Recently, we were the victims of a home invasion. No, we weren’t robbed—except of more of the precious few naturally colored strands of hair I have left. Rather, my two strictly indoor cats somehow, SOMEHOW, got fleas. (Are you itchy yet? The second I think about fleas, I start itching all over.)
When I indignantly called my vet, demanding an explanation, he chuckled and said, in his heavy French accent, “Zis is Southern California! Ze fleas, zey are everywhere! Zey come in the house on your shoes, through the screens…Zey are ubiquitous!” (New bucket list item: Speak another language well enough to use words like “ubiquitous” while doing so). Then he dropped the hammer (le marteau, if you’re wondering): “Of course, now ze fleas are probably in your house. You must treat ze cats AND ze whole house.” But, I pleaded, we have absolutely no rugs or carpets in our house for fleas to live in. “NONE??” he asked incredulously.
[That’s when I began to wonder if he was a quack vet. Because anyone who has cats knows that if you have a large living room with a hardwood floor and you put down a carpet sample even as small as a dishtowel, within an hour one or both of your cats will barf on that exact spot. Not on the easy-to-clean tile floors of the kitchen or bathroom or the hardwood in the living room, but on those six square inches of carpet. Because of this, and because we have small children who are as careful with their drinks as a frat boy at the end of a party, my husband and I made the decision not to put down any rugs in our house, except for the bedrooms where the cats are not allowed. My one cat has been so stymied/challenged by our “radical” interior design choice that she has decided that the only acceptable place for her to barf is on the mat I placed next to the litter box to try to capture some of the litter the little darlings track out. All I know is that if that stupid mat captured litter the way it captures cat barf, I would be sweeping a LOT less frequently.]
ANYWAY. Fleas. According to ze vet, they can hide their evil little eggs in hardwood flooring too. And in almost-brand-new couches, like ours. And, of course, on the cats themselves. So, that night, after the kids were in bed and my husband was busy keeping the world safe from zombies with his Xbox 360, I decided to face the problem head-on. Step 1: Wash the cats. WAIT! No. Step 1: Down a hefty glass of chardonnay while googling “wash a cat.” Step 2: Wash the cats.
Have you ever washed a cat before? I would not wish this experience on anyone (except maybe those horrible people who bring toddlers to scary movies rather than finding child care). I have never loved cleaning, but I do like that sense of accomplishment you get after completing a particularly tough job—like washing toddler vomit out of a car seat or scrubbing large blobs of dried glue off foam play mats. These jobs are no fun, but at least you have a sparkling clean product as a result of your effort. This is not true when you wash a cat. Because when you’re done your cat is clean, yes, but he’s also soaking wet and ticked off—with the sole goal in life of escaping the bathroom and flinging his wet body onto your new couch.
But, I had the flea shampoo and I had cats with fleas, so even though I didn’t want to, I got down to business. Unfortunately, our house does not have a removable shower head, so I was forced to fill the tub with about 3 inches of water and, one at a time, plop each cat into it. I quickly learned that in order to both wash the cat and hold onto the cat, I would have to climb in the tub myself and stand ankle-deep in nasty cat water. (A LONG, hot shower for me followed this whole process, needless to say.) The cats complied more than I thought they would, though each one made a noise so horrible throughout their scrubbings that it made me wish I could listen to a CD of my kids whining instead. I actually worried that they would wake the kids with their howls of clean-cat misery, and “poor” Chris had trouble hearing the moans of approaching zombies over their complaints (he managed, thank goodness).
Once the cats were clean I dried them as best as I could (so, not much), then watched them respond to their trauma. One went straight to the toilet to drink away his worries, and one decided to take a nap in the litter box. Great! Wet cat IN THE LITTER BOX! That sealed their fate, and the two of them ended up spending the night locked in the bathroom while they dried out.
Step 3 in my war on fleas was to treat the house. I had bought a can of flea-killing spray, but balked at spreading the deadly chemicals around areas where my kids play. I actually stopped and mentally tallied the pros and cons of chemicals vs. flea bites. Then, like any helicopter mom would, I called poison control. I love poison control. They don’t judge you when you call to find out if your toddler will get sick from eating apricot facial scrub. They are sympathetic when you cry just a little about the mold you discovered in your house. And they know everything there is to know about chemicals that kill fleas. They reassured me that only the fleas would suffer ill effects from my spray, so spray I did.
Finally, I bought some depressingly expensive flea medicine to put on the cats at the vet (have you noticed how the vet’s office is like a not-fun Target? Both places you can’t leave without spending $100, but at least at Target you end up with stuff like purses, slippers, yet another set of sand toys for the kids…). So, it looks like we have the flea problem beat for now. And, since the expensive flea meds must be reapplied every three weeks, I’m sure my vet will enjoy a nice vacation each year on me. Maybe he’ll take the cats with him.