleas available online include Victor Ultimate Flea Trap, Hotshot 95911 Flea and Bed Bug Fogger, PetArmor Carpet Powder, and Vet’s Best Tick and Dog Flea Home Spray.
The Bottom Line
No one likes fleas, especially pet owners. But fleas are part of the life of many pet owners. While there are more than 2,000 flea species around, cat fleas are the most common culprit if you think you have fleas in your home.
Fleas don’t just make your cat or dog itchy. They can pass on diseases, including tapeworms, as well as plague, and murine typhus in people. Many people also suffer flea allergies, which can cause rashes, asthma, and breathing difficulty.
If you suspect that your home or pet is under a flea attack, take these steps right away to get rid of these annoying disease-carrying parasites and keep them far away from both your pet and home.