15 Essential Oils for Fleas on Cats and Dogs (DIY Oil Repellent)

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(Last Updated On: October 12, 2018)

Essential oils are a natural, pesticide-free way to get rid of fleas. Chemical regimens exterminate fleas, but they can cause unwanted side effects such as respiratory problems, skin irritations, and vomiting. Fleas can also become resistant to chemical treatments over time.

There are many benefits of using essential oils as remedies since only a small amount of oil is needed to have a useful effect. Oils are effective because in nature, plants create oils as a protective agent. Plants produce essential oils as a shield from pathogens, pests, and other invasive growth such as fungus or other plants. The natural production of essential oils is a stress response to changes in environment and climate. By harvesting and using these oils, we benefit from the immunological power of plants. There are a number of essential oils which are potent for treating flea infestations.

Best Essential Oils for Fleas

flea on skin

1. Lavender

Lavender oil is a well-known, versatile oil that has uses as varied as reducing nausea and anxiety to healing insect bites. Lavender oil comes from the plant, which is a flowering bush indigenous to northern Africa and the Mediterranean region. Ancient civilizations such as the Arabians and Egyptians used lavender oil for mummification purposes and perfumes. It is heavily used in aromatherapy. Research has shown that lavender acts as an effective flea repellent. It works best as an indoor and outdoor preventive treatment against fleas. When used regularly, it deters fleas from problem areas. Also, lavender oil acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is soothing for skin irritations. It can be used on both humans and animals to relieve itchiness from flea bites. Add a few drops of lavender oil to shampoo or create a spray made of water and oil. Lavender oil is to be used externally only and should not be consumed orally. Applying pure lavender oil to skin, especially open sores or wounds, can cause irritation. It is better to first mix it with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive.

2. Lemon

Cold-pressed from the rind of lemons, lemon essential oil has antibacterial, deodorizing, and disinfecting qualities due to the high content of limonene. It features heavily in eco-friendly household cleaners. Lemon oil also acts as a mood enhancer and has even shown to be effective in aiding weight loss. Used for thousands of years, lemon oil can be used as an insect and flea repellent. Make a natural flea collar by placing several drops of essential lemon oil on a fabric dog collar or cloth bandanna. The oil fragrance repels fleas and keeps them away from your pet. It is not advised to use this oil on felines, as some cats can be allergic to citrus oils. Lemon oil can also make human skin more sensitive to sunlight. If lemon oil is directly applied to your skin, stay out of direct sunlight for at least eight hours and to be safe, use sunscreen before going outside.

3. Eucalyptus

The eucalyptus tree, or sometimes called Tasmanian Blue Gum, is an Australian native evergreen. It is the main food source for koala bears and other wildlife. The essential oils extracted from eucalyptus leaves have powerful medicinal and healing properties and have been used by tribal Aborigines for centuries. Leaves are dried, crushed, then distilled to extract the potent, colorless oil. The healing benefits of eucalyptus oil originate from an organic chemical known as cineole. Eucalyptus oil can be used to eliminate fleas and prevent more from entering your home. Spraying a mixture of eucalyptus oil and water onto furniture, carpets, and other items will infuse them with the aroma of the oil which fleas hate. Do this several times a week to prevent fleas. An added bonus of this essential oil is that it is also very effective against pet odor. Using a few drops of eucalyptus oil in pet shampoo can control both fleas and odor.

4. Peppermint

Peppermint is a cross between the spearmint and water mint plants. This herb has been used worldwide for centuries as a medicinal aid. It has been suggested that it is the world’s oldest medicine as historical accounts document its use in ancient European, Chinese, and Japanese folk medicine. Peppermint essential oil is extracted from peppermint leaves and flowering plant tops through steam distillation. With its high menthol content, this oil has a recognizable smell and taste. It is used in many toothpastes and chewing gums. Peppermint oil is also very effective as a digestive aid as it soothes muscles of the digestive tract. Peppermint oil is a multipurpose flea control solution as it can also soothe skin and itching irritations on a pet’s body. Place cotton pads or balls which have been soaked in peppermint oil around the house to deter fleas. You can also place these pads or cottons balls into a sachet, which is then placed into a vacuum cleaner bag. Use the vacuum to clean flea eggs and larva from bedding and carpets.

5. Clove

Cloves are the aromatic, unopened flower buds of the evergreen tree indigenous to Indonesia and Madagascar. The buds are handpicked, dried until they brown, then ground to a powder. The powder is used in cooking or converted into an essential oil. Eugenol found in clove oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory and it is widely used as an antiseptic to soothe toothaches and prevent oral infections. The Environmental Protection Agency released findings in 1996 stating that it approved certain essential oils, including clove oil, as safe for common use as an insecticide. It is, however, recommended that you use clove oil carefully and sparingly and ensure that your cat or dog is not able to ingest the oil. There have been incidents of negative reactions from pets when this oil is consumed.

6. Rosemary

The rosemary plant resembles lavender, is a relation of mint, and smells slightly woodsy and citrus-like. The shrub came to be known as the “Rose of Mary” when the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a bush and the white flowers turned blue. The small pine-like plant leaves are widely used as a culinary ingredient. Rosemary oil is distilled from the fresh flowering tops of stems. It is used medicinally and in aromatherapy. It is said to even improve brain function and cognitive capabilities. Rosemary oil is commonly found in hair care products as it has been shown that it stimulates follicle growth, leading to healthy hair production. While the scent of rosemary is pleasing to humans, the smell repels fleas and functions as an insect repellent. Used in pet shampoo, rosemary oil will produce shiny coats on pets, stimulate their hair growth, and repel fleas. Rosemary oil is considered safer for use on cats compared to other essential oils.

7. Cedar

Cedar oil, also known as Cedarwood oil, is an essential oil extracted from conifer trees of the pine family. Oil is obtained from leaves, roots, and sometimes stumps from trees felled for timber. The Egyptians used the oil to embalm their dead as it deterred insects from infesting the body. Cedar oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Unlike other oils listed here, it is not merely a flea repellent but it is toxic to insects including fleas. Interestingly, cedar oil does not harm beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. It does kill fleas in several ways including dehydration, inhibition of breathing, pheromone obstruction, and decomposing of larvae. It is non-toxic to humans and pets. The oil can be used in vaporizers indoors to keep away fleas, sprinkled in pet and human bedding, and can be sprayed in yards to kill fleas.

8. Pennyroyal

Pennyroyal is the most diminutive mint family member, and has some peculiar properties. People may not agree with the taste and odor of pennyroyal, which is far more full-flavored than other mints. Historically used as a mint flavoring in herbal teas and foods, pennyroyal tea is useful for relieving colds, coughs, indigestion, and headaches. It is, however, disagreeable to insects, and pennyroyal oil has been used as a natural insect repellent for centuries. The plant is a useful herb in the garden to keep insects away. The oil works best when strewn around the home as a flea repellent. Because this essential oil can be toxic when absorbed through skin, pennyroyal oil is not to be used directly on your skin or your pet’s fur.

9. Basil

Basil essential oil, from the basil plant, is widely used in cooking to flavor many dishes. Aside from its flavor, research has shown that basil safeguards against food-borne illnesses. It can also be used to heal infections and wounds, and to treat nerve and muscle conditions. Naturally antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic, basil oil has been traditionally used in Asian Indian medicine. Basil is considered sacred and holy in India. Long ago, women in Italy even wore basil oil to attract possible mates! It has the opposite effect on fleas, as the volatile oils found in basil can repel them and prevent their bites. Basil oil is considered safe for use on dogs and cats.

10. Catnip

Catnip, also known as catmint, is a member of the mint family. It grows wild as a weed, but may be cultivated in herb gardens. With antibiotic and astringent properties, catnip oil is used medicinally. It can tighten skin and muscles and promote healthy appetites. It does combat various pests such as cockroaches, termites, fleas, and ticks. Since catnip oil is safe to use on cats, it is one of the best flea treatments for cats. Rather than using pure catnip oil on your cat, dilute it with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil. Place a few drops of the diluted mixture on your cat’s bedding or scratching post if it has one. Catnip oil can be used on human skin topically as an insect repellent but it must never be used undiluted. The drawback about this essential oil is that it does not have a long shelf life.

11. Lemongrass

This refreshingly fragrant plant is a perennial, which flourishes in tropical regions such as China and Southeast Asia. It is a tall plant with sharp, pointed leaves similar to grass and grows in dense clusters. Lemongrass is a favorite seasoning in Asian cooking and is also used to make tea. Lemongrass oil is extracted from plant leaves and has a lemony, earthy scent. It is often added to cosmetic and skin care products and also works as a deodorizer. Lemongrass oil is a known insect repellent as well. Kill fleas by spraying diluted lemongrass oil on your pet’s fur. You can also soak your pet’s collar in the mixture or spray it on bedding. Never use lemongrass oil on cats, as it can be very toxic to felines and cause liver damage.

12. Citronella

Citronella oil has been registered for use in the United States since 1948 as a plant based insect repellent, and can be found in many insecticide products, such as lotions, sprays, and candles. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a non-toxic bio-pesticide. It is extolled for its efficiency in repelling mosquitoes for about two hours. Humans can also use it as an antibacterial agent to prevent bacterial growth and to help with infections in various organs such as the colon, bladder, and kidneys. This oil is also used in aromatherapy and can assist with reducing feelings of anxiety and nausea. As with many other essential oils, citronella should be used only in a diluted form. It can successfully be partnered with other essential oils to create a flea repellent. Research also found that citronella oil can help calm anxious dogs and ease unnecessary barking.

13. Tea tree

Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is made from the leaves of the tea tree plant. It is a member of the myrtle family, which is an Australian native. Aboriginal communities prized the plant for its unique healing properties. They simply applied crushed tea tree leaves to burns and cuts. Tea tree oil has a crisp scent resembling camphor. The chemicals in tea tree oil kill bacteria and reduce allergic skin reactions. However, veterinary toxicologists studying undiluted tea tree oil found that when it is applied to the skin of cats and dogs, it caused allergic reactions. Tea tree oil may be toxic to pets if ingested so use it carefully. It is an effective repellent due to its highly disagreeable smell to fleas. Tea tree oil will also kill existing fleas on pets but use a very low concentrated, diluted mixture.

14. Thyme

Thyme oil is derived from the perennial herb of the same name. Thyme essential oil has long been used for its antimicrobial properties, especially in Mediterranean countries. It is added to massage oils to help relieve rheumatism and sore muscles. It has been shown to alleviate fatigue, promote oral health, and treat respiratory issues. Thyme oil is also used as an insecticide and insect repellent, as well as a salve for flea bites. It should be used minimally on pets and only in diluted form. It can be effective when mixed with other essential oils that repel fleas.

15. Neem

Neem oil has natural pesticide properties and is found in neem tree seeds. This oil has been used for centuries and was documented in ancient Indian texts. Neem trees are considered good luck in India and are highly treasured. Since neem trees were used so widely, Indians fondly referred to the trees, which can live up to 200 years, as the “village pharmacy”. Today, neem oil is used in care products such as soap, lotions, and pet shampoos. It is highly effective as a flea repellent because it contains azadirachtin. This component of neem oil reduces insect feeding and interferes with hormone systems, making it harder for them to grow and lay eggs. Bathing your pet with a neem oil pet shampoo discourages fleas as does a neem oil spray.

Some Additional Tips

Adding a few drops of various essential oils to an absorbent collar is a useful method to take down parasitic invaders. There are some more tips that I’d like to discuss that are slightly outside the purview of the article above, so I will list them here.

Spray Bottle (For Dogs Only)
If you have a clean spray bottle on hand, you might want to give this method a go. After you have confirmed that your dog doesn’t have any allergic reactions to all of your essential oils, you can start misting them with a diluted mixture of those testing oils. Try to keep a rough ratio of no more than 30 drops of total oil to each cup of water. The difference between a medicine and a poison is often determined by the dose, so the ratio is important. It should be noted that cats are too sensitive to essential oils to use this method, and they don’t react to kindly to being sprayed with water (oddball exceptions aside)

Clean All Fabrics
This might feel like a hassle, but it won’t after you start finding fleas inside your blankets. *Shiver* Wash the blankets, and vacuum the couches, carpets, and the mattresses. This will help to keep the flea population under control. The last thing you want is to start feeling the nibbling pinches of these parasites when you are trying to fall asleep. It’s gross…but I am speaking from personal experience. Clean. Every. Fabric. Afterwords, take the vacuum bag, throw it into a sealable plastic bag, and freeze the suckers.

Fleas Harbor Tapeworms
As if fleas weren’t irritating enough, they are also a source of tapeworms. During the larvae stage of the flea life cycle, the occasional tapeworm egg is swallowed. As the flea continues on with its life, it eventually delivers itself and the egg to your tormented pet for ingestion. That isn’t its intention of course. It wants to drink up your pet’s blood, and your animal is just trying to bite at the irritating flea.

To check for a tapeworm infestation, you will need to check the animal’s excrements. The castoff terminal segments look like little white pieces of rice, and they can be found crawling upon the surface of the feces. You will also likely find them around the pets anus, so it shouldn’t be difficult to spot.

Treat the Grass
Did you know that you can treat your grass for fleas? It might just be my own personal bit of ignorance, but I hadn’t come across that until recently. Most fleas are accrued through pet-to-pet playtime, and by parading through the mostly great outdoors ( I’m knocking Mother Nature down a few points for things that want to eat me ). Pet interaction is largely under my control, but I am thrilled to find out that I can affect the grass component too. You can take care of fleas with any of the typical insect killer products that you apply to your grass.

Conclusion

kitten with flea repellant

Using natural, holistic measures to control fleas is beneficial for humans, pets, and the environment. There is no danger of harsh chemicals getting absorbed into soil, through skin, or getting mistakenly ingested. Instead of applying synthetic repellents, natural remedies such as essential oils offer a safe, effective alternative.

While these oils are generally safe, it is wise to carefully monitor pets especially if oils are being applied to the pet’s fur or collar. Always follow instructions carefully and take note if your pet has any reaction to the smell or the application of the oil on their fur.

Consider customizing essential oil treatment regimens depending on flea infestation severity. If fleas are prevalent, try a flea killer like neem or cedar at first. Once the infestation is under control, try a repellent, such as lavender for a dog or catnip for a cat. You can use a variety of essential oils and experiment with mixing them to combat fleas. This variety means that you should be able to find an essential oil blend that has a pleasurable smell to you and is effective in dealing with flea troubles as well.

When using essential oils for fleas on cats and dogs make sure that you only use pure oils from trusted brands.

If you would like some more information regarding this topic. Consider clicking over to this post at the CDC. Natural Remedies are listed, as well as a fantastic reference list of articles and studies that delve into this topic even further