While warmer weather brings sunshine, backyard barbecues, and more time outside, it also brings along with it a veritable army of insects – ants, mosquitoes, roaches, wasps, fleas, ticks, and other creepy-crawlies begin to invade our yards and homes.
For pet parents, dealing with irritating insects can be rather tricky. Oftentimes, the chemicals, poisons, insecticides, and tools used to keep bugs at bay can be just, if not more, dangerous than the bugs themselves. Luckily there are several ways to keep pests away without endangering your four-legged family.
1. Look for pet-friendly pest control products.
When shopping for pest control products and pesticides, always check the labels and only use those that are guaranteed to be safe for use around pets. Follow application instructions carefully as many pet-safe products are only safe after the product has dried or when diluted.
An amazingly effective and totally pet-safe product to use as defense against insects is diatomaceous earth. This natural “insect dust,” made from microscopic fossilized remains of tiny aquatic animals called diatoms, effectively kills ants, roaches, fleas, bed bugs, or any other insect with an exoskeleton by essentially dehydrating the insect – yet it’s perfectly safe for mammals to ingest and is even often used to treat internal parasites. The powder can be dusted onto any surface where insects are seen, behind electrical outlets, between mattresses and even on your cat’s skin. When using it with pets, only food-grade diatomaceous earth.
Alternatively, a number of pest control products available use absolutely no chemicals or natural oils at all and, instead, use stickiness, pheromones, soundwaves or electricity to repel or kill bugs. Insect paper or tape, mosquito zappers, pheromone traps, and ultrasonic bug repellents are all chemical-free options for pet-safe pest control – and they’re easier on the environment, too.
2. Turn your backyard into a bug-eat-bug world!
It may sound a little crazy, getting rid of insects by bringing in more insects, but the use of beneficial bugs is actually a widely used and highly effective (and, most importantly, cat safe) way to control backyard bugs.
Employ an army of ladybugs that will not only keep aphids from destroying your garden, but eat mites and other soft-bodied insects as well. Beneficial nematodes, once released into your yard, will feast on fleas, ticks, ants, stink bugs, and more than 200 other species of insects, effectively controlling their population before making it onto your cat or into your home. Praying mantis are yet another beneficial bug for toxic-free pest control. Strictly carnivorous, these elegant insects will devour hundreds of species of insects in their lifetime.
3. Beautify your garden with cat-safe plants that naturally repel pests.
Would you believe it’s possible to build a beautiful backyard oasis that actually defends itself (and your family) against insects? It’s true! While many of the naturally pest-repelling plants available are also toxic to cats and dogs, there are several options available that don’t pose such a risk.
Basil, Catnip, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, and Rosemary are all pet-safe plants that naturally repel insects while being non-toxic and safe around cats. What’s more, in addition to repelling bugs and beautifying your backyard, many of these plants perform double duty in the kitchen in your favorite recipes!
4. Try these recipes for D.I.Y. pet-safe pest control.
To control fleas: Create a safe and effective flea shampoo using 1 part Dawn dishwashing soap, 1 part white vinegar, and 2 parts warm water.
To control ants: Combine 16 ounces of hot water with 3 tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing soap in a spray bottle and spray directly onto ants, ant colonies, and into anthills.
To control mosquitoes: Create an effective mosquito trap using a saucer of maple syrup or a solution of brown sugar and water. Mosquitoes will be drawn to the sweet, sugary substance and will quickly become trapped.
To control flies: You may have seen clear bags of water dangling from porches, hanging in barns, or at restaurant patios and wondered what they’re for. While scientists can’t agree on why these baggies of water keep flies away, those who use them swear they’re effective. To give this one a try, simply fill a Ziploc bag with plain water and hang it where flies tend to congregate.
To control a variety of insects: Create natural bug-repelling sachets to place around the home by filling a small mesh bag with 1 tablespoon each of fresh or dried lavender, basil leaves, and peppermint.
5. Shop around for a pet-friendly exterminator.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts to control pests, we need to bring in the experts to assist with a pest control problem. Luckily, many reputable pest control businesses understand that our cats are members of the family and their health and safety is important to us.
When shopping for an exterminator, look for one that uses only pet-safe products. Don’t be afraid to ask for references (and check them!), research the pesticides and pest control methods they’ll be using, and advocate for your cat’s health and safety at every turn.
Remember, although it’s important to protect your pet from insects and the diseases many of them carry, it’s also important to protect your pet from the dangerous poisons and chemicals so often used in pest control.
Do you have your own tried-and-true method for safely keeping bugs at bay without endangering your cats? Please, share your tips in a comment below!