Q: Help! We live in a two-bedroom apartment with three cats and have become overrun with fleas during the past two weeks. We have a small patio where our cats go out to sun themselves and we occasionally get visiting cats from the neighborhood, so I'm sure that this is a source for part of our flea problem. The apartment is carpeted and must be a good home for the new flea population that has recently moved in. We use a spray on the cats and they have flea collars. I'm reluctant to use flea bombs because of the cats. Do you have any other suggestions for us? Will using a carpet cleaner get rid of the fleas?
M. Mohen, Huntington Beach
A: This is the worst time of the year for flea problems and the most difficult time to rid the house and yard of fleas. Unfortunately for us, Southern California is an ideal location for these parasites, and they appear to be firmly entrenched. To control a flea infestation, you must control the environment where the fleas live, which is in the carpeting and on the patio, as well as remove the fleas from your cats.
The patio may be treated with a spray insecticide. Be sure to cover all the borders and fence lines. The cement patio itself will need to be treated, as well, because the eggs and larvae can live in the cracks. Your patio area may be too small for an exterminator to come out and treat, but it wouldn't hurt to check. The apartment will also need to be treated very aggressively. Whether you decide to use a contract company to come out and treat the insides or do it yourself with flea "bombs" or sprays, you will need to remove the cats from the area for a period of time. It would be ideal to have the cats boarded for the day, getting a bath and dip while they are away, so that they come home free of fleas and their eggs.