That time I thought I killed my cats

6 July 2015

No, that title is not a hyperbole. I sincerely thought I had unintentionally poisoned my cats.

It all started when I notice some bug bites. On me. First I freaked out because OMG no. Here’s some background on me: I very rarely open my windows, and my cats are 100% indoor-only. I know bugs can find their way in regardless, but I try to be very careful. However, I live in a multi-unit building, and between new neighbors (who had a cat for at least one day) and other neighbors with a dog… bugs will definitely get in. I was just hoping they weren’t bed bugs. The last thing I wanted was to have to get a new mattress & topper. Or at least, that’s what I thought the last thing I would want.

Turns out they were fleas. And it wasn’t a major infestation, but enough that the cats and I were all pretty annoyed. So I did what any reasonable pet owner would do: bomb the hell out of the house. I got flea bombs for the rooms with carpet, a spray for the rest of the furniture and building entry carpet, and a spray for the cats. It sort of worked, but we were still miserable.

So I got the topical treatment for the cats. You know, the kind where you put the drops on the back of their neck and the fleas are supposed to magically disappear? Yeah, that. Well, the cats didn’t like it as soon as I put it on, but I sort of expected that. I mean, who wants some greasy medicine on your neck? But over the course of the day, I knew something was really wrong.

My once cuddly, sometimes annoyingly clingy, loving, purring little girls were now reclusive, sad, and not doing well. Both cats exhibited what’s called “leg flicking” — it’s where they shake their leg as if to get something off of it, but there’s nothing on it. Kaija had some muscle spasms. Tuija, my normally extremely needy one, was quite and turned into a loner. They were also both licking their mouths weirdly. So after enduring that torture for a good part of the day, and consulting Dr. Google… I panicked.

Of course, well all know, nothing good comes from Dr. Google. It’s all death, death, and more death with a side of death. Everything I was finding on flea medication poisoning was terrible. I immediately washed off as much of that medication as I could. That greasy stuff is tough, but with kitty wipes and kitten shampoo, I was able to get a lot of it. Hardest part was trying to do all of this squinting through tears. I called the vet the next morning, but they didn’t seem all that concerned. They said as long as it was the right dose, they should be fine. I hate being that pet parent, but money really is tight and trying to get two cats into one carrier… I decided to just give them another day and hope they would get better.

Each day I bathed them. I made sure I had 20 water bowls out so they wouldn’t dehydrate. I spent lunch breaks laying on the floor next to the bed they were hiding under. I brushed them. I even embraced my inner primate and picked some fleas off them by hand.

A week later, and I am very happy to report that the girls are doing a lot better. They were still fairly reclusive for the first part of the week. But they began eating more. They came out of hiding and began being more social. The spasms and flicking and weird licking has all stopped. Then they became increasingly cuddly. Outside of an extreme case of “the floor is lava” and basically avoiding my (carpeted) bedroom, I’ve pretty much got my cats back. Still a couple fleas hanging on, but I’ll get them. Every last one. This is the first time they’ve had flea while living with me. The first time they’ve received flea medication. And it’ll be the last.

Kaija and Tuija cuddling

I love my girls. I am so very, very, very happy that I trusted my gut and washed that stuff off. Now if anyone has some natural flea remedies, I will gladly take them.

  • Kay

    Glad to hear they are okay! I’ve only ever dealt with fleas once, and we did the exact same method of bombing and topical treatment. Hopefully it’ll never happen again for you, but if it does I hope you can find some remedy for it that keeps your kitties a-ok!

    • Thanks! I’m going to get them a check up with a new vet now that we’ve moved. They need their shots updated anyway… just hoping to find someone who can do house calls, because they don’t like being crated.

  • Whoa, that sounds super scary. Which brand of flea medicine was it? I’ve heard nasty things about the Hertz stuff, so I’ve always gone for the extra pricey stuff when I’ve needed it. Glad to hear they’re feeling better.

    • It was most definitely Hertz. Never again. I should have taken more time and gone to Petsmart rather than Walmart… but didn’t want to be late to work. Really regret that now. :

      I’ll be deep cleaning the apartment this weekend, and hopefully that’ll help them. Or at least make the floor less lava-y.

  • That sounds like a terrifying experience. I’m glad to hear your kitties are doing alright now! This is why I spring for the pricey Revolution stuff from the vet to keep fleas away. I would totally be THAT pet parent who bawled on the phone to the vet if anything like this happened to my furbaby, so you’re not alone in that regard!

  • My kitty had fleas pretty badly about a year ago. I tried flea medicine from the store, and that just didn’t work. So, I took him to the vet to get a prescription. While he did not have muscle spasms or anything that scary, he did start acting very odd– he was howling basically and low crawling all over the floor. Not sure if he just found the wetness from the medicine uncomfortable or if it was hurting him some way.

    But that was just the first part. I think coated all the carpets in my apartment with…well, bug poison that the vet gave me, and then I vacuumed once a day for TWO weeks. Because what if the vacuum didn’t suck of the fleas and their eggs the first 13 times I vacuumed? I did not want those suckers coming back!

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