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Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep, Part 2

Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep, Part 2 published on

Part 1 of Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep posted yesterday. Recap: very, very sick stray cat and early morning veterinarian appointment.

Image from
Image from

If you need a palate cleanser at any time, try this gorgeous photo series of “Cat Heaven Island” in Fukuoka, Japan. I’m going to pretend this island has an aggressive spay/neuter program and I don’t want anyone telling me otherwise please.


About 7:00 AM I put on a fresh pair of nitrile gloves and pulled Gus’s carrier out of the garage and stuffed in a crappy beach towel and went to the backyard.

The cat was gone.

I did not foresee that turn of events. The gate was closed. The cat had not been very mobile. I said aloud, “I did not foresee that turn of events.”

She was not in the laundry room. She was not wedged behind the dryer in a bid for warmth. She was not in the dirt area behind the garage. She was not hidden in the ivy. She was not, I hoped, under the house.

I checked all these places thoroughly, as no one wants to be surprised by a deceased cat later.

After a few minutes I got the notion that she might have gone back to Fountain Neighbor’s house.

Carrier in hand I walked down the block, not holding out much hope, and lo, drinking out of the neighbor’s fountain, there she was.

I was faced with the proposition of going onto someone else’s property to pick up a cat they knew much better than I did and take her far away, likely never to return. If Fountain Neighbor happened to appear at that moment, there could be a very awkward conversation. “Oh, I’m just taking her to be killed. No, no, it’s no trouble. As you can see I’m quite bent on it.”

The neighbor did not appear. I approached the cat, and she looked at me and meowed. Still dribble on her chin. Still a line of mucus in her eye. She didn’t resist being picked up, and she walked into the carrier under her own power.

We drove to the vet. Gus is normally very vocal about this trip. This cat had nothing to say at all.

We arrived and the clinician gave me a form to fill out. I wrote the name “Smoky,” as it seemed like an appropriate name. I explained that yesterday had been the first time I’d seen her, and she was very sick, and I wanted to see “what the kindest thing to do is.” I wanted to emphasize that I had no delusions about saving her. I just had no qualifications to do it myself. I can’t even kill all the fruit flies in my kitchen.

I met with Dr. H, who has seen Gus and Jake multiple times. Dr. H looks like a fiftyish ceramics class teacher who surfs. She has a good, frank, gentle way about her. She does a good job of not making you feel guilty when you bring in a cat with, oh, say, an anal abscess, but firmly mentioning at the follow-up appointment that you need to put some wet food in his life.

Dr. H had the overview before she came in the room. She said, “Hi, Smoky!” in a chipper voice as she handed me a paper towel for my steady-leaking face situation. I reiterated my desire to see “what the kindest thing to do would be.” I described Smoky’s driveway collapse and the excessive water-drinking.

She asked if Smoky could come out of the box. I said she was “very gentle and tired” and demonstrated how easy it was to take Smoky out.

Dr. H said, “Oh, that’s a sick kitty.” She examined Smoky and it didn’t take long for her to decide. “It looks like she has kidney failure. She’s so dehydrated. Feel her, she feels like bread dough. When I do this,” she said, pulling the skin on Smoky’s back, “it should spring right back. And look at her gums, that’s anemia. They should be good and red, but look how white they are. And from what you say, she’s got some years on her. In some cases you can give subcutaneous injections for kidney failure, but since she’s a stray, I’d say the kindest thing to do would be to put her to sleep.”

So I started crying a lot, which was kind of dumb, because it was what I was hoping for. I said, “I agree. I completely agree.”

Dr. H put her hand on mine and said, “I know how easy it is to get attached, even to just a neighborhood cat,” and she told a tangential story. I wasn’t even attached to Smoky, it was just the absurdity and tragedy of the whole thing, that people and Nature had failed this cat equally, and now instead of a proper owner loving her for ten-plus years she had a dumb stranger crying over her in her last five minutes. But it was a lot to explain and there was really no need to explain it.

Then Dr. H suggested they could take her in the back to put her down. All I articulated was “could…?” and she offered, “Or I can sedate her here and you can be with her, then we can take her in the back for the rest.”

So I said, “Yes, let’s do that.” I don’t imagine Smoky would have cared too much whether it was me holding her or a clinician, but it didn’t seem right just to hand her off and go.

Plus I had delusions that it would be beautiful, in its way. Peace would replace suffering. Order would be restored. I would pet her and she would simply slip away. I had lines from Corinthians and John Donne and Dylan Thomas in my head.

But her death was not beautiful.

Dr. H administered the sedative, she said, “This will burn a little.” And Smoky tensed under my hands and, for the first time, tried to get away. Dr. H said, “It seems unfair that the last thing we do hurts them, but she’ll feel better in a moment. She’s so depressed that this may be all it takes.” I petted Smoky to soothe her. Already she was going inert.

I am disappointed in us as a species that we aren’t better at painless death by now.

Dr. H said she would be back in five minutes, and someone would be in with a euthanasia order for me to sign. “Just pet her and talk to her,” she said.

So I adjusted Smoky on the crappy beach towel and tried to bundle her so she would at least be warmer. Already she was sort of gone. But her eyes were open, and she was still breathing, so I kept petting her. I told her, “It’s all right. You’re on the home stretch now.” But after that I couldn’t really say anything.

A clinician brought the euthanasia form in. I’m going to say signatures on those forms are probably uniformly pretty bad.

Smoky’s eyes were still open. It seemed like that couldn’t be comfortable, so I tried to close them for her. They wouldn’t stay. I tried again.

Then she gasped, and it scared the living shit out of me.

It was a wet, reflex gasp, like something in her mouth or throat had relaxed too much, and her lungs were still demanding air. She didn’t “wake up” or move or anything else.

Should I tell someone? There didn’t seem like a reason to. Smoky couldn’t feel it. The clinicians and Dr. H were busy with other pets. It was my job to be patient.

She gasped again.

I tried to angle her head so her breathing might be better.

Another minute. Another gasp.

She gasped about seven times before Dr. H came in to collect her.

“She’s gasping,” I told her.

“Yes,” said Dr. H. “But she doesn’t know. We’ll take her in the back. We’ll take good care of her. And since she’s a stray, there’s no charge.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Do you want to keep the towel?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll use it for the next one.”

That was a strange thing to say, but Dr. H seemed to take it in the spirit intended.

Dr. H took Smoky in the back.

I took my empty carrier and my swollen eyes and wandered out to the lobby and tried not to freak out the other pet owners, who surely don’t want to see anyone with an empty carrier and swollen eyes.

There was no bill to pay, but I caught the eye of the clinician to wave goodbye. It seemed rude to have someone kill a cat for you and not say goodbye.


I let the Duplex Neighbors and Amy know.

I left a note on Fountain Neighbor’s door, too, and told her I was with the cat until the end, and I was sorry for her loss.

Gus got some extra wet food. Jake got a chewie. (Jake doesn’t need more wet food. Jake sneaks burger buns when no one is looking.)

Fortunately Jake and Gus are immortal, so I don’t have to worry about someday taking one of them to the vet and leaving with an empty collar or carrier. But if they were gonna go, I’m grateful Smoky taught me what to be prepared for. And I hope Smoky is there on the other side to give them a high five and show them which way to the fountain.

Well, in or out?
Cartoon by Six Chix’s Benita Epstein

That’s all I know.

Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep, Part 1

Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep, Part 1 published on 2 Comments on Putting a Neighborhood Cat to Sleep, Part 1

Last Friday morning I took a neighborhood cat to the vet and had it put to sleep. I still don’t know if she has a name, but I put “Smoky” on the form at the vet because it seemed like a sin to put a neighborhood cat to sleep and not even have a name for her.

The image below is NOT the cat in question, but looks about how this cat would have if she had been the healthy housecat she was supposed to be.

dilute pastel calico female cat
What this cat would have looked like in healthier times


Smoky showed up in the duplex driveway. The neighbors put her in the back yard with a cardboard box and soft towel and water and wet food. One Duplex Neighbor texted me to let me know:

“Heya neighbor. This afternoon a cat struggled its way up our driveway, and just sort of collapsed in front of us and some friends while we were chatting. We’re not sure what to do with it, but for the time being it’s sleeping in the backyard with some food and water.

Doesn’t look like it was super hurt, but does look mangy, super malnourished, and very much an alley cat. We both have to head out for a few hours, but in case you get home before us, wanted you to know what’s up. We’re a bit at a loss for how best to help. Any thoughts?”

I failed to check my messages before I came back from a lunchtime Costco run and put Jake in the back while I unloaded, clearly without giving the yard a look. I heard him barking and barking, and I found him frustration-barking at the can of tasty wet food in the scary cardboard box.

Slowly it dawned on me We Were Not Alone. I turned and saw a fluffy gray cat curled up under a lawn chair about six feet away. It was fast asleep and gave not one single crap a barking dog, a strange person, any of it.

I decided to let it sleep.

I went back to work, finally checked my messages and responded:

Me: “Is it friendly? Do you think it would tolerate a trip to the vet?”

Duplex Neighbor: “That’s the one. I picked it up and had no problem moving it around. I would think so. Seems like a poor bag of bones.”

Me: “If he’s still there in the morning I’d say a trip to the vet is in order. I have a carrier. I’m happy to take it if y’all are tied up tomorrow.”

Duplex Neighbor: “Yeah, that sounds about right. I think if it’s still around, that would be good. Worried about how much a vet is gonna cost, but not sure what else to do.”

Time to show the hard-nosed country logic that is the privilege of not having an attachment.

Me: “At the risk of sounding hardhearted, I feel like, if the cat can be set right for $200, then that’s worth doing. If not, it’s a kindness to end his suffering.
I’ll call my vet and set an appointment for tomorrow morning. I can take him, if that all sounds good to you.”

The duplex neighbor agreed.

That night I came home, put on a couple of pairs of nitrile gloves (my experience with Romero Cat has made me very cautious) and went to investigate the cat.

blue nitrile gloves
Safety first

She had fluffy fur in a calico pattern, but pastel gray overall. Her fur was sparse and so dirty that petting her left soot on the gloves. She was so thin her spine and pelvis stuck out like handles. She had dribble on her chin, a swollen forehead and a line of mucus in one eye. She moved in an uncoordinated way, never more than a few inches at a time, but she leaned into my petting and purred.

This was a sick, sick cat.

I called my vet and made the first appointment they had available — 7:15 AM the next day — and kicked myself for not getting home earlier to have a chance to take the cat in tonight. It meant she had another night of distress ahead of her. I asked if there were any precautions I should take about contagion, and the front desk said, “Just wash your hands really well.”

I went inside and found Jake the Dog and Gus the Cat, all sleek and shiny and clean and well-fed and coordinated and bright-eyed like animals are supposed to be. I washed my hands and petted them both a lot.

Something (God, IMHO) told me to call Amy, Gus’s foster mom and, along with her husband Jason, a dedicated cat rescuer. Amy took time out from a family vacation two time zones away to pick up the phone and blow my mind (paraphrased below):

Amy: “Is it a fluffy cat?”

Me: (Pause) “Yes…”

Amy: “Calico?”

Me: (Pause) “Yes. But, like, a calico pattern but more pastel-colored overall?”

Amy: “Yes. That’s called a dilute calico. I’ve seen that cat. You know the fountain in front of the house a few doors down from yours? Jason and I saw that cat drinking out of it, just drinking and drinking and drinking, and I said, ‘That cat has kidney failure.'”

Now would be a good time to mention that Amy lives many many miles away and is only in my neighborhood when she visits. Also I have lived in my neighborhood a YEAR and never seen this cat.

Me: “Whuuauuaaaaa?”

Amy: “We pay attention to cats.”

So Amy told me a story about the time she gave a cat with kidney failure daily subcutaneous injections and by so doing bought it another six months of life, her point being that this level of sick is not something that a cat is likely to bounce back from.

She also recommended I wash my hands.

So I grabbed a couple of business cards and went knocking toward the Fountain Neighbors, in case it was someone else’s cat altogether. It would be rude to put someone else’s cat to sleep without telling them.

At the first house I annoyed a new mother. It is OK. People don’t mind random door-knocking too much as long as you go away quickly and seem properly ashamed of yourself.

“Are you missing a cat?”
“Ah, sorry to bother you.”

I think there was a second house but I sincerely don’t remember the outcome there. Maybe they didn’t answer. Maybe the exchange was too awkward for my memory to tolerate.

In any event, the third house was Fountain Neighbors, and I gave them a knock. A very nice older lady came to the door.

Me: “Are you missing a cat?”

Fountain Neighbor: “Oh.”

And then she stepped onto the porch to talk.

Turns out she had been feeding that cat for ten years. Someone had just turned the cat out in a nearby neighborhood ten-plus years ago.

The cat was female, and not unfriendly, but at the same time “not a sociable cat.” She might follow you a few feet now and then, but that was all.

Fountain Neighbor said she was very willing to take the cat to her vet (there were two fluffy dogs in the house), and that she felt bad that I would have to take her, and we had a sort of gentle debate about who should take the cat. I felt that the cat had come to my duplex to die, and that it was my responsibility to God to help the cat see that through, but what I said was, “It’s no trouble.”

At last Fountain Neighbor’s husband came to the door and said, “If someone else wants that problem, let ’em!” And Fountain Neighbor shushed him.

In any event, I let her know I’d made a vet appointment for the next morning, and I would update her about the outcome.

I went home, put on a fresh pair of blue nitrile gloves, and went back out to pet the cat a while.

She was so thin and so struggling. But she purred.

And I had the hottest, snottiest cry I’d had in years. Someone thoughtless person turned this cat out, and she’d had a hard life, and now Nature was taking ages and ages to let her die.

It was a bunch of bullshit.

So I petted her a good long while. I put her in the cardboard box with the towel, even though it was a little damp. I told her, “Hang in there,” but then I caught myself and said, “Or don’t. Whichever you want.”

You know, you want to believe, in a zombie apocalypse, that you’d take in every survivor you found. You want to believe you’d let them in your house and feed them at your table and let them sleep under your roof. In theory I could have set the cat in the second bedroom. Maybe she would have been a little warmer. A little more dry.

But I didn’t know what kind of sickness she had, really, and it seemed irresponsible to Jake and Gus to let her in.

So in the end I went back inside to my sleek bright-eyed pets and my diet ginger ale and my Internet, and now I have the knowledge that in a zombie apocalypse I would leave suffering humans in my backyard with a towel and a can of wet food.

Naomie Harris and Megan Burns in 28 Days Later
*sucks teeth* Sorry, guys. You’re going to have to sleep in the yard.

Part 2 posts tomorrow.

Kitten seeks home

Kitten seeks home published on

Eight-week-old gray-and-white kitten seeks home in Los Angeles-area with warm laps, ear scratches. Will exchange tiny thunder purr and advanced bread-kneading skills.

Tail discovering!
Tail discovering!

He was found crying and walking down the street in San Fernando. Two compulsive cat-savers have taken him in and gotten him a clean bill of health, but he needs a forever home ASAP.

Lap practice!
Lap practice!

If you are interested, please comment or Tweet @toryhoke.

If you know someone else who might be interested, please pass this on!

Don’t hesitate! He deserves a home today!

To Pete Yorn on This, My Wedding Day

To Pete Yorn on This, My Wedding Day published on 5 Comments on To Pete Yorn on This, My Wedding Day

Dear Pete Yorn,

I’m getting married today. This is thanks in part to you and a song you wrote twelve years ago.

We’ve met only once, a passing greeting after one of your shows, the kind of exchange you must have many times a day with many strangers.

But you are a musician. And music has consequences.

You made a song called For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is). It’s pretty great.

You cannot be making songs with dynamic range and driving riffs and walls of sound and not expect them to Velcro all over the life experiences of strangers.

My particular connection comes from 2008, moving cross-country to Los Angeles in a Jeep Cherokee so packed it rode low in the back.

Jeep Cherokee stuffed
Note the wheel wells

On a pile of debris on the passenger side, Jake the dog perched with a concerned expression.

Jake dog concerned Jeep Cherokee
Jake has concerns.

The Jeep A/C would freeze up after twenty minutes of use — then you had to thaw it for forty. The stereo was busted. I brought a boombox and an iPod.

I was super broke and newly single.

I had no job prospects.

I’d just turned thirty.

Thirty is too old to be moving cross-country in a Jeep, you might say.

I thought so, too.

For various reasons, for about an hour across Arizona, I listened to sad songs on repeat and cried.

Arizona Highway 40
HWY 40 through the Instagram filter of salty contact lenses

Somewhere around Flagstaff I let the next song play.

It was yours.

Sure, the lyrics to “For Nancy” aren’t all sunshine. But tell that to the hook:

“Convince yourself that everything is all right. ‘Cos it already is.”

Damn if it didn’t improve my memory.

I remembered Sam and Anne, who showed up with no warning, no provocation, to help me pack.

Jeep Cherokee trunk packed
Without their help this would not have been possible

I remembered Carol and Joe, who set me up with the summer job that meant I had money to live off of for a couple of months.

I remembered Drew, who offered me a dog-friendly place to stay for a few days.

I remembered Sara, who gave me the confidence to move and did all the legwork to line up an apartment for us.

I remembered Dad, who gave me a little moving money even though I was THIRTY.

I remembered Jenn, who held my confidences.

I remembered Jake, who is the kind of dog that tolerates cross-country road trips.

I remembered Brandi, who showed up at 7:00 AM on my last morning to help me set up the yard sale that gathered the gas money I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Brandi, who hosted me and Jake the dog on our last night in North Carolina, braving excessive dog hair to provide me with a comfy couch, tasty stew and Duplin wine.

It’s easier to face the yawning abyss of uncertainty with an improved memory and a good song.

I convinced myself everything would be all right.

Was it?

In LA there turned out to be a kind circle of friends to welcome me with Famima!! and D&D.

In LA there turned out to be a job — the best job I’ve ever had. Every day I expect HR to pop in and tell me there’s been a mistake.

In LA all my debts are paid off. I have a car with a working stereo AND A/C.

In LA Jake the dog is still healthy, occasionally concerned, and much more silver around the lips and elbows.

Jake dog back seat
And he has much more room to sit

Almost three years ago, an unbelievably handsome man took me out to dinner. One day at a time, he proved himself to be the finest man I ever met. He must have liked me, too, because last year he asked me to marry him.

Today dozens of people who care about us have made their own cross-town, cross-state and cross-country trips to be part of our wedding day.

I would say today is the happiest day of my life, but honestly there have been hundreds of them.

The more I face fear, the better my life gets. And I’m so grateful I get to share it with this man.

I can’t wait to see what the big uncertain future has for us.

I still get scared sometimes. But then the hook comes in.

“Convince yourself that everything is all right. ‘Cos it already is.”

Thank you, Pete Yorn.

If you play “For Nancy” at a show and there’s a lady in a red dress dancing like a maniac… that’s me.

Many thanks,

Jake the Dog Loafing

Jake the Dog Loafing published on

No reason. Just Jake.


What Lives in Palm Trees

What Lives in Palm Trees published on 2 Comments on What Lives in Palm Trees

One afternoon I was walking Jake in Mar Vista. The neighborhood has these massive 30-foot palm trees.

I was approaching such a tree when I heard a squealing animal ruckus from the top.
Sounds like rats. I heard rats live in palm trees. Wonder if it’s true.
Sudden black blob comes sailing off the top.
Must be a pigeon OH GOD THAT’S A SQUIRREL.
Peeooooo! PAF. Squirrel pile on pavement.
It’s dead! Two squirrels were fighting and one fell out and died!
Jake wants to go sniff it. No no no.
Its tail moves.
It’s alive? How could it live? Now I have to mercy kill it! I don’t know how to mercy kill anything!
It wobbles up! Staggers. Jogs for the tree.
Gets two feet high and falls off. Who can blame it?
Tries again and up up up it goes and disappears in the fronds.
I didn’t hear any more animal fighting sounds. They must have resolved their issue.


Ticks published on

My ticks.

Let me show you them.

In case you were not revolted enough by my previous battle with fleas, allow me to share my current battle with ticks.

Last Sunday I went on a long hike in the Agoura Hills. I went with my love man. I also went with Jake the Dog.

At the trailhead I saw a sign about ticks. I tucked my pant legs in my socks. My love man said, “Please do not tuck your pant legs in your socks it looks godawful.” I untucked my pant legs.

But Jake the dog does not have any pant legs. He did not go running wild in the brush, but he did enjoy sniffing and peeing and walking for over two hours.

We got home. I passed a cursory tick check.

Then that night I was making dinner and felt perhaps a crawly sensation on my calf. And lo I lifted my pant leg and lo there was a tick.

I would later find out this was an American Dog Tick. From growing up in North Carolina, I am used to deer ticks. There is delightful egalitarianism in the world of ticks because although the dog tick is nigh unto three times the size of a deer tick the response they evoke is dead equal.

And I said, “Dear love man willyoupleasegetthatoffofmekthx.” We flushed it down the toilet.

Later on we found another one crawling across the kitchen floor. Today I know her markings meant she was a she. Tick education. She looked sluggish. It made her extra easy to also flush down the toilet.

Today I know that flushing ticks down the toilet doesn’t kill them. Today I know a lot of things, because today I did a lot of Googling, because last night I found another one on my pant leg, and today I found two more dead on the kitchen floor.


– Jake’s Comfortis is flea prevention, not tick prevention. More on this in a second. (Fortunately Gus the Cat’s Revolution is tick control, although any bloodstream-based tick control works only on ticks that have bitten.)
– Remove a tick with tweezers, grasping as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly like the tick is a truck you’re backing up. A truck full of disease. I hate ticks.
– Kill a tick by dropping it in a jar of alcohol. Don’t squish it — that leaks disease. You can flush it to put it out of your life, but be advised that you have missed a valuable opportunity to kill it to death.
– Wash your hands and tweezers and everything else with soap and water and rubbing alcohol is also helpful.

Regarding Comfortis: some Googling reveals a claim that Comfortis may work on ticks, but it hasn’t undergone study. Speculation is fun! For what it’s worth, I haven’t found any ticks attached to Jake — and five days after exposure to them, surely they’d be nice and plump and easy to find (HOPE YOU AREN’T EATING OR ANYTHING RIGHT NOW.) I’ve just found ones crawling away from him, or dead.

In any event, I called my vet, who recommends a prescription tick collar for cases like mine (the ticks come from occasional hikes, not just the backyard.) The idea is that you put the collar on your dewg the night before, leave it on during the hike, and the ticks opt to stay on the grass and wait for a better candidate.

Considering that neither Frontline nor Comfortis for dogs will keep Jake from bringing ticks into the house, it seems like the best bet. And there’s something to be said for a medicine you apply only when you need.

I’ll let you know how it works out.


Fleas published on 2 Comments on Fleas

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…

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