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Dealing with Fleas in Your Home

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Around the House

Adult cat fleas, which are the most common fleas that infest pets (both dogs and cats), spend virtually their entire lives on their hosts and can lay as many as 30 eggs a day.

A Fine Mess

Fleas prefer meals from cats or dogs. They typically can't complete a life cycle on human blood. This doesn't mean they won't go for it, though, especially if other hosts are in short supply.

Fleas are always around. They're part and parcel of our environment. But they like certain surroundings and conditions better than others. People and pets who live in certain parts of the United States, such as the desert Southwest, don't have as many problems with fleas as do those who live in the Midwest or the Deep South, where conditions are ripe for flea infestations. Why? Because fleas love humidity and warm temperatures.

Give fleas the right environment -- humidity levels above 70 percent, temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees -- and they can be extremely prolific breeders. When conditions are favorable in the flea kingdom, they can complete an entire reproductive cycle in as few as 16 days. Couple prolific breeding with the fact that an adult flea can live for several months without a meal, and you've got a recipe for infestation.

One other factor has to be in place for that infestation to happen. Although fleas can go for months without eating, female fleas have to eat before they lay their eggs. Their favorite food? Blood.

As mentioned, the best way to control fleas is to prevent them from gaining a foothold in the first place. But this isn't always possible. Take a midwinter trip to somewhere warm with Fido, and he could come back with fleas. Let Ms. Kitty stay with Grandma (who doesn't believe in flea-control products and would never use them on her babies) while you're away, and she could come back with them, too.

Defensive Measures

As previously mentioned, the best way to deal with a flea infestation is to prevent it from happening. The following tips will help protect your pets and your home.

Pet defenses:

  • Use spot-on insecticides and IGRs during flea season. This is the best approach you can take for both cats and dogs.

  • Minimize exposure to fleas by having your pets sleep indoors. Keep them in one area instead of letting them roam about. This will help keep the flea population in one place, and make control efforts easier.

  • Spray your pet's sleeping area with a flea repellent. You can find these products at veterinarian clinics, home stores, and other retailers.

Environmental defenses:

  • Vacuum pet areas at least twice a week. Discard vacuum bag promptly.

  • Exclude pets from carpeted areas so fleas are not a problem there from the start.

  • Keep grass mowed and shrubs trimmed. If neighborhood animals tend to hang around your house, remove items and substances that can attract them as much as possible. This can be difficult if your pets spend most of their time outdoors. Consider an enclosed kennel for dogs. Keep cats indoors.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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