My fleas.

Let me show you them.

At the risk of no one ever wanting to visit again, here is my story.

My household includes Jake the Dog and Gus the Cat.

I put Frontline on them.

I had done this for years with Jake. Fondly I remember, soon after the first time I applied it, picking a dying tick from his fur.

“Frontline,” I thought. “Let’s stick together.”

Then a month or so ago I saw Jake itching a bunch. I didn’t think much of it. Seasonal allergies? Dry skin? Something in the food?

I Googled, and all the advice started with “treat them for fleas.” Just eliminate that as a variable right off the bat.

Thought I: “Well, that can’t be it. I use Frontline. Frontline is my master.”

But at last I saw Gus itching. Cats don’t itch too much. So I examined him.

Fleas like crazy.

Crazy fleas.

Flea dirt.

Living flea feasting.

I was creeped out beyond all intelligence.

(Learned: Most fleas found on dogs are officially the cat flea species. Cat fleas live on both, though dogs itch more as a result. A cat can be riddled with fleas and not show much discomfort. When I finally looked, it was easy to see the fleas and mess on Gus, because he is mostly white.)

I reapplied the Frontline. Had that been the problem? I had let more than thirty days go by. Was that the deal?

I washed bedding. I washed couch covers. I vacuumed.

But the next day there was still a family of happy fleas bouncing around on Gus.

Now I’m getting angry. Frontline broke the covenant. Frontline lied. And now I have two poor itchy animals and a house full of some really top-notch revolting insects.

I made a vet appointment.

The vet, whom I like and respect a lot, prescribed Pfizer’s Revolution for Gus the Cat and Elanco’s Comfortis for Jake the Dog.

I confess I didn’t wait long before giving them the new meds. I took the risk of overmedicating. But there were no ill effects.

Except to the fleas.

In the morning.

In my bed.

Waking up with dead flea larvae in your bed is an unusual mixed emotion experience.


I did laundry again. I got a new vacuum and vacuumed the living flea crap out of the apartment.

And I wrote the following letter to Merial, the makers of Frontline, which is now in a little cardboard box with the remainder of the Frontline I bought:

MERIAL Limited
3239 Satellite Boulevard
Building 500
Duluth, Georgia 30096
(678) 638-3000

October 20, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

After six years of satisfaction with Frontline flea control products, I am sorry to report that it is no longer meeting my needs.

I own a dog and a cat. In September, I applied Frontline Plus products to both. A month later, I observed itching in both pets, and living adult fleas and flea dirt on my cat.

I cleaned the house, washed the cat, and reapplied Frontline Plus to both. Twenty-four hours later, I again observed living adult fleas on my cat, in a quantity that convinced me Frontline had failed.

After discussion with my vet, I chose Revolution for my cat and Comfortis for my dog. Twelve hours after applying Revolution to my cat, I found dead adult fleas on him and dead adults and larvae on his favorite surfaces. It was awesome. And revolting. But mostly awesome.

I hope the failure of Frontline Plus was a fluke. However I will not risk trying it again.

Enclosed are my unused portions of Frontline Plus. I’m not sure what you can do with them, but they cannot be of less use to you than they are to me.

(I promise the next letter I post here will be a COMPLIMENT, not a complaint. I don’t want this to become the “Tory Writes Complainy Letters” blog.)

I bring this up only because adult fleas showed up in the house again.

I spazzed and called the vet, and the clinician there talked me down. Revolution and Comfortis both kill adult fleas and keep eggs from hatching. But not all stages of flea life are eliminated.

It takes two weeks (in flea-friendly conditions) to eight months (when no food is around) for fleas to go from an egg to an adult flea. What I’m probably seeing are the fleas that were already or very nearly in their pupal state when I put medicine on Jake and Gus. Pupae are impervious to any poison.

Flea Life Cycle. Also: gross.

So any pupae in the house on October 20th just made it to adulthood.


– You can see all stages of flea life with the naked eye. Fleas lack the decency to be microscopic.

– No poison can kill a flea when its in its pupal stage. Pupae are waterproof and bulletproof. Science — get on that pupae technology immeds pls kthx.

– Vacuuming is super effective at removing all life stages except larval, and research suggests the very vacuuming process kills adult fleas as effectively as any poison. Larvae are not reached by the vacuum, however, because they drop deep into the carpet and wind themselves around the fibers. Yes, this is revolting.

– But! Larvae are poisoned by boric acid, which is non-toxic to humans, Jakes and Guses.

– Once they emerge from the pupal state, adult fleas can live only about a week if they can’t eat. Also the females can’t lay eggs if they don’t eat.

– If they bite Gus or Jake, who are now effectively medicated, they die.

– If they bite a human, they can keep living. That’s bad. However humans are not their food preference, and we bathe often, which is good.

More interesting facts here


(Performed last night while rocking out to Laura Branigan)

– Wash bedding and couch cushion covers again
– Brush boric acid deep into carpet, rugs and upholstery crevices
– Thoroughly vacuum the house


– Vacuum the house every other day for at least the next two months
– Launder bedding weekly, which is pretty normal anyway.

It’s enormously satisfying to see the carpet pile get all blurry under the deadly sucking action of my new kickass vacuum, and know I’m sending fleas to their deadly deaths.

So that’s where I’m at today.

Knowledge is power, but vacuum is action.

P.S.: I am now super sympathetic to the multiple times my parents had to deal with my head lice. Ew. Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew. Must shop for ultimate Christmas presents immeds pls kthx…


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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2 Responses

  1. Yoko says:

    Now, I feel like I have to vacuum up the entire house.. fact that we have a cat and a dog too.. I will most likely freak out if I see any stage of fleas. *Terrified and runs away*

  2. Sara says:

    You are a flea killing machine!!

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