Adopting a Stray Kitten: Part II

So, back to the story of adopting our Kitten from where we left off this this post.  – I quickly texted Jeff to look at the picture of this little sweetheart and we were instantly in agreement that he would be a perfect addition to our family and best friend for our 1 1/2 year old cat Murphy. I worked out all of the details that morning and it was set that I was to pick him up that evening. I was so excited I could barely get through the rest of the day at work. There was only one hiccup, Jeff was going to be out of town that whole weekend and I had to take care of this infant kitten solo.

I was a bit nervous about this undertaking, after all I had to feed him formula out of a little baby bottle, and I had never had a cat before we adopted Murphy, in fact I never even really liked cats before, but what the heck, I decided to go for it.

It was around 10pm when I was able to finally pick him up and he was so unbelievably sweet – in that sleepy, snuggly, baby sort of way. The first 24 hours were bliss, snuggling him, feeding him, carrying him around, letting family come over to see him and hold him, even waking up at the crack of dawn to his cries, but then things became not sweet…

It was my mom who first noticed it, the gritty sort of dirt all over him. But hey, he was a stray kitten, I would expect for him to be dirty, right!? Atleast that’s what I told myself, but it was much more than dirt, it was FLEA DIRT!!! And A LOT of it! How could I have not noticed this sooner? I felt so naive, so stupid, and completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do… fleas… are you kidding me? Soo gross! I immediately hit the internet only to become more overwhelmed with awful pictures and youtube videos of flea infested kittens. WARNING: Do NOT google how to give a kitten a flea bath, the search results are traumatizing! I called the Emergency Vet, no help there – they were practically laughing at the panic in my voice! It was getting late, I needed to get to the pet store before they closed, which was in about 10 minutes, AHHHHH! My mom and I raced over to the nearest pet store, they were locking the front doors when we ran up begging to be let in, explaining our emergency situation. The young guy who helped was great, explaining a lot about different products, flea combs, how far fleas can jump… we left with a handful tools and brave hearts.

My younger brother watched the kitten in the bathroom while we were gone. Brandon has never liked bugs, but was such a trooper, keeping my little flea invested fur ball swaddled in a blanket while we were gone. Then is was bath time – even though he weighed less than a pound it was definitely a two person job, one person to hold him and keep the clawing at bay, and the other to lather up the Dawn dish soap, and lather we did. We rinsed and combed out the dead bugs and then repeated, and then repeated again, and again, to a total of about 7 cycles of washing! We just kept finding more bugs on him, most of which were dead from the soap and water though, thank god!

After that long, excruciating bath, we wrapped him up in a blanket, threw every sheet, towel and blanket into the laundry, vacuumed every vacuumable surface in our apartment, and sprayed everything with flea killer! It was a long night.

Compass

*In case you ever find yourself in a situation like this, (which I hope you never do, although it is completely worth it to suck it up and save the life of a baby animal), here are a few pointers towards flea control:

1. Get a bathing product. You cannot use normal flea products on baby animals; we used Dawn dish soap to bathe our kitten. It is gentle yet effective. Even if they are older, I would still recommend Dawn because it is not a pesticide, and therefor better for your animal.

2. Get help. You should really have someone help you administer the bath (I so wished Jeff was there to help me, but luckily had my wonderful mom to step in!). It’s definitely a 2-man-job to fully soak and lather an animal with Dawn. Fleas will die if they are exposed to water and soap so a thorough soak n’ sud is essential to an effective bathing. While bathing, watch for fleas trying to escape the water by going into ears, eyes, and yes, other orifices – they are sneaky little buggers! Also, don’t freak out if you feel that the fleas are possibly getting on you. If you shower after, the water and cleansing will have the same desired effect on you, including clearing you mind of any lingering paranoia…

4. Treat your house immediately! The earlier you catch the problem, the better. We talked to our wonderful local vet and he offered helpful advise for flea control and recommended a great product to treat our apartment, Knockout. This product is only available through a licensed veterinarian, so don’t attempt to find it at your local pet store, they will not carry it. Ask your local vet, if they do not carry it, they can probably order it for you. Knockout treats fleas in all the many cycles of a fleas life, from egg to fully grown. Although seemingly a bit pricier (I believe one can was around $25), it ended up being a good deal for the coverage and effectiveness (2000+ sq. ft for 7 months of control). For more advise and information provided to us by our vet on product application tips, click here.

5. Treat your animals monthly with a topical product, like Frontline. If they only stay indoors, our vet recommended 3 months of treatment to get the problem at bay. The Frontline should kill any possible lingering fleas on your animal within 24 hours. This helps not only totally rid your animals of any fleas that may have survived through the bathing, but also will kill any that may jump on the animals from the environment. Fleas need to feed in order to survive, and unfortunately your pet is their food source. Since Frontline is effective for over a month, any fleas that jump on to feed will die. I know your probably asking, “Didn’t I just treat the environment and fully clean my pet, how could fleas still survive and jump on my pet?” Well, my answer is… more is better. Fleas are unfortunately pretty darn resilient and have the capability to produce an astonishing amount of eggs in their life time (1 flea can produce 5000 eggs/year), so we didn’t take that chance. Through our experience of flea control, we felt it was definitely worth the extra effort and piece of mind.

6. Vacuum regularly. While this is yet another additional preventative measure, we also felt it was worth the effort. Vacuuming every other day helps remove any eggs or fleas that could potentially be in the carpet. While fleas may lay eggs on your pet, they do not necessarily stay there and will fall onto the ground, scattered about. Either way, dead or living, we still wanted them out.

7. Be Patient. I know it’s frustrating, but completely controlling fleas takes time. Expect 1-3 months before your situation is completely under control. Generally, if you are seeing living fleas, they have probably already created a life cycle within your home and, with the above reproduction rate factoid being said, it’s probably time for your immediate, aggressive attention.

8. Take a deep breath, you will get this problem under control. I did a lot of research on the subject with many varying techniques for control, and this derived method actually works. Under the guidance of this advice, you’re home will once again be flea free!

Pheww, strays are a lot of work! What else do I have to look forward too…

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