Home Flea Remedies – What Works, What Doesn’t

Fleas – the maddening parasites that drive cats (and us owners) crazy.

Unfortunately, they’re a fact of life. At some point or another, these pesky little critters are going to find a cozy home in your cat’s fur.

Thankfully, there are plenty of FDA and EPA-approved commercial flea treatments that are highly effective at repelling and killing fleas.

Then there are home flea treatments….

Anecdotal Home Flea Treatment Remedies

Some pet owners prefer to use ‘natural’ home remedies to treat fleas on their cats, often because of the chemicals found in approved flea treatments.

Unfortunately, a lot of home/natural remedies are pretty useless.

So to separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ll now evaluate some of the most common natural flea treatments and consider their effectiveness (or lack thereof).

It obviously goes without saying that you should contact your vet first, before using ANY of the remedies mentioned here.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is often touted as a useful flea treatment for cats with the idea being that it suffocates fleas.

But there’s no evidence that to support its use.

In fact, the waxy coating covering fleas can protect them from things like soap.

Dish soap can also cause skin irritation.

We’d therefore suggest that soap is only useful for washing fleas away.

Does it Work? No

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary Oil is another favorite among owners terrified of the chemicals found in approved cat flea treatment.

And some research indicates that essential oils contained in botanical compounds is toxic to fleas.

But it’s because of these toxic properties, that Rosemary Oil should be used with caution.

Does it work? Maybe, as a repellent


Lemongrass is considered by lots of owners to be an effective flea repellent, due to the strong citrus aroma.

Studies support this theory too. What’s more, some commercial flea products include it as an ingredient.

However, if you’re thinking of making a home-made lemongrass solution, bear in mind that it won’t actually kill fleas.

And take care when applying the solution. Ingestion can be harmful to cats.

Does it Work? Yes, as a repellent


Like rosemary and lemongrass, Citronella has insect-repellent properties due to its pungent smell.

Registered with the EPA, oil of citronella can repel fleas and is non-toxic.

Again though, it doesn’t kill fleas.

Does it Work? Yes, as a repellent

Horse Apples

It’s claimed by a lot of people that the bitter smell of horse apples will repel fleas.

Some owners recommend cutting them up and placing them around the room.

Unfortunately, they may also cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested.

No official evidence supports their use either.

Does it work? Potentially as a repellent, but may be toxic to cats

Cedar Oil

Cedar oil is known for its repellent properties – in fact extracts are often used in commercial flea treatment.

It’s particularly useful when used as a supplemental treatment – some owners use it as a supplemental treatment to shampoo.

Does it Work? Yes, as a repellent and flea killer

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is quite a popular home flea treatment remedy.

It’s thought that the acidity of the vinegar repels the fleas.

Yet, there’s not evident to commend its use as viable treatment.

While it may repel fleas, it won’t kill them due to the flea’s protective shell.

Apple cider vinegar can be harsh on a cat’s skin too, especially if not diluted properly.

Does it Work? Potentially yes, but only as a repellent

Pennyroyal Herb

Pennyroyal herb is a perennial herb with a strong aroma which, in theory, could repel fleas.

But as well as there being no scientific evidence to support this, pennyroyal is also highly toxic to cats.

The herb can cause serious adverse reactions such as liver and kidney damage which could even prove fatal.

So the use of Pennyroyal herb is definitely not recommended for cats.

Does it Work? No, avoid!

Vics Vapour Rub

Ah, the danger of anecdotal evident. For some reason, vapour rubs are recommended by some misinformed owners as an effective flea treatment!

This mentholated ointment is of course used as a chest rub for colds and congestion.

But it’s most definitely not intended for use as a flea killer or repellent.

Applying this to your cat will likely cause skin irritation. Oh, and there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that it works.

Does it work? Most definitely not!

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a common household item that some suggest will dry out flea eggs and larvae (yes really).

Guess what? There’s not a shred of evidence to support this claim.

In fact, most experts agree that baking soda will do diddly-squat to repel or kill fleas.

This doesn’t however deter some owners from sprinkling it all over their cat’s coat and then brushing it through.

Don’t do this. You’ll be wasting your time.

Does it work? No!


Like baking soda, it’s thought that salt can dry out flea eggs and larvae. And while there is some evidence to support this theory, keep in mind that it could also dry out your cat’s skin causing skin irritation.

Salt is also toxic to cats if ingested.

So exercise caution if you’re hell-bent on using it. Better still, avoid using salt altogether and find a non-toxic commercial alternative.

Does it work? Possibly yes, as a repellent.


Vacuuming is a very effective method of removing fleas and their eggs from a home. Fleas and their eggs can accumulate in carpets, furniture and other areas of the home.

By vacuuming regularly and disposing of the vacuum bag after each use, you can remove a significant number of fleas and their eggs.

Bear in mind that vacuuming won’t be enough to get rid of all fleas. You should also wash bedding and treat your cat with a proven flea medication.

But as a temporary measure, it’s every effective.

Does it work? Yes, temporarily.

So in conclusion, while a lot of these home remedies do indeed work, some of them are not backed by any research.

Because most of these treatments are considered ‘natural’, a lot of people gravitate towards them like moths to candlelight.

Sometimes though, the pursuit of such an ideal won’t bode well for our feline friends.

Therefore, the best solution is to seek out an FDA or EPA-approved commercial flea treatment.

To gain approval, the product will have been tested extensively.

So it should be perfectly safe (and effective) to use.

Must Reads

PetMD – 6 Things to Know Before Using Natural Flea and Tick Products
Vet Help Direct – Do Natural Flea Treatments Work?

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