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How to get rid of fleas in an apartment with carpeted floors?

Long story short. we came home after 5 days away with our 1.5 year old and noticed that the wherever the cat slept or lounged there was cat hair and little particles that looked like black pepper.

A quick internet search pointed to fleas. My wife bought a flea collar for the kitty (

$50 for a time release collar good for 8 months. that hurt the wallet) and a flea comb.

She proceeded to comb 40-50 fleas off of kitty. (Awhile ago I noticed spots on kitty’s neck that were scabbed over. I should have guessed that it was probably from scratching.)

I also saw a flea on the carpet and then it sprang away.

My question is, what is the cheapest, safest and most efficient way to get rid of these suckers. Is there a permanent solution? I have a 1.5 year old so I’m concerned with using chemicals.

13 Answers 13

When I lived in an apartment, we had a problem with fleas once (due to a neglectful pet owner in the building). Getting rid of the problem was no small feat, and took a lot of work over a few days.

I started by laundering all bedding, clothing, and basically anything fabric that was washable. Next I rented a steam cleaner, to clean the carpets. You can call in the pros for this if you don’t want to do it yourself. The final step was to spray the entire carpet; paying special attention to the edges and corners, with Adams™ Flea & Tick Home Spray. Other brands exist, this was just the one I chose which worked for me.

When using any chemical spray, make sure you have adequate ventilation. Try to avoid skin contact with chemical sprays as well. My wife had a bad reaction to the spray, where her feet swelled up quite a bit.

If you’re in an apartment building; where the source of the infestation could be coming from other tenants, you’ll also have to treat the other units. If you don’t remove the infestation from the entire building, you’ll likely see the fleas return to your apartment. Any outdoor pets in the building should also be treated, not only to combat the flea infestation but also for the health of the animal.

Due to the fact that you have an infant I would seek professional assistance. You don’t have the choices of chemicals that trained and licensed pest professionals do. I can’t testify to their effectiveness but I have heard that you can trap fleas with a desk lamp. You place the lamp on the floor with the arm extended and pointed about 6 inches off the floor. Place a pie pan on the floor under the lamp so the lamp shines on it. Pour an inch of water in the pan. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the water. The theory is that the fleas are attracted to the light, hop in the pan and are trapped in the liquid. Another tip I have done is to take the extra piece of flea collar and put it in the vacuum cleaner bag. We have a HEPA filter so the chemicals are contained in the bag. The idea is that any fleas vacuumed up are killed in the bag preventing their release when the bag is changed.

Understanding the flea life cycle is important (e.g., because different treatments work on the different flea stages. Different approaches work for different stages. For example, «Cocoons have a sticky outer coating that allows them to hide deep in the carpeting and not be easily removed by light vacuuming or sweeping. The cocoon also serves to protect the developing adults from chemicals.» That means you must repeat the various treatments, so you catch the little buggers when they move through their life cycle.

To solve a flea problem, you will need to tackle it from all sides. You will need to address the fleas on your pet, as well as kill the adult fleas, eggs, and larvae from your entire apartment. Some of these suggestions also already appear in other answers.

The first step is to treat your pet. Bathe them with flea and tick killing shampoo. Then comb them thoroughly to remove as many fleas and eggs as possible. Apply flea medicine to them or put on a flea collar. This will help prevent your pet from being eaten alive. You may need to try different types of medications if the one you are using does not work. The fleas will then generally leave them alone.

Fleas will also target humans, so be sure to clean all linens, clothing and bedding if possible. Hot water works best to kill off the eggs and larvae which may be there. You should also vacuum every carpet, and be sure to clean every crevice thoroughly. The furniture should also be vacuumed. Be sure to pull up the cushions and vacuum. It is also a good idea to pull out the furniture and clean behind and underneath. Once you are done vacuuming, put the bag into a plastic garbage bag and immediately dispose of it. You can also spray flea killer directly into the bag so they don’t escape. After everything has been cleaned and vacuumed, then move on to steam cleaning. Make sure to use hot water when cleaning. The hot water is more likely to kill the eggs.

Those steps will get rid of around 90% of the fleas. The remaining ones will be much harder to deal with. Their lifecycles are extremely fast. It only takes about 3 days for a flea to reach maturity and start breeding. When I dealt with them in my old apartment, the only thing that was able to completely get rid of them was a flea trap. A flea trap uses a small night light light bulb, and has a piece of sticky paper underneath it. The fleas will jump towards the light, and then fall through a plastic grate onto the paper and get stuck there. Put the trap in an area where you have noticed flea activity, and you will see that the paper will be completely covered with hundreds of fleas within a few days. Replace the paper when necessary, and your flea problem will eventually be solved. When you get your trap, make sure to get some extra refills. They get used up pretty quickly. Also keep track of how many fleas are being captured. At first, there should be quite a few every day. That number should decline over the span of a few days. If it doesn’t then there is still a serious problem, and you should repeat the steps above to reduce their population. Eventually there shouldn’t be any more fleas in the trap. Once you think they are all gone, put in a fresh refill and leave it on for at least a week to see if you get any more. There will be a few stragglers around for quite some time, and if they are not all exterminated, then they will be able to repopulate. You can also try having multiple traps around, or at least try moving it around to see if you find more.

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How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats: Flea Control Methods for Cats

Cat fleas are relatively small reddish-brown fleas that feed primarily on the blood of cats, though they can also feed on dogs and humans. The cat flea is the most widespread flea species in the world.

Though cat fleas can feed on other animals, they require cats as hosts in order to sustain an infestation. Cat flea larvae generally feed on the dried blood of cats in the form of fecal waste left behind by adult fleas. Unlike many other fleas, cat fleas remain on their hosts.

Though a small number of fleas on a cat will not likely cause much damage (and many cats live with fleas showing almost no signs of infestation), a large number, or any number in a cat that is allergic to flea saliva can cause some health concerns.

When cats clean themselves, they swallow any fleas that may be on their coats. This can make detecting fleas difficult. If you notice your cat continuously itching or biting itself, this should be a warning sign.

In addition, if you have found any flea bites on yourself than this is a good indicator that you are dealing with fleas.

One method that has been suggested to find out if your cat has fleas is to place it over a white sheet or piece of paper and comb it with a very fine comb.

If fleas or little black (flea feces) or white (flea eggs) specks fall onto the paper, then your cat likely has fleas.

The little black specks are flea feces, and if crushed together with water they will turn red, as there is dried blood in flea feces. The easiest places to look for fleas on your cat are on its back, tail, and rear.

These areas tend to be the ones that itch the most as well.

Cat Flea Bites

As previously mentioned, cat flea bites in small numbers will generally not cause serious issues, but even then they must be treated.

Flea infestations can grow easily, seriously affect your cat’s health, and spread to other animals and people. In most cases, biting causes only moderate itching, but in more serious cases, it can lead to dehydration, Anemia, hair loss, and the transfer of tapeworms.

Cat fleas can feed on humans as well and it may be possible for cat fleas to transfer diseases as serious as typhus, lime disease, or the plague to humans.

Cats who are allergic to flea saliva (hypersensitivity) experience aggravated effects.

Common Symptoms

In order to identify a flea infestation in your cat, you need to have basic knowledge of some of its most palpable symptoms. The following is a brief list of some of these signs.

Severe itching (Pruritus)- Fleas on a cat notably cause severe scratching of the infected areas. Extreme cases may push the cat to excessive licking and chewing in attempt to stop the itching.

Fur loss and thinning- Due to heavy scratching, you may notice your cat losing a lot more fur than usual. Fur loss eventually lead to scabs, open sores and bald patches on the fur coat.

Pus discharge on the skin– This mostly occurs with secondary infection. Since it generally means that the infection is getting worse, it should not be taken lightly.

Flea dirt on your cat’s fur coat- Flea feces manifests in the form of black pepper-like flecks. Infected sections of the cat’s fur coat would normally be concentrated with such flecks.

Weight loss- As the infection worsens, you may notice your cat’s physical health deteriorating. Weight loss and poor fur health are the common indicators of such regress.

Cat Flea Treatment

There are several methods of treatment for cat flea bites. It should be noted though that, no matter the form of treatment for the bites, the most important thing to do is to get rid of the cat fleas.

So long as the fleas are there, they will continue to bite the cat. It is important to treat a cat with fleas not only when he has them, but also when they do not have fleas as part of a prevention methodology.

Make sure to check with your veterinarian before administering any medication and it is important to note that what works for dogs may not necessarily work for cats and may even be fatal to them.

In addition to all of this, if the cat has spent much time in the house or, if you or other members of the household have noticed flea bites, it may well be necessary to get rid of fleas in your house as well.

With that being said, the following are methods for treating cat flea bites and getting rid of cat fleas:

Topical treatments such as Advantage II, Frontline Plus, or Frontline Top Spot are great ways to get rid of fleas and keep them away from your cat. These treatments can be applied regularly and make your cat’s fur a poisonous place to fleas.

Other topical treatments (e.g. bioSpot Spot On) contain Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), which stops larvae from being able to mature and halts the flea infestation’s life cycle.

Be careful to read the packaging carefully as topical ointments can be harmful to cats if misused. Topical ointments are largely separated into ‘spot-on’ and spray treatments.

Before topical ointments, several different powders were used for cat fleas. These are still available today but are not recommended, as they can be harmful to cats.

Over – the – counter spot application treatment- In most cases, veterinarian recommend simple store medication as spot treatment.

This, however, does not make consulting a professional unnecessary; if anything, it is advisable to only use treatment recommended by your cat’s doctor.

Oral medications– oral products can be obtained from your veterinarian and release chemicals, which can both get rid of any parasites your cat may have gotten from the fleas, and the fleas themselves.

These tablets can be tricky to administer as your cat needs to swallow them, and they must be administered repeatedly. They are, however, very effective.

The active ingredient in the tablets collects under your cat’s skin, and works when fleas bite your cat. The tablets stop flea eggs from hatching. Such tablets can be acquired through a veterinarian.

Pet flea collars– Special collars with anti-flea chemicals on them are another common method.

These can be effective however, they can cause local irritation around the neck, and sometimes the chemicals do not spread well through your cat’s fur.

Natural remedies – You may also decide to go natures way and use home remedies to treat the infection. recommend putting a of a teaspoon of yeast with a pinch of garlic in your cat’s food on a daily basis which should do the trick. They also recommend high protein food to keep your cat healthy. This makes your cat less susceptible to further infection. For more natural remedies for fleas, check out Kitty Insight.

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Additional treatments and Medicine

  1. Bathing your cat using hypoallergenic soaps or shampoos frequently may work when the infection is mild. For the lesions (open sores), your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics. Last but not least, simply keeping your cat properly groomed helps regulate some symptoms of dermatitis.
  2. Cats who develop hypersensitivity to flea bites may need to be taken to the veterinarian and prescribed antihistamines or steroids to treat their symptoms. The same goes for cats that have developed infections from open wounds after too much scratching or biting.
  3. Keeping a cat’s environment clean and flea-free is important in preventing infestations. If your cat has fleas and spends time inside the house or, if you or other members of the house have fleas, it may well be necessary to get rid of the fleas in your house.


It is important to know that even humans are susceptible to flea bites. Once you commence your cat’s treatment, the fleas may leave the animal in search of another host. This could cause a flea infestation in your house. In order to fully see to both your house and cat free of the flea infestation, an environmental treatment is advisable.

1 thought on “ How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats: Flea Control Methods for Cats ”

I need advice!
I go to college full-time and my family and I literally have little money to invest in costly exterminations… We noticed the bites starting to happen 2 weeks ago approximately, now they’re all over my family’s apartment… I’ve treated my cat with drops and am going to start washing clothing, and vaccuming tomorrow… Is there a way to speed up the process of getting rid of these pests, or just any advice in general? My family has had bed bugs before, so we know how it is like to deal with these kinds of things… PLEASE HELP!

Cat Fleas – How To Get Rid Of Cat Fleas

Last Updated on April 23, 2020

Cat fleas at a glance

About: Cat fleas are a common parasite that lives on the fur and skin of cats, feeding on the cat’s blood.

Transmission: Cats become infested when they come into contact with fleas in the environment, another animal, or even when humans bring fleas inside. Fleas not only cause discomfort but can also transmit diseases , parasites and cause anemia.


  • Scratching
  • Excessive grooming
  • Crusty papules and open sores along the back and around the neck due to an allergic reaction
  • Allergic reaction to the saliva, producing crusty sores on the back and around the neck
  • Salt and pepper debris where the cat sleeps, which is flea eggs and feces
  • Pale gums (if anemic)

Treatment: Kill adult fleas on the cat and treat the environment. Veterinary prescribed flea treatments are the most effective; they come in topical form applied to the skin on the neck or tablet form.

What are cat fleas?

Fleas are wingless parasites which feed on the blood of mammals, including cats. There are approximately 2,000 species of flea; however, Ctenocephalides felis is the most common species to feed off cats (and dogs).

They pose a significant risk to cats as they can transmit several infectious diseases as well as tapeworm, cause severe allergies in sensitive cats and heavy flea burdens can lead to anemia.

All cats are at risk, even those who are strictly indoors as fleas can hitch a ride on the clothing of household members and visitors. As well as that, flea pupae can lie dormant in the environment for up to six months.

How do I know if my cat has fleas?

  • Itching, biting and scratching, especially around the neck, ears and around the base of the tail.
  • Crusting papules and sores: Some cats are sensitive to the saliva in the flea bite and may develop crusting; this is particularly common along the back and around the neck.
  • Salt and pepper: You may notice flea eggs and droppings in his coat or bedding. Flea eggs are white, droppings are dark red, giving the appearance of salt and pepper.

Carefully go through your cat’s fur, paying close attention to the base of the tail and around the neck. Cat fleas are brown with a flat body, and approximately 2 mm in length.

Effects of fleas on your a cat

Fleas can have a serious impact on your cat’s health and comfort. Heavy infestations can lead to anemia, particularly in young kittens who have a reduced blood supply and are less efficient groomers.

Cats can develop an allergy to flea saliva ( flea allergy dermatitis) , an extremely uncomfortable condition characterised by itching, biting and scratching along with multiple papules and areas of hair loss. Left untreated, repeated biting and scratching can damage the skin and lead to a bacterial infection.

Fleas transmit several diseases which include tapeworm , plague , bartonellosis, tularemia , feline infectious anemia , and rickettsia.

Life Cycle of the flea

To combat fleas, it is important to understand their life cycle. There are four stages of the flea life cycle, known as metamorphosis.

Flea stages

The graph below illustrates the number of fleas in their different life stages. Adult fleas only account for 5% of the total flea population; the other three make up larvae 35%, pupae 10% and a whopping 50% are flea eggs.

1) Adult flea:

The adult flea emerges when it is stimulated by environmental factors such as vibrations, warmth or breath of the host and can come out of its cocoon within seconds of stimulation.

Adult fleas suck blood from their host and female fleas must have a blood meal before she can lay eggs, which will occur 36-48 hours after her first meal. A female consumes up to 15 times her body weight in blood per day and can lay between 40 – 50 eggs per day.

2) Flea eggs:

At .5mm in length, flea eggs are barely visible to the human eye. The flea egg is whitish, smooth and dry, making it easy for them to fall off the coat and into the environment.

Flea eggs hatch after 1 – 10 days, depending on conditions. Pet owners may notice that flea eggs and flea droppings are often found together. When the cat scratches the eggs along with the droppings, fall off the cat.

Environmental conditions such as humidity, light, and temperature determine how quickly and how many flea larvae hatch from flea eggs. The lower the temperature, the fewer larvae will hatch. Optimal conditions for flea larvae to hatch are 70% and higher and temperatures of 21 – 32 degrees C (70 – 89 degrees F).

3) Larvae:

The larvae are vermiform (maggot-like) like in appearance and up to 6mm long, flea larvae avoid light by residing deep in carpet fibres, under furniture and in areas your cat frequents such as cat beds. At this stage, they have no legs or eyes but have chewing mouthparts. Flea larvae feed on flea eggs and adult flea feces which are composed almost entirely of dry cat blood.

If the opportunity presents, flea larvae will also eat tapeworm eggs in the environment. Once inside the flea larvae, the tapeworm larvae are released and develop into the cysticercoid form, where it remains in the flea larvae as it develops into an adult flea. The tapeworm infected flea goes on to parasitise the cat and is accidentally ingested when the cat grooms. Once inside the cat, the flea breaks apart and the tapeworm is released.

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4) Pupae:

Image credit Sean McCann, Flickr

The transition stage between larvae and adult flea. After approximately 7-18 days the flea larvae pupate. It takes approximately 7 – 10 days for the larvae to develop into a flea, although it may be some time before the flea emerges from its protective cocoon. They are at their most resilient as pupae, and resistant to insecticides.

The flea larvae spin a sticky, protective silken (produced by the saliva of the larvae) outer cocoon, covered with particles of debris such as dust, hair, lint etc. The pupae are found in carpet fibres, crevices etc., and are virtually undetectable.

Can I catch fleas from my cat?

A heavy infestation may lead to fleas taking the occasional blood meal from humans, but they generally prefer to live on cats. Signs you may have been bitten by a flea include itching and scratching and a small, red, papule. Humans are most often bitten around the ankles and feet.

Treatment options for cats

Because only 1% of the flea population is actually on the cat, it is necessary to treat both the cat and the home at the same time.

There are many products available to treat fleas on cats. Flea collar, shampoo, flea combs, spray, tablets, powders, insect growth regulators and topical treatments. The most effective products are the spot-on or oral suspension treatments which are available from your veterinarian. Fleas can develop a resistance to some products, speak to your vet for his advice on the most effective flea control treatment.

Flea collars

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR’s to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat’s head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Shampoos and dips

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR’s to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea Combs

Flea combs aren’t overly effective, only removing 10 – 50% of fleas on your cat. If you wish to use this method, place a small bowl of water with some detergent in it close by and drop the fleas into the bowl. This will drown the fleas. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the teeth of the comb will help the fleas stick to it.

Flea Powders

Flea powders will kill adult fleas on the cat. Powders may cause the cat’s coat to dry out and also may be irritating to the cat’s oral and respiratory mucosa.

Flea medications:

  • Comfortis (fleas, ticks, and flea allergy dermatitis), administered once a month.
  • Capstar (fleas). Kills adult fleas on your cat for 24 hours. Can be used in conjunction with topical flea products (see below).
Topical solutions
  • Revolution (fleas, ear mites, intestinal worms-except tapeworm, heartworm)
  • Advantage (fleas)
  • Program (fleas)
  • Frontline Plus (fleas, ticks, ear mites-off label, and flea allergy dermatitis)
  • Activyl (fleas, ticks, and ear mites)
  • Advocate (fleas, mange, ear mites, heartworm, intestinal worms)
  • Frontline (fleas and ticks)
  • Advantage (fleas)
  • Program (fleas)
Oral suspensions

    Program® is given to cats via an oral suspension once a month. The product is added to the cat’s food and is absorbed into the bloodstream. When a flea bites a cat treated with Program it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron), which is passed to her eggs and prevents them from hatching. As this product only prevents eggs from hatching, an appropriate adulticide will also be needed to kill adult fleas.

    Flea product safety:

    • When applying a flea product to a cat, it is important to follow the instructions on the packet to the letter. Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals, and if you are using one than one product, your cat may be exposed to too many toxins, resulting in sickness or death.
    • Rotating flea products can help increase effectiveness as fleas are becoming resistant to some flea control products.
    • After administering flea products, closely observe your cat for adverse reactions.
    • Warning: Never administer dog flea products to a cat.

    Natural cat flea repellents:

    • 50 ml apple cider vinegar
    • 50 ml water

    Mix in a spray bottle, spray onto your hands and stroke into your cat’s coat as well as on your cat’s bedding and other areas your cat frequents. You can also add two drops of catnip essential oil to increase effectiveness.

    Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be applied to floors, bedding, and your cat’s coat. Avoid the head and face as it can be irritating if inhaled.

    Remove fleas by hand using a flea comb. This is a good method, especially when removing fleas from young kittens (under 6 weeks of age) who are too young for most chemical flea products. When removing fleas, flick them into a bowl of hot soapy water to drown them.

    A word of caution when using natural cat flea products

    Always be careful with essential oils on or around cats. Remember, these oils are concentrated and many are toxic to cats even in low doses. I frequently see people advising the use of tea tree oil as a natural flea treatment, but this is toxic unless diluted to 0.1-1%. So avoid where possible, or use with extreme care and only at a safe dilution.

    Do not use garlic, which is toxic to cats.

    Treat the environment:


    Vacuum daily to remove fleas and their eggs. Buy a flea collar, cut it into pieces and put a piece in your vacuum cleaner bag.

    Pay extra attention to corners, skirting boards, under furniture and any other nooks and crannies. Once you have vacuumed, clean out the bag and dispose of carefully. Ensure that every time you vacuum, you empty the bag or canister to prevent any fleas escaping.

    Better still, use a steam cleaner to kill flea eggs and larvae in the home.

    Insect foggers:

    To treat the house and environment, you can either hire the services of a professional pest controller or buy a product from your local supermarket. Most DIY products come in the form of an aerosol bomb. Insect foggers kill adult fleas only.

    Remove animals before bombing as foggers are toxic to other animals (including fish).

    IGR’s (insect growth regulators):

    These sprays disrupt the cycle of the flea. They prevent eggs from hatching, kill larvae and prevent adult fleas from reproducing. These most often come in as a bomb/spray and can be used on carpets and furniture.

    A pest controller should be able to spray your house and garden for fleas. It is important to specify that you have cat(s) living in the house, so they can use a suitable spray which is safe for pets.

    Wash rugs, cat bedding, etc., in the hottest possible cycle. You can also spray unwashable bedding with flea sprays such as Frontline.

    Treat outdoors:

    Spray areas your pet tends to hang out, and if he has bedding in the garden, bring it in and wash it.

    You will need flea bomb any outdoor buildings such as garages and sheds, especially if your cat hangs out there.

    Keep wood piles stacked and away from your home.

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