Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Inconveniently Itchy Truth

Hi, my name's Anna and I, um, I have fleas.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards fixing it, right?  Right?  RIGHT?!  Before going on, I suppose I should clarify that I  don't have fleas, my home does.  Ugh.  I want to scream.

So how did this happen, you ask?  Well, it mostly started with laziness and cheapness.  Way back in 2004, my best friend from college and I fell victim to a roadside "Free Kittens!" sign and ended up smuggling 2 fluffy fur balls back to our house.  Mine was this sweet little boy, who we named Colby.

I love my Colby boy.  He is honestly the sweetest, cuddliest, smartest cat ever.  He comes when you call him, he's happy to snuggle anytime, and he tolerates my kids' affections like a champ.  He's always been a fully indoor cat, so we've never had to worry about him encountering other animals.  As a result, after we had kids we let his veterinary visits lapse.  Paying for both the pediatrician and the vet just wasn't in the budget.  I know, I know, we're terrible pet owners.  We've always been diligent about keeping him inside, though, so we felt like it wasn't that big of a problem.

Enter Lily and James.  Those two are not particularly good about quickly closing doors, and Colby has begun to bolt whenever they're standing in a doorway.  Every time it happens my sweet babies just stand there with looks of innocent surprise, as if the cat had never shot out past their legs before.  The result of this is that Colby has become more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  We knew we needed to get him some flea prevention medication, but we kept putting off a visit to the vet.  Do you see where this is going?

Last weekend, Stephen was petting Colby and said, "Uh oh, I think I see a flea."  I immediately freaked out and told him to chuck the cat out onto the screen porch.  My much cooler-headed husband told me that it was only a couple fleas, and we didn't really need to worry.  Fool that I am, I believed him.  Those of you who've dealt with fleas before are laughing at our naivete, I know.  We treated Colby with some cheapo flea stuff from Walmart, and made a vet appointment for yesterday.

Lesson #1: Never be cool-headed and always go with your initial freaked out reaction.

When I got to the vet I told the tech that we'd seen a couple fleas, but we'd treated him so I fully expected them to be dead.  I showed him the product we'd used and he ever so politely told me that basically, that stuff is useless crap.  Upon further inspection, Colby was still covered in live fleas, all doing a mockingly smug jig aimed directly at me.

Lesson #2: Never buy crappy Walmart flea treatments.  You may as well spray your pet with compressed air, for all the good it will do.

I tentatively asked that since we'd kept him mostly on the porch since discovering the fleas, our house shouldn't really be infested, right?  Umm, no.  I can't believe the vet and the tech didn't laugh right in my face.  They told me that I'd probably need to vacuum all the carpeted spaces in our house where Colby hangs out pretty much daily until the infestation was taken care of.  Which could take up to 8 weeks.  Of daily vacuuming.  Of every room with carpet.  Oh, and basically our entire house is carpeted.  Kill me now.

Well, when I got home I started attacking the fleas immediately.  We treated Colby with some genuinely effective flea medication, which should hopefully prevent a recurrence of this infestation.  Next, I spread Borax (which significantly helps in the war on fleas) all over the carpet and rug in the living room and vacuumed like a pro.  I was so proud, and went to bed with a sense of accomplishment.  Then this morning while I was happily drinking my coffee, James said, "Look!  I find a bug!"  Sure enough, he had just pulled a wriggling, live flea off of one of our pristine white chairs.  I snatched it out of his tiny hand and smashed it violently until it was most certainly dead.  Jamesy looked at me like I was deranged.  Just to make sure there weren't any more, I pulled the back cushion off of the chair and peaked at the back of it.  It was seething with tiny live demon spawn.  Ok, there were maybe 20 of the little beasts, but it looked like a million to my horrified eyes.  I wanted to cry.  They're everywhere!  They're taking over my life!

Lesson #3: Never assume the fleas are confined to the carpet.  They will spread.  It is their prime directive.

Have you ever watched Firefly?  You know the episode where the Shepherd tells Mal he's going to the special hell?  Well I'm on a mission to send these fleas to the special flea hell.  They WILL die and I will be the one to kill them.  If you're looking for a sound investment idea, I suggest buying stock in Borax.  And vacuum bags.

Since the discovery of the fleas in my chairs, I've washed the slipcovers (thank the Lord for slipcovers), and started to think about this whole situation. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post?  Go ahead and scroll back up there.  I'll wait.  See?  I said that I have fleas, when it's really my house that has them.  That reveals something about the yuckiness of my heart.  I've let my sense of self get much too tangled up with the things in the home I'm trying to create for my family.  Our carpets and furniture are just things.  This is a temporary (albeit annoying) problem that will pass.  The people who live here are what really make our house a home, and that's where I need to be investing more of my time.  Matthew 6:19-20 has never resonated so clearly with me: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  My family are my treasures, and investing in them will yield eternal fruit, not just a pretty house.  Of course, I'm not saying that working towards a beautiful home is a bad thing.  I firmly believe that making your home a lovely place is a great way to nurture and love your family.  It's just not the only, or most important, way.

While the Great Flea Debacle of 2013 is deeply frustrating and gross, it's taught me a little bit more about myself.   So while it's not going to be fun breaking this flea cycle, I'm actually thankful to have experienced this bump in the road.  I'm reminded to hold my possessions loosely and store up true treasures in heaven.

Real Lesson: Don't get so caught up in things that you lose sight of the true treasures in your life.  And for heaven's sake, get your pets some vet-approved flea treatments!

P.S. We'll return to our regularly scheduled pretty programming tomorrow.  Before the flea business, I worked on my favorite furniture redo ever, and I'm so excited to share it with you tomorrow!  Here's a quick preview:

Get excited! :)


  1. Hi, I found you at the Haven link-up, hope to meet you there! This reminds me to check my cats. After 7 years they finally got fleas last year. When we found out, I felt so itchy! Everywhere I went! My Siamese is so beautiful, how could she have fleas?!?! Like fleas care about beauty. I also used the Borax, the vacuuming, the vet-approved flea meds. I found dead fleas after that. Which was a good thing. Now I should be realistic and right now go check and see if there are any live fleas on them this year. I hope you get rid of them - what you're doing worked for us!