That is the question.
We did some cat sitting in the Rockaways a few weeks ago, and we came back to Harlem with some little unwelcome guests in tow. Fleas.
I remember when we were there, at my friend’s cottage three blocks from the beach and four miles from Ft. Tilden, I kept waking up with what I thought were mosquito bites.
It didn’t help matters that on the second night there Danusia insisted on going to the beach at dusk to sit in the lifeguard’s chair the way my friends Ezra and Jenny had done. The things I remember the most about that were watching a guy with a metal detector methodically comb the beach and getting bit by mosquitos.
By the fourth day there I had so many bites that I looked up a good itch relief remedy online and discovered the heat treatment.
I’ve always been susceptible to insect bites, so I’m very familiar with all of the ointments, Cutter’s, Burt’s Bees, Hyland’s, etc. None of them work. Hyland’s came closest to some relief.
The website said to use a hair dryer to spot direct heat onto the affected area. Ezra has no hair so there was no hair dryer in the cottage. The first thing I thought of was to run it under hot water, and the water there was hot enough to scald, so I got it just hot enough and put my wrist and forearm bites under the faucet. It worked.
But what about my ankles and thighs?
My wife Danusia loves candles, and candles go everywhere we go. I figured hot wax ought to be hot enough to treat the bites without burning my skin. Don’t ask how I know that. I tipped the candleholder over and dropped hot wax onto the bites.
The only bad part about it was that now I had bits of wax stuck to the hairs on my legs and drops of wax on the floor I had to clean up. But the relief was worth it.
I have to mention that our cat Kiwi was brought along on this great cat sit/beach adventure. Even though Kiwi did not get along with the other three cats, (Koko, Betie, and Preti) they got close enough to do a little parasite sharing.
So, when we got home to Harlem two weeks ago and Ezra and Jenny returned to the cottage I got a text from Jenny: “There are fleas at the cottage!”
Well that was something I didn’t want to hear. I went online to find out how to tell if our cat had fleas, and sure enough, Kiwi had fleas.
There was a flurry of emails for the next few days, advice on bombing, treatments, Frontline, etc. One website said to put dishes of soapy water with a tea candle in the center out at night and it would attract the fleas and they would jump in and drown. I think we got two fleas like this.
Danusia got some PetArmor for Kiwi and we vacuumed and washed and mopped and sprayed. I still had bites, but surprisingly Danusia got none. We were changing sheets on the third day of the emergency, and Danusia took out some sheets we’d washed at the cottage (there is a washer/dryer there) and had dried alfresco on a wood fence outside the cottage. As she opened the sheet a flea jumped out. There were several dead ones as well. More washing and vacuuming. I sprayed the closet the sheets had been it. More dishes with soapy water and candles. I sprayed the cat’s scratchy post and the Ottoman she’s commandeered. It was supposed to be for my feet but I’m not going to compete with the cat hair. Danusia went around with a magnifying glass like Sherlock Holmes hunting for fleas, dead or alive.
The websites all talked about the copious amounts of dead fleas we’d have to clean up, but I think we’ve only found five or six.
Jenny kept sending reports about finding fleas on the small cat’s faces, about fleas filling the soapy water dishes at Ezra’s business, about more bites and bite allergies. It made my stomach churn.
We’ve washed and vacuumed over and over again. The $40 can of flea spray is empty. The magnifying glass is kept at hand. The cat is inspected daily, and she’s not happy about it. We haven’t resorted to bombing yet; I hope it doesn’t come to that.
So this has been going on for the better part of the last two weeks. I had two bites yesterday, but it’s hard to know if they are from fleas or mosquitoes. Today so far I haven’t noticed any bites, but it’s early yet. Thank god for the hot wax treatment.