Categories: Cat Flea

Herbal Cat Flea Remedies Are No Safer Than Conventional Treatments

I was looking for safe and natural home treatments for the notorious cat flea (my cat does not have fleas 🙂 ). I thought about herbs. Herbs after all are plants from the natural world. They aren’t manufactured in the laboratory therefore one would think that they would be less toxic. My initial research in a reference book1 did not refer to potential toxicity but rather that certain herbs listed below may help in the fight against the cat flea.

The reference book states that “certain aromatic herbal powders can be applied to the cat’s coat: as always, read the accompanying instructions carefully”. The book then lists some herbal remedies such as Pennyroyal, eucalyptus, wormwood, rosemary and rue.

Apparently, Pennyroyal has a long history of combating fleas on people as well as animals. The plant grows quite easily in most parts of the world, with the American pennyroyal seeming to have identical properties to its Old World relative. Eucalyptus is another aromatic plant, in this case a tree, which is often incorporated in herbal flea treatments. Wormwood, rosemary and rue are other herbs considered a value in the fight against fleas.

My research, online, however immediately threw up doubts about the use of these herbal treatments because of their toxicity to cats. For example, on the pet website there is a page entitled “Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning in Cats”. Pennyroyal oil is derived from the herb, as I understand it, and they say that it is frequently used in flea powders and sprays. They also say that it can be toxic to cats particularly when ingested. The symptoms are extensive. I can only think that this herb must be avoided because if there is any doubt about the safety of a product it should be avoided in my opinion.

As for eucalyptus, ASPCA state, apparently, that eucalyptus oil is toxic to dogs cats and horses. Well, once again we have to exclude eucalyptus because there are doubts about its safety. In fact – and I have not read the ASPCA page – the plant itself appears to be poisonous to cats in addition to the oil which must be extracted from the plant. Cats are not able to properly metabolize the compounds within the oil leading to a dangerous accumulation of toxins.

Of course, we have to remember that when dealing with fleas people are applying treatments to the cat’s coat from where it is almost bound to be ingested by the cat so any treatments must be 100% safe.

As for rosemary, this herb contains a “highly volatile unsaturated hydrocarbon”. This hydrocarbon2 is easily absorbed through the skin and of course it would be ingested when the cat licks her coat. It seems that large amounts of this hydrocarbon can build up in the cat’s liver because it cannot be broken down by a cat’s enzymes. This can lead to poisoning. Rosemary is an effective flea repellent because they don’t like the smell but, as mentioned, it would seem to be too dangerous to use; certainly from my perspective it is.

My initial assessment is that herbal remedies are probably not much safer than the potentially toxic over-the-counter flea treatments one can buy on the Internet or from your veterinarian. In fact they may be more dangerous because at least with conventional treatments (please buy them carefully as some are horribly toxic) there are detailed instructions. It is harder to come by instructions on how to use herbs as flea remedies.

The best way to deal with fleas is to be proactive and to constantly check whether your cat has them with a flea comb and then take steps always to prevent your cat harbouring fleas. It’s about being holistically proactive and vigorously concerned about the potential that your cat has of harbouring fleas. Also remember that nearly all cat flea treatments are insecticides which are nasty, toxic chemicals. Great care in their use must always be exercised.

Note: If you know of a safe herbal cat flea remedy please tell me in a comment and disagree with me.


  1. The Natural Health Cat Care Manual (page 66)
  2. terpenoids
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Just discovered another product that may help with fleas. It's not for applying to our cats, but it's a non-toxic solution that can be sprayed on carpets and furniture. It's called Kleen Green. I just received a 32oz. bottle of concentrate, and a fanny pack sprayer (from another company).

    I've been considering having the carpets cleaned professionally, but with roommates, I can't predict when they'll be gone for 3-4 hours. Even carpet cleaning isn't going to solve the flea problem without toxic pesticides. So, I'm looking at Kleen Green as a solution. I'm not sure when I'm going to do this, since my cat is having tooth issues right now. But I'm ready to proceed when I'm able.

    I welcome comments on this product, after research.

  • New valuable information on Essential Oils, provided by a VET who has made it her passion and focus of study. I just found this site yesterday, while searching for pain relief for my cat's infected tooth. I know I can't list the site itself, but you can search "animalEO" It's not dot com, but dot info. Michael, check it out, and let us know your thoughts.

    I was truly amazed at what I discovered. She uses EO on her own cats, and client's cats, with a high rate of success. She only uses high quality oils, and makes her own blends. I've ordered a sample of Boost, for cats. It's a combination blend of oils.

    How about Jackson Galazy's "Spirit Essences", which are like Bach Flower Remedies. I did see some comments from people who thought this was a scam.

    I believe that plants, flowers and food are medicine. But cats are sensitive, so we need to educate ourselves with someone we trust. Ah, that trust word again!

    It all takes time and due diligence, but nothing is more worth it than the health of our pets, and of course, ourselves....

  • I have serious doubts about anything a vet recommends because of my experiences. I realize that this is a drastic position, but there's no one that knows my cat better than I do.

    Vets and doctors are not in the "prevention" business, so I have to make it my business. This means watching her behavior like a hawk. Glad I don't have more than one cat to care for.

    An example is recently, there has been a patch of high grass that she usually nibbles on. But lately, I've noticed something new growing from the centers of this grass.....foxtails!! At first, I kept pulling her away, but then realized I had to do more.

    Although this patch of grass is on a neighbor's property, I began furiously pulling it out yesterday. It's a danger to dogs and cats, who could get it in their nose, eyes, or throat. This is "prevention in action".

    Of course, that just leaves dirt, which Mitzy will roll around in. So, I may add some Diatomaceous Earth to it to kill off some fleas.

  • I've also been researching Comfortis, prescription flea treatment chewables, but have read that some cats and dogs have adverse reactions, and have died.

    I wouldn't take a chance knowing this.

    • The trouble for me is that even if there is a remote possibility of harm to a cat it makes the product unacceptable. It is about risk/reward and vets are not going to give advice about herbal treatments so we have to rely on the internet which can be misleading.

  • I agree that not all herbal remedies are safe for cats. I've seen ingredients that are known to be toxic. The only "natural" product that does kill fleas is food grade Diatomaceous Earth.

    I've noticed a couple of fleas on Mitzy every time I run the flea comb through her, which is twice a day. So, I got a flour sifter, and sprinkled the DE on the carpets, and swept it in. (slowly, so it doesn't stir up a lot of dust) Rather than vacuum it up, I'm going to leave it for a few days.

    I also put it in the creases of her various beds. I've already noticed no fleas on her in 1 day.

    I also read that washing floors in a Dawn dishwashing solution may repel them, but I haven't tried that.

    I have read that this stuff can ruin old fashioned vacuums, unless the filter is cleaned every few minutes. I have a Dyson bagless, so I'm thinking it will be o.k. but I'll still check the filter.

    There are companies who use non-toxic chemicals if you have a serious infestation.

    When I had cats in the past, I rarely had to use spot on treatments, or flea collars, which is unusual because they were indoor/outdoor cats.

    Now, that I know much more about these things, I don't want to use them on Mitzy. I have sprayed her halter/jacket with an herbal repellent before we go out, but I don't think it works that well.

    We have to do something because otherwise our pets suffer from itching themselves raw, and can even get worms from ingesting the fleas.

    • Thanks for this Sandy. I like the fact that you used DE (and did it properly too) and found that it worked. I used it myself once.

  • A much newer natural agent, d-Limonene, is a by-product of the citrus industry and carries a mild, grapefruitlike odor.
    Caution: Never apply essential oils to a cats fur or internally.
    keep in mind that If you can't drink it they can't either*

    Powdered garlic-on food-
    Apple cider vinegar-in a diluted bath-
    A very small amount of Dawn detergent in bath-
    {Natural citrus juice on their coats -or lemon wash.Natural]
    Brewer's yeast can also be dusted on externally as a flea powder. (If your pet licks some off, there's no harm done.)

    Treat the house-
    Borax powder kills fleas-keep it on the edges where animals don't normally tread.

    Diatemaceous earth in carpets and on a sprinkling animals coats.not only does[diat]break a fleas insides apart, but the clay in some mixes will kill parasites [worms of all types] when the animal licks it's fur and ingest it.

    A healthy diet and fresh water everyday-
    Remember a healthy cat is less prone to becoming infested.
    Keeping the floors clean where eggs drop-
    Wash the cats bedding as often as possible-

    Any site which promotes herbal remedies should include a warning label when the plant is a known toxin to cats and dogs or has an aromatic scent derived from the plant oils.
    I have listed the ones I researched and know to be safe in this article.

    Eva-even if you decide to take the easy route and poison your cat unknowingly and even if it lives-You have permanently compromised their immune system. By then it may be too late to reverse any long term effects, which are usually not visible at a glance. Cats are notorious for hiding their weakness or any ailments they are subjected to.

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