Choosing a natural flea repellent for cats just makes sense. After all, flea prevention is a helluva lot easier than getting rid of a flea infestation.
Plus, cats are smaller and more sensitive to traditional flea pesticides than dogs are, making it even more of a challenge to repel fleas on cats with traditional pesticides.
With natural flea repellents, you get to skip toxicity concerns while keeping at fleas at bay. Win win, right?
Depends. You see, natural does not always mean harmless, especially when it comes to cats. As cat owners are already well aware – cats are certainly different from dogs.
And nowhere is that more apparent than when it comes to natural flea remedies.
Natural Flea Remedies that are Toxic for Cats
Because cats’ bodies are built differently, our feline friends are more prone to adverse reactions even when we’re dealing with completely natural products. Which is why many of the natural flea remedies that work for dogs are not recommended for cats.
Here’s a roundup of popular natural flea remedies to avoid using on your cat.
There’s good reason why lemon juice is used as a cat repellent and instructional tool – it’s highly offensive to cats. Just the smell of it is something cats will go out of their way to avoid. This is for good reason since ingesting citrus fruits of any kind – not just lemons – can sicken cats, causing gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea.
So using lemon juice or any citrus products, especially a concentrated version like d-limonene – is not only cruel but can be poisonous if ingested. And knowing how much cats like to groom themselves, the chance of it being ingested is pretty high. Avoid this natural “remedy.”
Most of the natural flea products use a combination of potent essential oils like cinnamon, clove, rosemary, peppermint and cedar instead of pesticides. These essential oils are made up of compounds that are mostly harmless for humans and dogs but can build up in a cat’s body, causing toxicity problems, liver damage and even death.
It’s not all essential oils, mind you – it’s mostly the ones that are high in phenols and hydrocarbons that you’ll need to avoid. But this in itself is a pretty exhaustive list which includes some of the most popular flea-killing, flea-repelling essential oils out there like peppermint, tea tree, cedar, clove, pine, orange oil and more.
A popular natural remedy for fleas involves mixing garlic into a pet’s good to make their blood unappealing to fleas. This sounds like a good idea until you remember that garlic can be toxic to cats. In fact, all members of the onion family can cause problem when ingested in large quantities.
It can be safe enough in small amounts for a healthy cat but it’s not something we would recommend risking, especially since it can cause life-threatening anemia in cats.
Natural Flea Repellent for Cats that are Safe
Okay, now that you know which natural flea repellents to avoid using on your cat, here’s a roundup of natural flea remedies that can be safely used on your cat to keep fleas away!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar has a high concentration of acetic acid, which fleas dislike. It doesn’t actually kill fleas so it won’t do much good if your cat is already experiencing a full-on flea infestation, but it does serve as a good natural repellent to keep fleas away.
You can use it topically on your cat as a flea bath. Again, it’s not as effective as an actual flea shampoo, but it does have the benefit of being all natural. To use as a bath, mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar per 1 pint of water and gently pour into your cat’s coat. Rinse the vinegar thoroughly.
If your cat hates baths as much as he hates fleas, another option is to make a DIY natural flea spray using apple cider vinegar. To use ACV in a spray, mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use whenever needed – i.e. before your cat goes outdoors – to prevent fleas.
Yet another option of using apple cider vinegar as a natural flea repellent is to add it to your cat’s drinking water, although this can be tricky since your cat might just avoid drinking the water! So start very, very small with half a teaspoon of ACV per day mixed in with the drinking water. The maximum dosage for ACV should be one teaspoon daily.
Herbal Homemade Flea Spray for Cats
Essential oils may be toxic to cats but there are a list of insect-repelling herbs that are perfectly safe to use on cats in herb form. Here’s a list of herbs that check out:
- Catnip – shop it here
- Basil leaf – shop it here
- Lemon balm – shop it here
- Hyssop – shop it here
- Lavender buds – shop it here
- Lemon verbena – shop it here
Using a combination of these herbs, you can brew up your own homemade flea spray or dip for your cat. Here are two ways you can go about it:
- Boil water and steep your choice of insect repelling herbs. Steep until the water cools down and then either spray onto your cat as a flea spray or use as a dip to pour all over your cat (your cat may prefer the former). Let it air dry without rinsing off.
- Combine apple cider vinegar with the bug repelling herbs of your choice and steep in a tightly sealed mason jar for around 2 weeks, shaking daily to combine. Strain the concoction with a cheesecloth or coffee filter and the use as a flea spray.
Neem Shampoo or Spray
Neem is a medicinal herb that’s been used in Ayurveda for thousands of year. It’s best known in the west as a natural insecticide and insect repellent but its uses extend far beyond that and it’s also used for it anti-ulcer and fungicidal properties.
It also offers a form of natural protection against fleas. Neem can be found in many forms – oil, shampoo and spray, but we recommend the shampoo since it can be washed off and the lingering scent can be enough to repel fleas. The oil is in concentrated form and can be licked off by your cat so you may want to avoid that.
The spray is also good, but your cat may hate it. Use the neem spray to repel fleas from your cat’s bedding, your bedding, the furniture, and the places where your cat likes to lounge.
Just be careful when buying neem products to make sure that it doesn’t contain essential oils that can be problematic for cats!
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
We love diatomaceous earth (DE). It’s all natural, very affordable and so very effective against all pests with exoskeletons, which includes everything from fleas to bed bugs.
Curious how it works? Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a fine white powder that’s made up of fossilized diatoms, a type of ancient algae. It works when the powder attaches to the fleas’ outer shells, cutting through the fleas’ exoskeletons and causing the little blood suckers to dry out and eventually die of dehydration (basically, it sucks them dry by absorbing their natural liquids).
And it does all this without pesticides or toxicity concerns. The only drawback is that DE requires consistency and patience. You see, diatomaceous earth is very effective for killing fleas but they do have to make direct contact with the substance and even then, it takes awhile for death by dehydration to happen.
To use, simply apply it to your cat like a dry shampoo and be sure to avoid your cat’s face when you’re applying so he doesn’t inhale it. You can also use it on the carpet and around the house to kill any fleas that come in contact with it. Scatter it evenly over the surface, leave it for at least a week, vacuum it up (along with any dead fleas) and then repeat as needed.
While garlic may be a risky no-go, there’s another supplement that’s helpful for repelling fleas and for your cat’s general health: brewer’s yeast. Fleas hate the taste and odor of this stuff so a steady supplement will help your cat stay clear of fleas.
It also comes with a few more benefits, like helping skin conditions and hairloss. Our favorite brand so far is Flea Away All Natural Chewable Tablets as it contains no garlic and a heap of vitamins that are helpful for cats as well as brewer’s yeast!
Here’s a totally non-toxic natural flea repellent that doesn’t involve putting anything on or in your cat: set up a flea trap. Cat fleas are so attracted to sources of light that when placed in a dark area, over 90% of them will move to a lighted area within less than an hour.
Which is why flea traps are so handy. Set these traps up in places where fleas like to lurk – i.e. where your cat hangs out as well as dark, private spaces in the house like under your bed and sofa – and simply plug them into the nearest outlet.
This way, you can discover and kill the fleas that do make it into your home before you have a full infestation on your hands.
Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that make the best defense. In the case of fleas, it’s good health. The best defense against fleas – and other unwanted invaders like heartworms – is good, overall health. A strong immune system and high nutrient levels can help your cat naturally ward off fleas.
So before looking to any flea treatments or remedies, the best thing you can do for your cat is to ensure she’s eating a nutritionally balanced diet, has proper grooming as well as regular exercise. This can go a long way toward strengthening your cat’s defense against fleas!