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A human flea harnessed to a coach

De Flea Your Cat: Catch, Kill and Prevent Cat Fleas

We love our pussy cats, but not their fleas. After years of trying different chemical free methods of flea control, Mrs Everybody and her 19 year old cat, Boudi have arrived at a simple and effective solution.

This solution takes just minutes - involves no chemicals - it is low tech and even ancient - the cat likes it - it builds the bond between cat and human - it is calming to do and it is satisfies our human urge to care for and stroke our furry friends.

Moustache, Cat or Fine Hair Horn Comb
Moustache, Cat or Fine Hair Horn Comb

This age old solution cat flea solution?

Daily grooming with a horn flea comb! The principle is to capture and kill adult fleas before they get a chance to lay eggs and continue a cycle of re-infestation.

Why are cat fleas such a menace?

Fleas can make a cat really unwell and an infestation can even kill a kitten, plus, the fleas will bite us too. Hardly anyone likes cat fleas! Even if you are feeling well disposed to these parasites, these little creatures not only feast on your cat's blood, but also on tapeworm eggs. This means that when the cat cleans it coat and it ingests some of the fleas, it ingests tapeworm eggs too. So cats infested with fleas, nearly always have problems with worms as well.

Due to the skin irritation caused by flea saliva, the cats skin can develop allergic dermatitis. Constant scratching and licking can produce patches of raw skin and over licking can cause the cat to ingest too much fur. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as bartonellosis to the puddy cat which has serious health consequences and can result many trips to the vet.

Just a few minutes of cat combing daily, can massively help to kill and prevent fleas - saving your cat hours of licking, preventing sore skin, anemia and the dreaded fur balls. The rewards can be almost instant.

Boudi, our 19 year old cat enjoying the bliss of being combed.
Boudi, our 19 year old cat enjoying the bliss of being combed. She is helping by flattening her ears.

Why is combing the best defence against cat fleas?

We had tried several non-chemical alternatives - brushes and flea zappers. However brushes didn't remove adult fleas and the bristles harboured flea eggs. It is very difficult to clean a brush. Plus brushes with plastic or nylon bristles induce a static charge in the cat's coat making the cat uncomfortable and prone to electric shocks - that means claws in your knees as the cat leaps off!

We found the battery operated flea zappers so large and cumbersome they couldn't get into all of the cat's tiny contours and the metal teeth aren't exactly pleasant on the cat's skin or on the skin folds.

On the other hand, a horn puddy cat comb is small and agile - it will pull out loose hairs, flea eggs, loose fur and LIVE fleas. Horn has the same triboelectric charge as fur which means that no static is induced when you use it to comb the cat.

Cat flea combing technique

1. Invite the cat on your lap, use a towel to cover the lap if the cat is heavily infested with fleas and to help prevent deep claw injuries if the cat decides it's had enough.

2. Calm the cat by stroking it before beginning your mission.

3. Start with the cat's favourite places - the head, under the chin, the back of the neck. Try to bring the teeth of the comb into contact with the skin, being gentle and thoughtful all the time. I talk with my cat while I am combing her - she feels really special and starts purring!

4. If your combing session is short, focus around the base of the spine and tail area and on the head and neck as fleas like to hide in these inaccessible places.

5. Most cats don't like the comb running over the spine or projecting bones such as the hip bones, scapulas, elbows etc, so gently move the skin to the side of bony protrusion and comb the fur and skin in a more comfortable location.

6. The cat will have many folds of skin where it curls on your lap - stretch the skin so that the folds are flattened and so that the horn comb can maintain good contact with the skin without causing any discomfort.

7. Most cats have places that they don't enjoy being combed, so if the cat acts concerned, go back to combing it in its favourite place such as the head. Perhaps next time you will achieve a few more strokes of the comb in the less popular places.

8. It might not be possible to comb every inch of the cat, don't worry because, hopefully the fleas will move to more accessible areas next time. Even if you combed the cat all over for 30 minutes, you would still only capture about 85% of the fleas - that's why daily flea combing is so important. Keep the combing session short unless your cat is really revelling in it. Sometimes, all my cat wants is just a few minutes of combing. That is fine, I know she is really busy and has other plans.

9. Try to draw the comb in the same direction as you comb, that way loose fur and eggs end up on one side of the comb and hopefully any fleas will get caught up in the loose hair - at least for long enough for you to see them and to deal with them. I draw the comb towards me so I can spot captured fleas straight away. See below for what to do if you catch a flea.

10. After combing the cat. Don't forget to thank you cat for its company and cooperation! I make sure the comb looks clean by removing any visible detritus with my fingers. Wash your hands after combing your cat and that towel if necessary. I always use the Antibacterial Hemp Oil Soap for my hand washing and Soapnuts for washing my clothes in the washing machine!

A trained human flea pulling a carriage.
A trained human flea pulling a carriage. Photo credit Roy Malloy.

Catching cat fleas?

I did say that the horn comb will catch live fleas, but you will need to kill them yourself - not always an easy task. As any cat comber will know that captured fleas, given half a chance, will leap off the comb and vanish (temporarily) into the carpet or the cracks of a floorboards. They can jump 150 times their own height. Then when they get hungry they will bite anything warm blooded - and that is often us.

Unless you are going to start a massively successful flea circus (in fact human fleas were used in flea circuses) you are best off killing the flea before it leaps away. Normally when people catch a flea, they squash it between the nails - but the flea can jump off before you get the chance!

The Insect Circus Museum
The Insect Circus Museum

Don't let the flea get away!

Have you got a flea in your comb? Congratulations! Hold the flea on the comb by pinching the comb on both sides of the tines with the thumb and forefinger securing the flea between them and the tines. Now, with the finger tips still pinched together, slide the flea and any hair off straight into the bowl of soapy water to kill the flea. Carry on combing.

I don't dip the horn comb in the soapy water, but slide the hair, eggs and fleas off the tines into the soapy water. Horn combs prefer to remain dry, but you can rinse them and dry the comb after the grooming session. I usually just make sure that mine looks clean.

How to kill a cat flea easily!

Dissolve a 'dot' of Hemp Oil Soap in a bowl of water. The soap is very anti-microbial - reassuring because we are dealing with fleas and tapeworm eggs; but the main benefit of soapy water is that the soap breaks the surface tension of the water. When the flea is captured on the comb and transferred into the soapy water, it will not be able to jump off the water. It will drown within a few seconds.

Your cat and cat's friends and family will be exceedingly grateful. Don't feel guilty, your cat would have bitten it to death first, had it got half a chance. The flea was probably doomed. The difference is, by regularly grooming your cat, especially in the places the cat can not reach itself, you might be able to capture the flea before it lays eggs and the cat will stay healthy and happy.

Removing and killing the living fleas daily with a horn flea comb is the best way to keep your puddy cat flea-free. Additional measures to break the cycle of re-infection involve hoovering regularly, washing the floors and keeping the cats bedding clean.

Keeping your cat flea free does involve a daily activity, but once the habit is established it becomes second nature and the pleasure and benefits outweigh the effort every time. My cat expects to be groomed while I am making my bedtime drink and we enjoy our special time together every evening.

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