I’m not one for big parties, but apparently I’ve unwittingly hosted plenty of unseen guests lately. They sneak out in the dark of night while we are peacefully snoring, they snack on whatever juicy things they can find and, in the morning, the evidence is really, really, really itchy. I haven’t seen these denizens of the night, but I’m on a mission to find and kill the irritating critters. I have a hunch what they may be. If any of our pets has been bitten, the fur makes it hard to notice. Except the one who has taken up obsessive grooming – with his bare tummy as evidence. He, who is usually curled up right next to me while I sleep, wouldn’t hurt a flea himself. But if they are fleas, they are hurting me: I’ve awakened to find bites on my ankles, knees, wrists, elbows, anywhere there’s bare skin.
To paraphrase the Cowardly Lion, I do believe in fleas, I do, I do, I do!
A female flea can be a very abundant egg-layer, leaving dozens of eggs in her wake per day. The eggs can languish in carpets and furniture, pet beds, and even cracks in the floor. Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks, and larvae may be found anywhere your pet has been. In 1-2 weeks, adult fleas emerge and wait until they find a living host that they can feed on. Warm, moist weather is just their cup of tea.
Adult fleas can hang around, in limbo, waiting for a bite to eat, longer than your most annoying relative at Thanksgiving. (Fleas can reportedly survive as long as two years without feeding!) How does a pet owner cope with that tenacity?
• Groom, groom, groom your pet! Daily, if possible, with the finest flea comb you can find.
• Wash all bedding and vacuum regularly (read weekly) with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
• Use once-monthly flea treatments recommended for your pet by your veterinarian.
• Keep your pets off the furniture, and (this may be very difficult!) off of your own bed.
With all the cleaning I’ve got ahead of me to chase these creepy critters away, I won’t be hosting parties of any human variety for some time. For now, I want to say that dinner’s not on me.