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The Diatomaceous Earth in my small town's hardware store is sold as 'insect powder' with no mention of whether it is food grade or not. However, it does say on the package that it is useful for killing fleas and that it should be sprinkled around the pet's sleeping area  (in the case of my cat Amy, that would be the whole house). The package also cautions against...

...getting it into eyes (human and pet). But there's nothing on the package about treating a dog or cat directly. The wikipedia article on diatomaceous earth says:

In order to be effective as an insecticide, diatomaceous earth must be uncalcinated (i.e., it must not be heat-treated prior to application)... and have a mean particle size below about 12 microns (i.e., food-grade— see below).
Freshwater-derived food grade diatomaceous earth is the type used in US agriculture for grain storage, as feed supplement, and as an insecticide. It is produced uncalcinated, has a very fine particle size, and is very low in crystal silica (<2%).
So it would seem that being an insecticide means it is therefore food grade. And therefore the product should be OK. But I still don't know how to apply it to the cat.

I have read all sorts of horror stories about chemical flea treatments so the Zodiac flea collar with N-methyl carbomate that I bought a couple of years ago is still in its hermetically sealed plastic wrapper.

The budget is low, so options are limited. Otherwise, I'd buy fresh garlic regularly and put it on Amy's food.

Your opinions and suggestions, please, on an itchy topic.



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Comment Preferences

  •  You don't apply it to the cat. (28+ / 0-)

    DE is used as an insecticide by applying it to surfaces that pests must travel over- Floors, carpets, that sorta thing. It works by actively abrading the insects exoskeleton, causing dessication and allowing pathogens to take hold in the injury. Once it gets wet, it's useless- it'll dry into clumps with very few sharp edges.

    It'll help to control fleas that have dropped off of your animal, and to prevent successful off-host reproduction, but a severe infestation is going to require treating the animal directly, IMHO. Flea combs can be remarkably effective, if you can handle the animal that much, and if you aren't grossed out by parasites.

    There are some pyrethrin/ pyrethrum sprays out there that can be used directly- I'm comfortable with those. Nothing containing piperynol butoxide- It's added to pyrethrins to potentiate them, but it seems closely tied to the health issues.

  •  I would also like to know if it's safe or at least (7+ / 0-)

    much safer than the poisons on sell to kill fleas cause I've had to decide in the past to just live with the fleas cause of some scary reactions by some of my cats(I always keep my Cats indoors) in the past,at this time my cats don't have a flea problem but that could change.

    •  I believe it is inert and non-poisonous. (7+ / 0-)

      As Remembering Jello said above, it works by being sharp and scratching the exoskeletons of the fleas.

      Socialist? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

      by Kimbeaux on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:56:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Food greade DE (9+ / 0-)

      can be taken internally to kill intestinal parasites in dogs, cats, people and farm animals. Normally, i give cats 1/4 teaspoon every two weeks and for medium sized dog, 1 teaspoon on the same schedule. Just mix into wet food.
      Don't know the dosage for cattle.

      It is far superior to poison round worm meds, for sure.

      Avoid getting in eyes or lungs.

      The best way to check on how much of a flea infestation you have is to leave a shallow, wide pan of soapy water in the middle of the carpet overnight, with a small light shining on the surface of the water. Just a few fleas means you can get on top of the problem easily with the above recommendations for application to carpet.

      Of course, you might want to do what i have done and eliminate all of the carpeting in the house. I decided early on that i was going to have many pets and carpet provides the best incubation for many unwanted bugs.

      The post below by Kimbeaux is exactly right.

      'A scarlet tanager broke the silence with his song. She thought of the bird hidden in the leaves somewhere, unseen but nevertheless brilliant red. Nevertheless beautiful.' Barbara Kingsolver/ Prodigal Summer

      by flowerfarmer on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:35:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We also used it in horse feed as a wormer (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, buddabelly, defluxion10, Creosote

      Totally non toxic and effective. (and cheep too)

      "Occam's Razor" is NOT some sort of beard trimmer for jihadists: ontheleftcoast "People who see a contradiction between science and the bible don't really understand either." PvtJarHead

      by Tinfoil Hat on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:05:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Each horse gets 1/2 cup of DE (4+ / 0-)

        In every bucket, mixed in with wet beet pulp shreds so that they don't breathe in the powder. And we do rub it on the dog and cats when the fleas get bad in the summer, but they also get some on their wet canned cat food every morning for internal cleansing.

        Food grade DE costs about $26 per 50 lbs at our feed store and lasts some 5 months or more like this.

        Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given. (Unknown author, found in Guide to Texas Etiquette by Kinky Friedman)

        by marykmusic on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:56:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it's safe - it can be used as a dietary aid for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10, Creosote

      horses AND humans to rid the gut of internal parasites, too.  there isn't anything poisonous about it - so you're good to go.

      EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

      by edrie on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:17:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It isn't a poison as such. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Diatomaceous earth has the word "diatom" in it, and a diatom is, per Merriam-Webster, "any of a class . . . of minute unicellular or colonial algae with silicified skeletons." It's the sandpaper-like effect of the silica in those tiny skeletons (they look something like snowflakes) that harms the flea's bodily integrity. So you are acting directly against the fleas.

      Whereas the $70+ for three "treatments" systemics, while effective, do involve chemicals that have to be absorbed into your cat's system, and that are active enough so the instructions are full of cautions for the humans doing the application.

  •  I've used it on dogs (9+ / 0-)

    and may try it on the new kitty. Mostly I sprinkle it around the outside of my house and occasionally around baseboards if I think we're in for a severe flea season. I have a bag with the brand name Concern.

    Also have a small container of Herbal Gold from Buck Mountain Botanicals which is supposed to be effective. It contains the DE, along with Neem and Yarrow. I've sprinkled it on my dogs, rubbing it into their fur.

    I live in a major flea and tick area, so still use the topical products even though they freak me out a bit. Fleas and ticks freak me out even more.

  •  Eat it youself, shit it out, and smear the cat (4+ / 0-)

    With your feces.

    My kids don't have fleas so I know it works ...

    Too late for the simple life, too early for android love slaves - Savio

    by Clem Yeobright on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:29:14 PM PDT

  •  If you can get your cat to cooperate, (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, commonmass, ericlewis0, Avilyn, Orinoco

    eucalyptus leaves in their favorite sleeping spot works. I've used it with dog beds and some dogs like, it others don't. If your cats figure out that the fleas don't like it, they may learn to love it. As you say though, kitteh's favorite place to sleep? everywhere!

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:37:09 PM PDT

    •  Eucalyptus will keep ants out of the house. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CwV, Creosote

      Ants don't like the smell, or it confuses them and hides their scent trails. I sometimes smear Chest Ointment (with eucalyptus oil) on ant trails leading into the kitchen (generally heading to sink drains in dry weather) and pick off any individual ants still wandering around lost after a few hours.  

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:17:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I use Advantage... (6+ / 0-)

    Though at $10 a dose it's not exactly economical.

    I found Frontline to be less effective for fleas though it is supposed to also provide tic protection.

    Garlic?  Never heard that...but if it really works I can't imagine anything being less expensive.

    "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell."

    by Notthemayor on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:42:21 PM PDT

  •  It's made of (10+ / 0-)

    fossilized shells of silica-fixing single celled plankton.

    It is entirely edible, non-toxic, non-allergenic (unless you're allergic to silicon, aluminum, and oxygen, in which case you've got much bigger problems).

    It can be a severe eye, nose, throat, and sensitive skin irritant due to it's very small size and abrasive characteristics - which are the same reasons it is so effective as an exfoliant and as a mechanical insecticide.

    It seems to me to be the kind of thing that is basically harmless enough (as long as you use basic common sense, like don't snort it, and don't whip it around the room with a ventilator fan blowing at full speed)... try a several week test to see if it has desirable results... make it a long test, because it's NOT a poison, it will take a while to have an effect.

    The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

    by RedDan on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:48:56 PM PDT

  •  It didn't work for me. (7+ / 0-)

    For the same reasons that you have, I tried diatomaceous earth one summer, and I ended up with a terrible flea problem.  The DE had worked very well for me against ants and other bugs, but my 2 dogs and 9 cats were not helped.  (In case you're wondering, the 9 cats came with a period in which I volunteered for a cat rescue non-profit, and it was either keep them or they would probably die young, as they were unadoptable semi-ferals I had trapped for shots and neutering. They are pretty tame now.)

    My solution to the problem was to use one of the kits that used to be offered on ebay, but I don't think is anymore. But I make my own kits and have for several years.  The kits were based on Frontline, but I use PetArmor now and that is much cheaper. The formula for both is 8.8% Methoprene, 9.8% Fipronil and 81.4% inert material.  The various packages for cats and different sized dogs all contain the same thing, but in appropriate measured doses.  What the kits do is take a large dose, for instance for an 80 lb. dog, and give information to break it up into the right size doses. So I buy the largest size, give my big dog a full package minus .67 ml for my chihuahua mix, and break another package into .50 ml doses for my cats who go out on leashes or in a secured area.  If you decide to try it, you need a syringe without needle to measure and give the doses, and a clean vial to hold the contents of one package, which would last you 5 months stored at room temperature, or even longer, if you are only concerned about fleas and not ticks. The flea dose supposedly lasts 3 months, and it is the tick dose that needs monthly renewing. When I found this out, I switched to giving applications every 6 weeks. I was nervous trying this, but it has worked very well for me.  The manufacturer's hate it, I'm sure, because they get much less of your money.

    I would definitely warn against using any Hartz flea applications, which are cheap but can be deadly.  I had a wonderful calico cat who died about 10 years ago of kidney failure after I treated her with the Hartz product.

    Good luck!

  •  Super careful about garlic: can be toxic to cats (9+ / 0-)

    Depends on the cat and the amount, but it can be severely toxic in the same way as onions. I'd really avoid garlic for kitties. I use a flea comb daily combined with Advantage; haven't seen a flea inside for years.

    •  I've been told that garlic is fine for cats AND (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      dogs, but that onion is very bad...even lethal for both.

      Any botanists here who know how onions and garlic differ?

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:02:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm going to take (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jabney, 417els

        the ASPCA's word on this. I keep garlic away from my cats.

        •  Feed my cats only cat food. An interesting bit of (0+ / 0-)

          the ASPCA's answer is that it includes dogs re garlic.  At the Purdue University Vet School (where a dog of mine was a patient) garlic powder is added to an appetite enhancer.

          Onion has dangerous consequences re the blood in both cats and dogs.  I'm just curious what - and if - the difference is between garlic and onion when it comes to cats and dogs.

          "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

          by 417els on Mon May 06, 2013 at 06:22:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Garlic (6+ / 0-)

    Garlic and anything of the onion family is said to be toxic to cats, so I wouldn't put it on or around their food.

    For the first time in human history, we possess both the means for destroying all life on Earth or realizing a paradise on the planet--Michio Kaku.

    by psyched on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:11:50 PM PDT

  •  Also, don't let kitty out (6+ / 0-)

    Simplest way to avoid fleas and other parasites is to keep them indoors. Now, I realize that this may not be practical or possible and I am not interested in judging anyone who lets their cat go out. I agree with others that DE will have limited effect on the cat itself and you'll really need to go with some sort of applied pesticide. On the plus side, these days most are broad-spectrum containing a number of active ingredients, so the treatment should take care of any fleas as well as prevent or treat the establishment of other possible parasites, some of which can be fatal.

    •  Fleas come inside on shoes & socks & clothing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tinfoil Hat, Creosote

      I have 3 house cats that never go outside.  A couple of years ago I had an INFESTATION of fleas and TAPEWORMS!.

      I used the soapy flea comb method.  In addition I put light colored sheets on the furniture where they spend a lot of time....had cut long tabs of good grade duct tape & every little speck and flea stood out so I patted every one I saw with the duct tape & they stuck.

      Seems I did end up with a product from the vet...Advantage-like application...because of the tapeworms.  And a carpet spray.  But the flea comb and duct tape caught thousands of fleas.

      It makes me itch just remembering it!...even though the fleas didn't bite me!  

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:22:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keeping them inside is also not always effective. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, Creosote

      My late, great Sadie never went outside, nonetheless, one year she got a horrible flea infestation. I apparently brought them in with me.

      Advantage and diligent vacuuming took care of the problem, though I'd have preferred a natural alternative to the Advantage.

  •  Worked great for me with a horrible tick (7+ / 0-)

    infestation on the property when I bought it....I tried all kinds of non toxic stuff before finally finding DE....

    Yes you can and should apply to the animals and rub thoroughly so it gets to the skin, try to avoid clouds of the stuff, you'll figure it out quick, treat the carpets, the bedding, the dirt they roll in, everything..... Leave it there this stuff takes time to work, don't vaccuum for a week at least, 2 is better to kill rug critters.....

    Remember it is not poison, it kill by being sharp at a microscopic level and kinda bleeding out the bugs.  You can actually add it to the feed itself to keep bugs out and to help with internal bugs in the critters....It must be food grade though to work as an insecticide at all, it will be so fine it feels like the finest flour or talc...

    It will also keep your emergency grain supplies fresh and bug free just by dusting a cup or so over a 5 gallon bucket of rice or beans.......

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:18:14 PM PDT

    •  Does this work for fire ants? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, 417els, Tinfoil Hat, buddabelly

      I have a tortoise that lives in my yard so I can't use anything toxic.

      "If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones." John Steinbeck

      by BluejayRN on Mon May 06, 2013 at 03:22:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. See my post upthread n/t (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, BluejayRN

        "Occam's Razor" is NOT some sort of beard trimmer for jihadists: ontheleftcoast "People who see a contradiction between science and the bible don't really understand either." PvtJarHead

        by Tinfoil Hat on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:23:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have had mixed results on ants, it kills those (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BluejayRN, Creosote

        it touches and knocks back the population a bit but it never gets the queen so you never get the hive.

        Luckily we have no fire ants here, too dry,  but we have these harvester ants that,  thank Ghu aren't at all aggressive,  as a bite feels like you've been hit by a sledgehammer and lasts for days with severe swelling...And they get everyone that way, not just an allergy fo rme....just the absolute worst insect bite I have ever felt...makes bees, wasps and scorpions feel like a sweet sweet kiss....

        I have one hive on the property and when they get to be too populous, I circle their holes with de for a week or two and knock them back to reasonable numbers.....

        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Mon May 06, 2013 at 07:06:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  DE is pretty good at repelling insects (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumbi, Catte Nappe, jabney

    because of its sharp pointy bits that abrade the exoskeleton.

    However, ingesting in significant quantities can rough up your (or your pet's) intestines with those sharp pointy bits. Which are considerably more tender than an exoskeleton. A little is fine and happens a lot since dirt has bits like this in it too.

    Which is why it wouldn't be wise to put non-food grade DE an animal's coat- they'll lick it off.

    Food grade, you can, in very modest amounts and it will even help reduce intestinal parasites (when they clean it off). But again, too much and it will irritate the lining just because it's all sharp and pointy.

    The only difference between normal DE and food grade DE is the latter has been sifted, ground and washed to wear down the sharp and pointy bits.

    People have had it work fairly well against bedbugs although they said it was like sleeping in a dustbowl for a couple of months.

    I'd say try it in combination with a really good flea med (Advantage, Frontline and Revolution are the best I know of). I'd lean towards food grade DE (which unless you have access to bulk food supplier, it can be pretty spendy) where she prefers to sleep and use regular DE elsewhere in the house. The meds kill the fleas she's got, the DE will ward off any resistant fleas (and there will be some) or new ones she brings home.

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:58:58 PM PDT

  •  I was told to use good old fashioned Borax, and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, BvueDem

    NOT DE. Spread the Borax around to every crevice, leave
    it for some time and vacuum. Repeat, and make sure to remove vacuum contents out of the house.
    Treat cats with topical flea repellant and you should be
    free of fleas.

    "The devil laughs when the poor give to the rich," Benvenuto Cellini, goldsmith, sculptor 1500-1571

    by bumbi on Mon May 06, 2013 at 02:09:13 PM PDT

  •  Where to buy food grade (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, Creosote

    Health food stores sell it in one pound bags. I have taken it internally mixed with OJ for internal parasites. I have used regular DE to deal with ant invasions, putting lines in our crawl spaces which the ants won't cross. ALWAYS  wear a mask when applying as inhaling he particles can cut up lung tissue just like it cuts up the insect bodies. I have never used DE for flea control.

    "Seed corn. It's what's for dinner!" Republican philosophy of governance

    by madame damnable on Mon May 06, 2013 at 02:09:54 PM PDT

  •  Thanks For the Comments (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm guessing I'll try the Zodiac collar and watch Amy carefully to see if she has any sort of reaction. She is not an outdoor cat, and she doesn't seem to miss it. Since she was not played with much as a kitten, she tends to be a little skittish about being picked up and held for more than about 15 or 20 seconds, so a bath is probably out of the question.



    Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:12:10 PM PDT

  •  I've read that DE also gets rid of cockroaches. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, Creosote

    Sprinkle into baseboards & in cabinets - wherever roaches are coming from (or heading to).

    "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

    by 417els on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:31:53 PM PDT

  •  Since some chemicals have been mentioned (0+ / 0-)

    (besides DE) I'll tell you what a pest-control guy (and cat owner)told me years ago.  I've had to do this 3 different times due to flea infestation (when they've gotten into the carpets & furniture).

    He told me to go to the hardware or gardening store and buy a bag of Sevin dust (sometimes called 'rose dust'), a general-purpose outdoor insecticide.  On his instructions, I dusted all the floors (we had shag!) and furniture thoroughly and put sheets over them.  (I also wore socks indoors instead of bare feet.)  He said to leave it down at least two weeks, to kill the new generations as they hatched.

    He said you can also rub the dust into kittie's fur, if they will allow it.  Otherwise, just use a flea collar.

    After at least two weeks, vacuum it up.

    Sevin is (IIRC) a pyrethrin-based insecticide, and (as chemicals go) is relatively safe.  

    This is just my suggestion of what worked for me.  The first two times (bad summers for fleas), my then-kitties were, say, two & five years old (about); one lived to 13 the other to 20.  Th eone who lived to 20 had to go through this again (years later, she was maybe 13) and the 'new kid' was 1-2 (he lived to 17).  I did not notice them having any problems when I did this.

    Also, the 'soapy water' suggestion is helpful.  (Actually, fleas will drown in just water, but the soap does something to the surface tension and keeps them from floating up to the air.)  During 'Flea Seasons', I would keep a little cup of water with 1-2 drops of dish soap added next to my chair.  When I would feel a flea hop on me, I'd grab it quick (don't try to look for them; just grab) and pinch it between my fingers, push it under the water, and rub my fingers together with the flea between.  Gives you a small feeling of victory.

    Good luck!

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