Sometimes love makes me itch

Love thy neighbor. Love thy neighbor. LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, DAMMIT, is what I keep chanting over and over to myself. Even though my neighbors have not only single-handedly infested our block with feral cats, they’re the reason we spent more money than I can talk about without crying on a big guns extermination because our “rats” turned out to be feral kittens.

And now, now, my darlings, I chant LOVE THY NEIGHBOR to a steady beat in my head, because now, the CAT CRAP TRIFECTA is complete: Licorice has fleas. Even though she’s on a flea preventive. And they’re cat fleas, OF COURSE, courtesy of the feral cats tromping around in the yard. So we are treating and bathing and flea-bombing and oh yes, don’t forget, Licorice has severe flea allergy dermatitis, so even though we caught this very early, she’s itchy and red and miserable.

And it’s crappy and annoying and itchy and expensive and if only my neighbors weren’t so incredibly… well, THE WAY THEY ARE… I wouldn’t be dealing with any of this. ARGH.

However. I’m trying to love my neighbor. Through gritted teeth, while I bat at imaginary fleas and scratch phantom bites I don’t even have. Through another bath, through another load of laundry.

I have a long way to go, in this regard. It’s not “love” just yet so much as it’s “not quite the abject hatred I might otherwise feel.” Ahem.


I do love the dickens out of this particular pitiful ball of fluff, enough to keep her next to me all day long and interrupt her attempts to scratch and chew with soothing belly rubs. Enough to call the vet this morning and wait for them to devise a plan whereby maybe she could tolerate the previously-rejected oral flea med by giving it in smaller, spaced-out doses on a full stomach. Enough to then sit on the floor with her and hand-feed her spoonfuls of peanut butter to coat her tummy before the meds.

I love her enough to still find her preternaturally long tongue charming, even when it’s coated with a fine slime of peanut butter. Enough to try to capture it on film even though I can’t stop laughing and the camera shakes.

I love her enough that even as I slap at bugs I only imagine to be there, I’m still willing to celebrate Love Thursday. And there’s probably enough love leftover for my neighbors, even. Maybe. (Perhaps I will send some fleas over to their house to deliver it.)


  1. Anna Marie

    The rats turned out to be feral kittens? That is just Bizarre. Poor Licorice. I hope the itchy stops soon.

  2. Chuck

    Just remember, there’s no such thing as a flea lunch!

  3. getcha

    sounds like its time for a call to the city to find out if they’ve adopted new laws regarding mandatory spaying/neutering … and then I’d send them the bill for your poor Licorice being infected by their lack of responsibility .. screw love thy neighbor, its war

  4. Katie in MA

    Can’t you love your neighbor AND write the city about them with a carefully worded list of everything you’ve dealt with because of their cat issues? I believe my parents called that strategy Tough Love. (Though not that EXACT strategy; I’ve never infested my neighborhood with fleas.)

    Also, could Licorice have an oatmeal bath? It might help with the itchies.

  5. Casey

    CAPSTAR. I can’t say it enough – I just gave it to my dogs last night. My pup has the same dermatitis, allergy to fleas – the Capstar is a tiny pill that starts to kill the adult fleas in like, an hour. They literally jump off – dead. You have to use it in conjunction with all the other things you are doing, and you may need to give it to Licorice for a few days in a row – it is about $6 a pill. I am telling you, it is WONDERFUL for getting rid of already hatched, adult fleas. CAPSTAR!! available at pet stores, lots of reviews online, cheaper online but you need it now. They sell it individually, or in packs of like 6 – but I live if Calif so I don’t know if your area is different. Just try it. Hand to my heart. WORKS FOR CATS TOO. *I am not a Capstar salesperson!!*

  6. jen

    Nematodes are excellent for people that live in moderate climates. I’m down in Texas, and our window of appropriate climate is too small to make nematodes really effective.

    I’ve spent plenty of years educating people about fleas, so here is the rundown… I can’t give you a “do no harm” option, but I can encourage you to stay away from the harsher treaments and choose pyrethrin-based products (permethrin, resmethrin, other -ethrins). Flea killing can be done yourself. Don’t spend the money on exterminators for this. You want treatments that contain both a killing agent and an IGR (insect birth control). Treat both the house and the yard. Fleas are on a two week life cycle, however their cocoons can last for a year and are not affected by any treatment out there. Yep. You read that right. You can have fleas in cocoons, just waiting to pop out much later in time. When you start treatment, you will want to re-treat every two weeks for about 3 cycles and then you should be able to slowly taper off until you get to a once or twice a year routine.

  7. Michele Bardsley

    I have a Shih Tzu, too, and dealt with the flea issue last summer. He got the rash, gnawed on it, which made it worse, and eventually one vet bill and medicinal shampoo later, we managed to get through it. I use Frontline on all my animals every month, which seems to do the trick. The shampoo I got through the vet was so expensive, I figured gold might be one of the active ingredients. I don’t know what was worse—terrorizing my poor puppy with daily baths or constantly freaking him out by yelling, “Noooooo! Don’t chew your butt!” Fun times. Where I live, animal control means business, but if you don’t want to call the city on your neighbors, then call the SPCA and report the cat neglect. Smooooooches to Licorice.

  8. Megan

    Ooooog. First the rats and now the fleas? You’re definitely trying to give me flashbacks to squicky days gone by! Good luck, I will be thinking of you as I spend the rest of the day scratching non-existent itches thanks to the dog I don’t have.

  9. Jessica

    You need to be careful, dogs love to eat cat “cookies”…..

  10. 2horseygirls

    I apologize in advance – I’m sure I’ve missed where you live in your posts.

    And I’m tuning in late to the feral cat saga – you have way more patience than I do. I would have sent them my bill for the exterminator & Licorice’s flea treatment. (I’m sorry to hear about Licorice’s fleas.)

    You could try doing a search for Trap-Neuter-Release programs in your area. Or call your county’s Animal Control or the one the nice exterminator took the kitten to, and ask if they can refer you to a TNR program. As a last resort, you might try making a complaint with the state Department of Agriculture. In my midwestern state, I am an equine humane investigator licensed by the state Dept of Ag. Complaints that get called into the Dept of Ag are referred to the equine rescue that sponsored me, but if we can’t do anything (we have no law enforcement capacity), they will come out and deal with it.

    It doesn’t sound like your neighbors are the type to have a rational conversation with. However, please know that not all animal lovers are this extreme.

    Here are some suggestions to maybe keep them out of your yard: and My mother always used mothballs.

    Good luck to you all!

  11. Nelson's Mama

    As a tried and true cat lover, I hate to see the feral kitties thrown under the bus. We struggle mightily with fleas here with nary a feral kitty in sight. We have tame, domestic, house kitties that are flea treated and sometimes fleas happen…just like other things in life.

    We treat Nelson and all of his feline housemates, but the day the treatment expires you better believe we start to see those little black buggers around on somebody, then Nelson starts to dig and scratch at himself and the next thing you know we’re back at the vet for steroids to treat his allergies.

  12. Amy

    Have you guys tried a lavender spray on Licorice? Apparently fleas do not like lavender. The lady that I’m getting the puppy from washes the puppies in that lavender baby wash since they are too young for flea preventative. Maybe you could try some of that on the sweet girl. And maybe the moisturizer in it will make her skin feel better. And maybe you could have a drink by the pool later :-)

  13. Tracy

    Maybe a dip in the pool is what Licorice needs more than ever now. Poor baby. I hate dealing with fleas…HATE it. I have papillons (very long hair)and will kill anyone that brings fleas to my house. I’m just sayin…love my neighbor, blah blah blah. =o) Good luck!

  14. I'm KIDDING!

    Don’t you have more refills on the Prednisone prescription?

  15. Scottsdale Girl

    I wish I had gotten fleas in my house rather than BED BUGS. Not even kidding you…haven’t slept in my own bed in MONTHS and run through the bedroom at mach speed still. I am hoping in ANOTHER WEEK I can do one final poisoning of the house and then put things mostly back together and then just do maintenance since someone up there explained that these types of BUGS CAN HIDE FOR MONTHS/YEAR in a POISONFREE environment and POP OUT AGAIN WHEVER. *itches* *eye twitches*

  16. Beth R

    This has nothing to do with fleas, but everything to do with pups and peanut butter – and will make everyone in the room happy :)

    Spread a nice glob of peanut butter on 1/4 of a piece of bread (for my ex-FIL’s queen-sized golden it was a full piece) and when Licorice opens her mouth for the treat, reach in and stick it – pb side up – to the roof of her mouth.

    The contortions they go through to get all of the peanut butter unstuck and eaten are worth paying admission for! And they’re happy while they’re writhing around and making crazy faces.

    Oh: I do recommend doing this on hard flooring… especially if you have a drooler!

  17. JDW

    My dog was on Frontline religiously and got fleas that seemed completely immune. After an entire summer of twice-daily vacuuming, flea baths, flea-picking, spraying potentiall toxic substances all over the house, dog-bed-laundering, etc, our vet put him on Comfortis (which is a pill) and they went away INSTANTLY.

    Comfortis isn’t a tick-preventative, but since we don’t have them in the backyard I’m ok with that.

  18. Jen

    I do not like those poisonous pills at all. We have cats, and we had fleas only once–when we first moved to this house 12 years ago. Since then I have sprinkled diatomaceous earth all over the yard every couple of years, and planted lemon balm around the perimeter. Since then we have never had to treat the cats even though they have full roam of the area. Wishing you great luck with a solution–your neighbors sound like hoarders and that is not a good thing at all!

  19. Pats

    At least they’re not rat fleas… (sorry! couldn’t resist!)

  20. Jason's mom

    I am allergic to fleas. Our vet suggested we get an over the counter spray called Zodiac. They’ve got flea collars and bombs and stuff that goes out in the yard as well. The stuff kills the fleas, their larvae, and their eggs. I know you don’t particularly want chemicals around, but it does help. We just sprayed it all over the inside of the house, and as soon as the stuff dried, we let the critters back in the house. That was 10 years ago, and we’ve not had a flea issue since.

    We were told to keep the lawn short as fleas love tall grasses. Use diatomos (sp?) earth around the yard as it’s not toxic to pets and kids. It smothers the little buggers. It is good for other garden pests also, so it may help in your gardening efforts. Plant marigolds, garlic, and lemongrass or citronella around the garden too. They are supposedly natural flea repellents. I can certainly see garlic as such. It keeps your acquaintances away, your neighbors away (hey that might be an idea there on its own!), your family away, etc. :)

    Hope you and licorice are feeling better soon!

  21. Cele

    That is just too weird. People who don’t neuter should be. and then fined.

  22. Karen

    When we lived in CA we had fleas and …ahem…water bugs. We used diatomaceous earth in the yard and in the carpets. For us, it worked, and the bugs never develop a resistance, the way they can to chemicals. Check it out, it might be a good addition to your arsenal especially in the yard and around the foundation of the house. Wear a mask to sprinkle it around. We used a turkey baster to apply it, it’s like dust and you don’t want to breathe it, but that’s because I was too cheap to buy an applicator.

  23. kimberley

    I have dealt with this recently at our house. I will admit – not a big cat fan. I bought a live animal trap, woke up in the morning to a feral cat that the neighbor said they’d been feeding. OH great. I politely said I was allergic and CANNOT have it in my yard, and would employ the humane trap again, and if I caught something would bring it immediately to the shelter. My yard is not your cats playbox.

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