I was living in a rental with multiple people and pets. My roommate, whose cats lived on another floor, mentioned her cats had caught fleas in July, but that she treated them. My other roommate, who shared my floor, has two large dogs then said he proactively treated them. Since my cat mostly stayed in my one room away from the other cats, with the exception of occasionally wandering around the same floor the dogs resided upon, but never the floor with the cats, I was not concerned about the issue.
About four weeks ago, I started noticing (what I now know to be) flea dirt on my wooden desk and bed. I assumed this was dirt from the window sill (which was often open while I left for work), but I began cleaning my space even more regularly and washing the sheets more often (I typically clean every couple of days and wash my sheets bi-weekly). About two weeks after, my roommate with the dogs mentioned his dogs had become infested with fleas and he had to take them to the vet for treatment, which surprised me given what he had previously mentioned. Shortly thereafter, I awoke to flea larvae crawling on my sheets near my face. I was repulsed, then checked my cat (a long-haired Cymric) to find a cluster of fleas on his skin.
At this point, I realized that the fleas had infested the entire floor I shared with my roommate, the dogs, and my cat. The eggs and larvae were inside my desk (untreated wood), in all of my pillows and bedding, the rug on the floor, and who knows what else. Since I shared one small room with my cat, he came in contact with everything in there except the clothes on the upper shelves of my closet. Once I looked closely, I found flea dirt on most everything, including my art supplies, and books.
First, I treated my cat with Frontline.
Then, I tossed the desk, the bed, bedding, the rug, makeup brushes, and most containers peppered with fleas and placed most of my clothes, books, art supplies, important papers, medicines, bath items, and household supplies in bins and black trash bags. During this process I was painfully bitten by perhaps the largest flea I have ever seen. I got most of my things cleaned and then left to go sleep somewhere else.
The house was then fleabombed (without my consent) with my cat in the basement and the remainder of my items in my room. I was livid about this, and returned to a room that reeked of poison and threw the rest of my things quickly into bags and then into my car, while I let my cat stay in my car with the A/C on. Afterwards, I was told that dead fleas were on almost every single surface of the floor I lived on. At this point, I decided if I moved back into that house I would be risking having any new items I bought re-contaminated, and left.
I now am staying in a hotel with my cat. I have switched rooms twice since, and only use items and clothing in this hotel room that I have washed with very hot water and soap and then dried with hot air. My cat has since been given a bath at the vet and a flea collar, I vacuum twice daily and spray the environment with a peppermint/clove spray, and myself before I leave. I clean the vacuum with extremely hot water and Castille soap daily. Even with the flea bath, vacuuming, spray, cleaning, and transfer to the sterile environment, I am still seeing flea dirt and the occasional live flea on my cat.
I have found a condo to move into but I am terrified of bringing fleas into this new environment.
- How did this problem get to be so out of hand in the first place, if the animals supposedly had been treated?
- Why am I still seeing fleas on my cat after a treatment, a bath, collar, and rehoming to multiple sterile environments? Are these eggs falling off of me, or were they stubbornly in his fur? If he was given a flea bath with a growth inhibitor, why did these eggs hatch or adults emerge from pupae? Where are these new fleas coming from? Is the Frontline and inhibitor not actually killing the fleas before they can lay new eggs? I assume it might be leftover pupae in his fur? If so, I assume once these adult fleas emerge, these new fleas will not have time to lay eggs? Is there any way to kill these remaining pupae in his fur?
- Are there fleas in my car? My cat wandered around in there briefly while I was moving out. I assume eggs from before my cat was treated could have fallen in there. Is it possible that the new fleas are coming from my car? If so, how can I get them out and prevent them from reproducing further? I assume I could but some baking soda/DE on the seats (to dry out eggs, larvae, and pupae), and vacuum it once all of the items are out of my car, then spray it with a growth inhibitor? Again, however, if a pupae falls into my car, even post-growth-inhibitor treatment, I assume it will be able to emerge as an adult.
- My car is now filled with clothes and bins of contaminated items. I want to clean these items and then move them into a storage facility before I can move into the condo. How can I clean these items without rec-contaminating them, contaminating a laundromat, and/or myself by handling them? These items have been in my cold car for a week, so I assume all of the adult fleas are dead, so I am mostly afraid of the eggs, larvae, and pupae falling off of these items onto things. I assume I could spray the sterile containers, and the clothing I wore that day with growth inhibitors to prevent any eggs from hatching, and choose a laundromat where I know the floor and areas are cleaned daily? However, again, I assume stray pupae that fall into the sterile container or my clothing from these contaminated items will still hatch despite the growth inhibitor? Is there anything I can do to kill them or prevent them from emerging?
- How can I prevent contaminating the condo and any other space that my cat and I inhabit now? I feel like my entire life right now is fighting the stragglers to make sure they do not infest the hotel room. I know that once an adult flea bites my cat, it will die because of Frontline. However, does it have time to lay eggs first? If I give my cat another bath before I move in and spray a growth inhibitor all over the space, will that be enough?
Please help, I’m honestly going insane.
I am sorry to hear about your flea problem. It sounds like a really severe infestation that went unnoticed for a while. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.
1. It sounds like the dogs weren’t treated properly (maybe a lapse in treatment), or perhaps the treatment given wasn’t effective. What was the preventative treatment he used on the dogs?
2. I am not sure where these fleas are coming from in your new residence. It is strange. There shouldn’t be any viable eggs produced after you treated the cat. Pupae don’t live on the host. The eggs fall off of the animal within a few hours of being laid. The only thing I can think of is that fleas were developing on and are emerging from some items you brought with you (area rug, pet bed, etc… I am not sure).
The Frontline Plus contains an adulticide (fipronil) to kill adult fleas. It can take the adulticide a few hours to kill adult fleas, but they should die before they have a chance to lay eggs. And even if they survived long enough, Frontline contains an insect growth regulator (methoprene) to sterilize female adults.
Baths and shampooing can sometimes reduce the efficacy of flea drops like Frontline, even though they are labeled as water-proof. Still, one bath shouldn’t affect it all that much.
3. There may be fleas in your car if the cat was in there before being treated. However, if the cat was treated before entering the car, then it’s unlikely fleas are in there.
Vacuuming the car and spraying an insect growth regulator is probably the best way to deal with fleas there. Also, the weather should be getting cold soon, depending on where you live. Fleas can’t survive sub-freezing temps.
4. Eggs hatch in 1-2 days. If there were eggs on those items, they have hatched already. Perhaps there are larvae there, but they probably can’t survive there or elsewhere. This is because they require adult flea feces (flea dirt) for food. They will starve without it. So flea dirt would have to fall in essentially the same place as the eggs/larvae.
Steam cleaning would kill any pupae on the containers. That’s one option. Cleaning them with a vacuum cleaner would also kill any pupae that get sucked up, if you are able to reach all the cracks and crevices in the items.
It should be safe to clean these items in a laundromat without worrying about contamination.
5. As mentioned in #2, the Frontline should kill the fleas before they can lay eggs. And the IGR in it should sterilize the females even if they survive long enough.
It’s probably a good idea to avoid baths, and just stick to the monthly Frontline treatments. And it may be a good idea to spray the new home’s carpets and floors with an insect growth regulator before moving in. It will add a 2nd layer of protection. Plus, it lasts 7 months indoors, so it is good for long-term prevention.
I hope this helps. I am sorry I can’t help you pinpoint where the new fleas are coming from. That is bizarre.
Let me know if you have further questions.