19 Cats and I Have Fleas, Reader Question


Q: I have 19 cats, and have noticed many have scabs and flea bites, and some of the cats are miserable. The original Advantage worked fine, but Advantage II does not. On the web, I learned better choices are cedar oil and diatomaceous earth, but these methods require handling all the cats, which I can’t because some are semi-feral. What can I do to protect my cats from fleas? — J.H., Eustis, FL

A: Even veterinary colleagues often call veterinary parisitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, “Dr. Flea.” Dryden is a professor of Veterinary Parasitology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University-Manhattan. Dryden says, “The problem is not Advantage II (which is actually a step-up compared to Advantage I); it’s that you weren’t treating each and every cat. No matter what product you choose, you won’t be successful treating only some of the cats. I do understand that it’s likely the semi-feral cats may not be very accepting of treatment, and I understand the cost can be prohibitive to treat so many cats.”

Dryden suggests your most practical option is to treat as many cats as you can. If you don’t wish to use Advantage II, ask your veterinarian about an alternative. In reality, however, you’ll need twice-a-year supplemental pest management (an exterminator). For the most impact, says Dryden, choose an exterminating company with previous successes at eradicating fleas, and ask for a product with an insect growth regulator.

Sometimes, “answers” found on the web aren’t really answers. For example, Dryden notes that there’s no verifiable data to demonstrate that diatomaceous earth (sprinkled on a cat’s fur) can be effective enough to make a real difference. Dryden has concerns that cedar oil (also applied externally) could even be potentially hazardous to cats.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, Steve Dale