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Dear Christopher Cat

Since January, when I first saw fleas on our two indoor cats, I have used many flea products without success, including powder, shampoo, cedar/rosemary, Frontline and Advantage. I wash the bedding, vacuum our home and kill the fleas I comb from the cats, but nothing is working.

We live in the San Francisco Bay area, so I expect the problem to worsen this spring. What can I do?

Christopher Responds

The key to successfully treating fleas is to choose a topical product proven to be effective through clinical studies, and stick with it at least six months. It won’t hurt to add environmental control as well.

Start by applying either Frontline Plus or Advantage to your cats’ skin every month. Don’t add flea powder or flea shampoo to the regimen.

If you want to use an additional product, consider Capstar, a tablet that will kill all the fleas on your cats in about an hour but have no residual effect.

To address your cats’ environment at the same time, treat your carpets and floors with a product that kills fleas by dehydrating them, such as diatomaceous earth or Fleabusters, a borate product.

Overcoming fleas requires that you understand their life cycle. Then you’ll realize why a single dose of anything, no matter how good, won’t eradicate a flea infestation.

Your home contains many flea eggs, from which hatch small worm-like larvae. The larvae feed and eventually spin a cocoon, called a pupa, which is resistant to flea products and nearly everything else, except perhaps a nuclear explosion.

Months later, the adult flea emerges from the pupa, ready to bite you and your cats, lay eggs and repeat the cycle.

The fleas you see are undoubtedly new fleas, fresh from their protective pupa cocoons. That’s why you must continue treating your cats throughout the flea’s life cycle.

And if you bring fleas inside on your shoes -– or a dog visits your home -– you should continue to treat year-round or at least through the start of next winter.


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