Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Green Cat Flea Bait? (#2 of 3)

Bugs are wet and sweaty Texas’ state birds. By bugs I count butterflies and dragon flies in fairness, but what I really mean are cockroaches, venomous things, mosquitoes and the pissy little insect in question: fleas. When summer hit Houston sometime that February after I first found percy, and he started losing his hair, and I kept getting minuscule “mosquito” bites, I never imagined “fleas” were the culprits. As a native of alpine, cold, and dry Utah, I really thought fleas only existed in nineteenth century novels.

As I’ve noted, Percy suffered immensely from my ignorance.

Percy’s pomades of choice from that day forward have been Advantage and/or Frontline flea killers. Some vet, many years ago, promised me that the active ingredient in these killers is a salt, and that the salt isn’t bad for my cat or me or my baby, and I was content to believe it because it worked. But then GreenDaddy just read that book about raising your children toxic free, and made me look up the ingredients in both flea killers -- Imadacloprid in one, Aryleterocycles in the other -- and I found that they were, indeed bad toxins. I also realized that over 90% of most of the rest of the ingredents aren't listed, and I know because I am a smart cookie who has read up on this sort of thing, that the inactive, unlisted ingredients are often much more toxic than the active ones.

I want to be a green parent. Fleas make the cat very sick. The two things that work to kill the fleas in Texas are toxic. Sigh.

Everybody on the internet knows all this. I found two particularly thorough articles from the Animal Protection of New Mexico website, one on why spot-on flea killers are not safe, the other on how to get rid of fleas naturally. I’ve also read a number of articles citing very sick pets, and sometimes sick humans, resulting from the flea killers.

So I read lots of articles about natural remedies. When I read stories of people who tried them, I don’t get lots of assurance they’re going to work. And the problem I have with them is that some “natural” ingredients aren’t safe for dogs and cats.

Two important examples of natural ingredients you SHOULD NOT USE: GARLIC causes liver failure in cats and dogs if they eat it regularly; thus, they die by spitting up blood when overexposed. ESSENCIAL OIL EXTRACTS: have killed many cats.

Even my diehard “natural” friends, in Texas, laugh at me when I tell them I need to stop using Frontline and Advantage. Percy has never had monthly doses of either…he’s like Izzy Mom and deodorant: he uses it about a third as often as the box says he should, and that works fine.

I am going to try to use other methods. In my next post I'll offer a number of recipes, treatments, etc. Still, I can’t help feeling skeptical. I admit this ahead of time. Deep inside my imperfect green brain I suspect that the only really effective treatments for fleas, outside of Advantage and Frontline, is moving to a northern clime.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I am in retro denial about how bad it is in Houston, but I wonder: could Percy be kept indoors, where he wouldn't get so many fleas? (I just remembered when I had to have my house professionally bombed back in the day.

Also, someone once told me that fleas don't actually live on the cat, they live where the cat sleeps. So if you put stuff (I've heard that bay leaves work???) where the pet sleeps, maybe that will help?

Or wash the cat (ha ha) a lot.

Wait, the stuff they used to bomb the house was actually some regular household-type stuff (Borax?). They said it was "green."

Hmm. None of this probably helps. Sorry. J.

Anonymous said...

We do use Advantage. It's either one form of torment or the other. You don't have to use Advantage every month. We
use it every other month and only in the summer months. Are the fleas just on Percy or are they getting on Lila?
Dusting Percy with Diatomaceous Earth will kill the fleas on him. Dust is not healthy to breath so dust him outside.
Diatomaceous Earth will kill beneficial insects as well so use specifically.

Vacuuming often with Diatomaceous Earth in the bag will help keep fleas at bay.

There's also the nematode thing for outside. Spray around your house with liquid filled with nematodes.

Hope you guys are well. Very entertaining and informative blog!
Take care,

Lou said...

What is the name of the book on toxins? I'd really like to read it, because as I have been reading your blog, I've become paranoid about what may and may not be toxic. For example, I almost made myself pass out this morning while using CLR (which saying on the bottle that it is non-toxic and biodegradable--but who knows, they could be lying. They could be some subsidiary of Dupont...). It has a strange, strong smell, so I held my breath just in case. Anyway, one thing I have also learned about toxicity is that the dosage is important. There are myriad things that are carcinogenic--but their toxic effects can be avoided by dosage. Plus, there are natural chemicals in plants and other natural remedies that could also be toxic(i.e. ephedra!). Just because they aren't derived from petrochemicals doesn't make them safe. So, where is the line? How do we find it? How do I know that the incredible amount of vinegar I'm using for cleaning isn't going to mutate my DNA somehow or warp my lungs by its pungent smell? :)

GreenDaddy said...

Hey Lou,

Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World is the latest book by Landrigan, Needleman, and Landrigan. I just got a copy through inter-library loan at the university where I work. But it is hard to find and used copies are expensive.

The one I reviewed earlier is Raising Children Toxic Free. It's more widely available but older.

Sorry we're making you freak out : ) We're trying to detox stepwise, room by room, need by need. Sometimes it's one step forward two steps back. But I wouldn't worry about vinegar for cleaning too much. In terms of dosage, people have been eating and drinking vinegar (BBQ, pickles, salad dressing) for hundreds of years without effect. When you clean with vinegar, the dosage is so much lower than the dosage that avid pickle eaters expose themselves to.

Otherwise, I'm with you about fear of natural toxins. The whole rhetoric of natural this and natural can easily be distorted or can mislead people. Well, I'll try to share what I find out from the book I just got.


Anonymous said...

The Best Diatomaceous Earth on the Market for Fleas and other crawling insects is DiaSource Crawling Insect Killer.